Gilchrist’s emotional turmoil and self-doubt
He’s rated as one of the greatest cricketers of all time, but Adam Gilchrist earned such recognition through toil and tears.
Speaking candidly on PickStar’s Off-Field podcast, Gilchrist revealed the inner turmoil he was forced to overcome throughout his stellar career.
He said his innings of 204 in South Africa in 2002, at the time the fastest ever double century and one of the most brutal batting performances ever witnessed, was a response to “the greatest personal challenge in my life”.
“A ridiculous email (was) sent around questioning the parentage of young Harry, our eldest boy, saying the insinuation it was Michael Slater, it was his kid, to my wife,” Gilchrist said.
“A guy out of the UK had sent (the rumour) out to (an email) database of about 400,000 people, through a cricket website, and then that website ran the story.
“So, it's laughable now but at the time, Harry was only two months old, Mel (Gilchrist’s wife) was back at home, with me on tour, that was the first tour I'd been away on since we'd had Harry and he had a whole host of difficulties and complications during birth, so (it was a) delicate emotional time.
“I remember thinking ‘oh well it's a good thing I'm in South Africa, they won't have heard of it over here, it'd be fine’, and waiting to bat and some yobbo in the crowd had a big sign saying ‘Who's your daddy, Harry? Is it Slater, Slater?’
“So that was really emotional, I went in to bat with about half an hour to go to get to stumps on day one, batting at number seven, went out there and Jacques Kallis bowled his first ball to me, it bounced and I sort of half went to pull it, half went to duck it and ended up doing no shot at all with my bat straight up like a periscope, and it just hit the bat and dropped dead at my feet. I thought ‘phwarrrr’, I remember Kallis saying ‘that's the worst cricket shot I've ever seen’, I went ‘yeah mate it didn't feel real good either’. But got through to stumps that night, at about 49 not out. Took a lot of risks and probably played recklessly, but got through and up the players race, in the changing rooms, out the back, into the dunnies, lock the door, sit down, have a howl, get all that out. That night, Justin Langer, Stuart McGill grabbed me and said ‘come on we're going for dinner’ and it was a great night of therapy really, just to offload, and they were brilliant.
“I woke up the next morning and ‘Alfie’ (Langer) had penned a handwritten note over night, elaborating a bit more, and just launched me into that day so I then went out and played again with a clear mind and some freedom and some fun.”
While some pressures came from external sources, Gilchrist said his inner demons were just as difficult to overcome.
“(Peter Roebuck) wrote a line once about cricketers wearing a cape of bravado, and you walk out (onto the field) with this big cape on and you've got to look strong and ready to go, and tough, but who knows what's underneath that cape, and I could really relate to that,” Gilchrist said.
“So that was '05, for me I was trying to put this cape of bravado, that was my worst experience in my time in the Australian team just personally, I had a shocking series, I was getting found out by the opposition for the first time, it was a real emotional time.
“Mel and I had two kids at the time, she came over and stayed way too long … It just wasn't a place to have a young family on a tour, high-intensity, and it got to a point where I said to Mel ‘I think you should head home,’ at the risk of getting slapped across the face. So she took a big sigh and said ‘oh I'm only staying here because I thought you wanted me here!’
“I was trying to be a batsman, a ‘keeper, a vice-captain, a father, a husband and I was doing a pretty shit job at all of them … I was trying to put on this cape of bravado and do all those things and then I was so insecure underneath. To the point of thinking ‘have I bluffed my way to this point in my career? I'm seven years into a test career, am I up to standard here?”
Two years later, during the 2006/07 Ashes series against England in Australia, Gilchrist was talked out of retirement by his wife and went on to make an important century.
“I got to that point, I got a duck in the first innings (of the Third Test), and I thought ‘I'm retiring, I'm out of here. I just don't have it in me anymore’,” he said.
“I came home, told my wife, Mel beat me round the head a few times, and said ‘you're just sulking 'cause you got a duck’. She was pretty much right, so I then went in in the second innings and said ‘I'm gonna go for it’ … (Andrew Flintoff) comes on, bang, probe outside off stump, (I get a) big thick edge, turn around and look, there's a vacant gully area, it goes through for four, I think ‘phew’. Freddy (Flintoff) goes ‘ohhhhh’, he was captain and he had a lot going on in his mind and he'd forgotten to bring a guy from the leg side into the gully.
“He brings him over, same delivery, I get up right on the top of it, absolutely cream it over point, four runs, back foot drive, I thought, ‘you beauty, here we go!’.
“So if that (first edge through gully) gets caught (I’m out) for naught, I'm definitely retiring. Mel can't talk me out of that one. But I remember just playing, I was reminded why I played the game … it was a good stage for me to go ‘why do you play for again?’ To have fun. And it just felt like the most fun innings I’ve ever played.”
Listen to the full interview on iTunes or SoundCloud below.
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