‘We’ll play aggressive cricket too’ – Gilchrist
In the end, Australia won by the proverbial mile, but much of the talk afterwards was of some heated scenes in the middle involving Andrew Symonds, Harbhajan Singh, Michael Clarke and the man who’s quickly becoming the match referees’ favourite, Sreesanth. And while Adam Gilchrist basked in the glow of an 84-run win, he was also less than complimentary about some of the things he witnessed.
“I saw some really hard-fought cricket,” he said after the game. “There were some comments between different players and that happens. I also saw a few things that I wouldn’t expect from my son, Harrison, in a backyard game of cricket.”
The allusion to a certain individual wasn’t missed by anyone. “Sreesanth was quite outspoken about how he was going to take the challenge to us,” said Gilchrist later. “He’s said a lot in the press, and we see it. That’s fine. We’re not questioning that. That’s no doubt the way he wants to play cricket. When we get our chance, we’ll play aggressive cricket too.”
Brad Haddin, named Man of the Match after his magnificent 69-ball 87, was less diplomatic. “There’s a fine line between stupidity and the spirit of cricket,” he said, referring to the run-out that never was. “You can judge for yourself.”
Gilchrist was at his most caustic though when repeatedly queried about how India’s one-day displays stacked up against their Twenty20 heroics. “The quicker we move on from this Twenty20, the better,” he said with a wry smile. “Everything keeps getting drawn back to that. Congratulations to India, they had a wonderful victory, beautiful celebrations … we all enjoyed it, we’ve never seen anything like it. But I’m more interested in the fact that we’re 1-0 up in this one.
“You can’t compare. Twenty20 is a different form of the game. We’re not sitting back and reflecting on that Twenty20. It means nothing to us now.
“We’re here, 50 overs, and that’s what we’ve got to do. In 20 overs, there’s so much good fortune that needs to go your way. If you play 10 Twenty20s in a row, you can’t put money on who’s going to win because it’s so variable. But in 50-over cricket, the better side will win more often than not. That’s what we’re striving to be.”
The win itself pleased him immensely. “To have that frustrating washout [in Bangalore] and then come down here and win in front of this crowd … it’s an amazing stadium,” he said. “To get that win was very satisfying.
“I was thrilled with that total, I must admit. They were very quick to win the toss and bowl. They thought there was going to be a little bit of moisture and movement in the air, which there was. And they did bowl particularly well at the start. They [Sreesanth and Zaheer Khan] bowled in a very clever fashion – took a bit of pace off it, swung it, and were pretty accurate. They did have us on the back foot early. To climb out of that and then slowly accelerate to finish the innings off like we did was quality batting and I think our group will take a lot of confidence from that.”
Once again, Australia had to do it the hard way though. In Bangalore, they had slumped to 91 for 4. Here, it was 66 for 3. “That’s two games in a row now that myself and Brad Hodge have been knocked over and we’ve been under pressure a little bit with the bat,” said Gilchrist. “But two games in a row, we’ve responded and rebounded really well.
“The rest of the guys applied themselves really well. Those are the type of conditions we expect over here, those type of pitches. And we’ve discussed a lot about how we’ll approach batting on these wickets.”
He was guarded in his assessment of the Indian bowling. “It was too good for me [laughs]. They obviously have a very aggressive game plan. They’re talking up a very aggressive game. That’s fine, and we expect that from any team we play against. They had us on the back foot in Bangalore, and in a similar scenario today. Their captain said after Bangalore that it seems to have been a bit of a trend for them to let teams off a little bit. But I’m not saying it was their bad bowling. I prefer to think it was our good batsmanship.”
India’s run chase got off to a splendid start, despite the early loss of Gautam Gambhir, but the manner in which Australia stormed back to more or less seal the deal within 30 overs was a subtle reminder of why they haven’t been on the one-day pedestal for nearly a decade. “I thought our bowlers started well, we got the early wicket,” said Gilchrist. “And then they were very quick to adapt and change their pace a little bit.
“They went a little bit hard and a few boundaries came from bowling a bit too quickly, but they were very quick to adapt eventually. James Hopes came in and bowled a particularly good spell, but we were able to take wickets as well.”
Australia’s dominance extended to the spin department as well. Whereas Harbhajan and Ramesh Powar went wicketless while conceding 87 from 15 overs, Brad Hogg and Clarke had combined figures of 5 for 75 from 18.3 overs. “I thought our spinners did a particularly good job,” said Gilchrist. “Clarke is not considered a frontline spinner, but he came on and bowled beautifully. Hogg’s had his first bowl today since the World Cup final. He’ll be better for that. The ball came out of his hand very well.”
Haddin smiled quietly as his captain answered most of the questions, and he could afford to after his bat had done the sort of damage that you normally associate with Gilchrist. “I’m just enjoying the opportunity now to play as a batsman,” he said. “It’s a new role for me, and one I’m enjoying. It’s my first time touring India and I really enjoyed the atmosphere. You don’t get opportunities to play in a unique cauldron like this very often.”
As for the nonsense that went on, it was all water off a quack-quack’s back. “I didn’t take too much notice of what was going on,” he said wryly. “I wasn’t really interested.”
Some of the players involved in those distasteful scenes will count themselves very fortunate if the match referee takes a similar view. Given Chris Broad’s reputation, they won’t be holding their breath though.