|Player:||IA Healy, AC Gilchrist|
DateLine: 19th November 2006
Record-breaking Test wicketkeeper Ian Healy believes Adam Gilchrist's lean batting run is an aberration but he will need to fight his way early into his innings in the Ashes Test series with England.
The Australian wicketkeeper gave a timely reminder of his devastating strokeplay with a whirlwind 63-ball hundred - 131 with 17 fours and four sixes - in Western Australia's domestic one-day cup win over Queensland in Perth Friday.
Since the 2005 Ashes loss in England - a series in which Gilchrist made minimal impact as a batsman for the first time in his Test career - he has averaged 28.88 in 12 Tests, almost half his batting median of 48.80. The English bowlers exposed a flaw in his batting technique by attacking him from around the wicket and bowling marginally short of a length with little width for the left-hander to play his prolific run-scoring shots. Cramped for room and with the added problem of the ball swinging, Gilchrist found himself regularly chopping the ball on to his stumps or edging into the slips. But Healy, Gilchrist's Test predecessor as wicketkeeper, sees nothing new in the English strategy and is in no doubt Gilchrist's lean run is a one-off.
"They have bowled at him like that for his whole career," Healy told The Australian newspaper Saturday. "Right from the start, opposition bowlers have tried to go around the wicket and cramp him for room around off-stump. He's dealt with that for seven years, and he's got the ability to counteract it. He just needs to get in and watch the ball intently. Maybe at the moment he does have to fight his way through that initial 20-ball or 20-run barrier. And it's obviously better if he keeps the ball along the ground during that period."
In 12 Tests since the Ashes changed hands at The Oval, Gilchrist has batted 17 times in Tests and been dismissed for 12 runs or fewer on 11 of those occasions having faced no more than four overs on each of those ill-fated trips to the crease. That constitutes 65 percent of his Test innings over that time. Before, he failed to reach 12 in just 28 percent of his trips to the middle. And even though Gilchrist turned 35 last week, Healy does not subscribe to the theory that, when the years advance, it is a keeper's batting acumen that deserts him before his glovework.
Healy claimed that in the final year of his career (from age 34 onwards) he felt his batting skills were undiminished at training, but he just couldn't pull it together in the middle and he failed to reach 20 in his final 16 Test innings.
Gilchrist's skipper Ricky Ponting has no such misgivings about the form of the most prolific wicketkeeper-batsman in 130 years of Test cricket. "I get asked these questions a lot about some of the senior players in the side, and it's never a concern of mine," Ponting said. "I don't need to worry about those blokes. It's like when I get asked about (Glenn) McGrath or (Shane) Warne, or how (Matthew) Hayden is batting. They'll be fine. They'll sort it out because they have been too good for too long not to."