Former Australia wicketkeeper batsman Adam Gilchrist is known to be one of the cleanest strikers in cricket but even the hard-hitting batsman had his share of troubles against two of the finest spinners in world cricket. Gilchrist, who scored over 11000 runs for Australia, revealed that in offspinners Harbhajan Singh and Muttiah Muralitharan, he found his toughest bowlers,
Harbhajan has dismissed Gilchrist 10 times in seven Tests, the first three of which came during the famous 2001 Border-Gavaskar Trophy, recalled Gilchrist.
“He (Harbhajan) was a bit of a nemesis for me right throughout my career. I found him and Murali probably the two hardest bowlers to face,” Gilchrist told cricket.com.au in their The Unplayable Podcast.
Australia romped India by 10 wickets in the first Test in Mumbai, where Gilchrist rescued Australia from 99/5 in the second innings and scored a belligerent century – 122 off 112 balls in the first innings. However, India turned things around in the second Test in what would prove to be the match that would change the dynamic of Indian cricket in the years to come.
Harbhajan became the first Indian bowler to claim a Test hat-trick at Eden Gardens before VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid batted on for an entire day, as India not only avoided the follow-on but went on to beat Australia and capture the historic series 2-1.
After the hundred in Mumbai, Gilchrist endured a first-ball duck in both innings of the second Test, including an LBW dismissal to Harbhajan in the first innings. The offspinner would then go on to dismiss Gilchrist twice more in the third Test and torment the rest of Australia’s batsman. For his 32 wickets in the series, Harbhajan was named Player of the Series.
“(We were) five for 99, I went in there, got a hundred off 80 balls, we won in three days and I just thought, ‘What have these blokes been doing for 30 years. How easy’s this?'” Gilchrist said. “And how wrong I was. We’ve only got to fast forward to the next Test match and I came back to reality.
“As it would turn out, by the end of that series we probably needed to learn how to put a handbrake on just to get a holding pattern, rather than ‘attack, attack, attack’ because it doesn’t always work Harbhajan bamboozled us.”
Gilchrist put behind the disappointment of the last two Tests during Australia’s next tour of India three years later which the visitors won 2-1. The second Test, which India could have won, was washed, and in which Gilchrist scored a crucial 49 in the second innings and led Australia to 369. India were 19 without loss in the second innings and 209 runs away from a win before rain washed out the final day. The series win was Australia’s first in India in 35 years.
“I think that was probably one of my most important innings but there’s nothing too sexy about it. I promoted myself again, sounding like a big head but went up (to No.3) to try and be positive and just to erase the (first-innings) deficit,” Gilchrist remembered.