Dharamsala: For the second time in as many years, at the same venue, Adam Gilchrist announced that he wouldn't play in the Indian Premier League beyond this season. This time, there was a touch of finality to it - he said it matter-of-factly, insisting that it was no 'huge retirement announcement' and adding that he was looking forward, once the Pepsi IPL was over, to playing in the inaugural Caribbean Premier League. (Talk of players being naive is rubbish, says Adam Gilchrist)
Having struggled for meaningful runs for most of the season and sat out a clutch of games in the middle of the competition, Gilchrist has come into his own in the climactic stages, with a bruising, match-winning unbeaten 85 in Bangalore the other night followed up by an equally destructive 26-ball 42 against Delhi Daredevils at the HPCA Stadium on Thursday (May 16), prompting a journalist to remark that he had batted like a 22-year-old rather than a 42-year-old. (Sreesanth, Chavan, Chandila have confessed: Delhi Police to NDTV)
"I am looking like a 22-year-old, you say?" Gilchrist asked the journo, incredulity written all over his face. "I am not feeling that way. And for the first 50 runs against Bangalore, I felt like a 52-year-old. But it's great. Last year, I sat here and said I am finished, I probably won't come back, but I came back. I am not looking for any grandstand finish but in two days, it will be last time I play on this ground. Little things like that are really extiing and lift your enthusiam levels. I just love this place, this region, it's been one of the greatest experiences of my cricketing life, to be able to come up here and play cricket.
"Little inspirations like that keep me going. I have been thrilled to be involved in this competition for six years. I won't be playing next year, and I am not making a huge retirement announcement," Gilchrist said. "I am intending to play in the Caribbean and be a part of that inaugural game there but yeah, there's plenty to keep you motivated and have fun." (Use Sachin, Dravid, Dhoni to educate players on corruption, says Gavaskar)
Having looked in control against Delhi after stacking up 171 and reducing the opposition to 61 for 4 after 11 overs - including the scalps of David Warner and Virender Sehwag - Punjab had to withstand a late fightback led by Mahela Jayawardene and Ben Rohrer. Gilchrist bowled his quicks out and asked Piyush Chawla to defend 22 off the final over, the leg-spinner conceding 14 as Punjab squeaked home by seven runs.
"No risk, who was I going to give it to?" Gilchrist countered when asked if holding Chawla back for the last over wasn't a gamble. "Our seam bowlers did enough to secure the win prior to that. Theoretically, they were still in it but I was just trying to kill the game off before going to the spinner again. Piyush was unlucky tonight; Mahela should have probably been out earlier (he was dropped at long-off by Mandeep Singh). It was tough conditions for the leg-spinner to bowl, so he held his nerve and got us across the line.
"Even when they were four out already, I never felt the game was ever totally secure. On that wicket, on that ground - it's a beautiful cricket wicket. There is plenty on offer for the seam bowlers if they come in and bowl well but the value for strokes is as good as anywhere. It's a small ground, beautiful fast outfield, beautiful fast wicket. You never feel safe at any stage and it was seen through this whole IPL that can be said on pretty much any ground, and particularly here. Our bowlers did a terrific job up front to restrict them to what they were after the 12-13 mark."
Next up for Punjab, as they hope to sign off with a win and expect other results to go their way to facilitate their entry into the playoffs, are high-flying Mumbai Indians on Saturday afternoon. "We have got to win it but we will watcch with interest tomorrow (Friday), when Hyderabad are playing Rajasthan. We have got to hope that Hyderabad lose, they can 't win another game. So, go the Royals.
"But there are lessons from this game that we can take into the game against Mumbai," Gilchrist said. "Like I said before, nothing is ever safe until it's 40 off 6 balls and then you have got to back your bowler, make sure he doesn't bowl a wide or a no-ball. But it really is a dangerous ground to defend on. It is really difficult to contain any batsman. We saw Morne Morkel walk in and just hit two balls out of three for six. The lessons are, and I just told my team, we bowled particularly well at the start. We've got to be disciplined and our bowlers were disciplined with their width or not giving width early on and that allowed us to restrict them. We got some wickets but restricted them as well whereas their new-ball bowling allowed us to get cuts and pulls and so on. There's a few lessons for us to take on once we have a think about it."