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The Definitive: Jason Gillespie

by Wisden Staff 15 minute read

Jason Gillespie, the sixth most successful bowler in the history of Australian Test cricket, picks out 10 key moments from a lifetime in love with the game.

EARLY FOCUS
Young love | 1982

From the age of seven I said to my parents, and anyone who would listen, that I was going to play for Australia. I don’t know why I was so sure of myself, but I just loved the sport so much! Even at that age, anything less than representing Australia wasn’t acceptable!

THE START OF SOMETHING SPECIAL
The Eureka moment | Adelaide Cricket Club, 1992

I was pretty decent at cricket as a youngster, but when I started having growth spurts as a teenager I had the usual growing pains, and there were a few question marks about whether I was going to be a cricketer. By the time I was 17, I always seemed to have a niggle of some sort and I didn’t know how to handle it. I remember a club training session where I was getting taunted a bit (in a nice kind of way!) and something in my mind just snapped. I was playing lower grades at the time, but told everyone there that I was going to play ‘A’ grade cricket, and play for South Australia and play for Australia. I’ll never forget it. I measured out this ridiculous run-up and ran in as fast as I could, and I remember going home after training, getting changed, going out for a run and doing push ups and sit ups when I got home in front of the telly, and I made the decision that I was going to go all out and be a cricketer. Maybe it was just the spark I needed; a bit of ribbing from teammates got me going. From then on it was just full speed ahead.

FIRST-CLASS FORAYS
18, 3-112 & 39 | Queensland v South Australia, Sheffield Shield Final, Brisbane, 1995

I’d played a few ‘A’ grade games and [state] 2nd XI, and had shown I’d got a lot of pace about me, and that got me into the South Australia under 19s, and soon after that the Australia [under] 19s. Towards the end of the ’94/’95 season there was a vacancy in the SA side and they slotted me in for a few games. I played in the [Sheffield] Shield Final, which was a great experience, even though we lost, and I did okay in those first games.

MOVING INTO CONTENTION
First full season in state cricket | 1995/1996

I had a really good Sheffield Shield season in my first year. I took 46 wickets at the Adelaide Oval, which certainly helped me get noticed on a national level. Adelaide Oval is not renowned as a fast bowler’s ground, and as a 20-year-old I was taking wickets pretty consistently. On top of that, a few spaces were up for grabs in the Australian side. Merv Hughes had just retired and Craig McDermott was finishing up, so there were opportunities. There was certainly a right place, right time element to my career.

DOMESTIC BLISS
3-96 & 4-33 | South Australia v Western Australia, Sheffield Shield Final, Adelaide Oval, 1996

Just before my international career started, we made the Sheffield Shield Final. We drew that match [just! Set a notional 343 for victory, South Australia clung on to reach stumps on day four on 208-9]. Because we’d finished top of the table, we became champions. It was the first time in a long time that South Australia had won a Sheffield Shield and we haven’t won one since. That was a wonderful memory.

INTERNATIONAL BREAKTHROUGH
5-54 & 3-49 | South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test, Port Elizabeth, 1997

Taking my first five-fer was a big moment, and it was even better to achieve it in a winning cause. It was a great match – Mark Waugh hit a great 116, which is probably the best knock I’ve ever seen, and I was batting with Ian Healy when he hit a six to win the game. We got home by two wickets to take the series and we had a pretty big celebration in the dressing room. Matt Hayden and I did a sort of stalking the kill rendition, with all the boys crawling along the floor with Vegemite as war paint. That’s a memory that will stay with me for a long time!

TAKING ON THE GREATS
3-48 & 6-40 | Australia v West Indies, 4th Test, Melbourne, 2000

I enjoyed getting out any of the top batsman, whether it was Trescothick (I had plenty of success early on against him, although he probably had the measure of me by the end!) or Kallis or Tendulkar. I loved the fact that I got to bowl to the likes of Dravid and Laxman, and getting them out – even if they’d piled on runs beforehand – is something to tell the grandkids, I suppose. But I guess if there was one batsman I really wanted to get out, it was Lara. The way he could change the tempo of a batting innings was unbelievable to watch. I got him with one that nipped back [to leave the Windies 7-3 in their second innings], and that was one of the best spells I’ve bowled. I ended up getting rid of their top six and we bundled them out for not many.

TEAM SUCCESS
20 wickets @ 16.5 & 66 runs @ 13.2 | India v Australia, Four-match Test series, 2004

Everyone expects personal achievements to be the things that stand out, but for me it’s a lot of off-field stuff, like celebrating a win. I’ll never forget in India in 2004 when we were the first Aussie team in 35 years to beat India in India. The feeling in the dressing room, just sitting, blowing the froth off a couple was pretty special. Another big highlight was whenever I took wickets at Lord’s. I managed to get on the honours board [5-53 in 2001], which was a great feeling.

LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE
123*, 1-23 & 0-7 | Surrey v Yorkshire, County Championship, The Oval, 2007

I got a ton a year to the day after my double in Bangladesh [which, Gillespie neglected to add, were both completed on his birthday!]. Me and Tim Bresnan put on 246 for the ninth wicket, which broke a few records. I also got another first-class ton, against Tasmania, in my last first-class season, which was a nice moment as well.

THE FIRST TON, THE SECOND TON (AND THE LAST TEST)
3-11, 201* & 0-14 | Bangladesh v Australia, 2nd Test, Chittagong, 2006

I ran Ricky Ponting out so I didn’t want to go in to cop the wrath of the captain! That’s probably why I stayed out there as long as I did. Look, I had a very simple plan: block it when it’s on the stumps, and hit it when it’s not! It was as simple as that… and I got lucky.

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