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True Colours by Adam Gilchrist

Release date: 22nd November, 2008
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

List Price: £18.99
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True Colours
By Adam Gilchrist
Pan Macmillan

Sports Book of the Month.com price: £10.99, saving £8.00 on cover price

When Australian captain Ricky Ponting complained of England's unsubtle delaying tactics as the first Test in Cardiff reached its nail-biting finale, a number of observers thought it a bit rich: 'An Aussie lecturing us on gamesmanship?' was the generally incredulous reaction, much of it camouflaged by hearty laughter.

Over several decades, Australian cricketers have built a reputation for doing whatever it takes to win matches. This invariably means digging deep to draw upon a vast reservoir of innate skill (especially when they're playing England), though on occasion, they're not averse to employing cricket's darker arts.

Adam Gilchrist, who took over from Ian Healy behind the stumps to eventually claim the world record for dismissals by a wicketkeeper in ODIs (472) witnessed his international team-mates attempting to verbally unsettle batsmen on numerous occasions. Sledging, the most frequently employed tactic to unnerve opponents, has become an integral part of top flight cricket and batsmen must either face it down or perish; at least Aussies tend not to unpick the ball's seam.

Yet six years ago, Gilchrist, who won 96 Australian caps, attracted considerable attention for respecting cricket's tradition and 'walking', even though the umpire deemed him 'not out'. In what is a massive book (of almost 700 pages), the episode takes centre stage for it made Gilchrist stand out as a decent sort, despite the fact that his action resulted in him taking a lot of heat from his dressing room buddies.

Gilchrist was opening the batting (his Test average was 47.6) with Matthew Hayden in the semi-final of the 2003 World Cup against Sri Lanka. With Australia on 34-0 after five overs, he got a thick bottom edge to a ball from Aravinda de Silva and was caught by Kumar Sangakkara. Except umpire Rudi Koertzen shook his head and loudly declared, "Not out."

Gilchrist knew he was out, yet for a split second, his mind became a battle ground: on the one hand, he wanted to do the right thing and walk, yet another part of him was saying don't be crazy. This is a World Cup semi-final, you're a professional player and you've just been let off the hook. Stay! He walked.

Reaching the sanctuary of the dressing room, Gilchrist was asked whether he saw that the umpire had given him not out. "Yes," he replied, "I saw him."

"Not much was said after that," he writes. "The implications of what I'd done would play out over the next hours, days, even yearsÖAll the media interest was in my decision to walk. What a bizarre world it seemed where a simple act of honesty made such headlines."

Perhaps it's because we've grown so used to the cheating of professional sportsmen that Gilchrist's action that day came to define him as a 'good 'un'. For a man who won three World Cups and scored more than 5,500 runs in Test cricket, this must be disappointing for it overshadows his other achievements. By contrast, readers of this excellent autobiography will not be disappointed once they've finished what is an honest, intelligent account of life behind the stumps and, as far as this reviewer is concerned, an early contender for sports book of the year.


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