'I had absolute belief that I'd play for Australia'

Jason Gillespie talks about the awe he felt in his early days in the Australian dressing room, his double-hundred, and breaking his leg in Kandy

Interview by Scott Oliver

"I idolised anyone who played for Australia, basically any Australian quick" © PA Photos

It certainly took a while for me to feel like I belonged or was at home in the Australia side. As a youngster you just appreciate the opportunity and want to perform. You certainly never think the spot's your own. I never felt that. I felt more settled once I got into it, though, but it wasn't until the early 2000s, when I got through 100 Test wickets, that I started to think, "You know what, I belong here. I can make myself a pretty good career here." I don't think you should ever feel it's your right to be selected. It's an absolute privilege to be representing your country and I used to treat that as such.

I had absolute belief that I'd play for Australia when I was very young. I just had this absolute desire and nothing else mattered to me. I was telling anyone that wanted to listen that I'd play for Australia. You back that belief up with desire and effort, it goes a long way. I'm living proof of that.

Breaking my leg in Kandy was a pretty devastating time. I was seriously questioning whether I would ever come back from it. But I was determined I was going to have a significant Test career. I wanted to prove - to myself more than anyone else - that I was a Test cricketer of note. I didn't want to just play ten, 15 Test matches and be done with it.

Sheffield Shield was very strong in the 1990s and there were a number of reasons for that. I think our 2nd XI cricket was very strong in Australia. Back when I first started, playing 2nd XI cricket was a real goal. You are in the second-best side of your state. And that was a real honour.

Darren Lehmann was one of the first blokes to come up to me in the South Australian dressing room and introduce himself and take me under his wing a little bit. We became good mates.

I think the first thing I noticed when I first got into the Australian side - and when I was called up for the 1996 World Cup squad I'd never met any of these players - was all these legends, Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh, Mark Taylor, Warnie, everyone was on a nickname basis. I saw these guys on pedestals, growing up watching and idolising them. And here I was, a peer, talking to them as friends on a nickname basis. I suppose that took me a little bit by surprise.

There was certainly no complacency in Kolkata on our part. On reflection, you could argue that we shouldn't have enforced the follow-on. I'm not sure what the split in the dressing room was, but a few of the lads would have thought that was the best option. But if you look at the history of the game, the chances of winning after being made to follow-on are pretty remote. It was just very special batting. And, again, it wasn't through lack of effort. We gave it our all. They were just too good for us.

Any bowlers I didn't enjoy facing? Pretty much any genuine quick.

Getting 200 has given me a great after-dinner story for a long time. It was unexpected; I'd never got a hundred in any form of cricket before, so to double it up was pretty special, and pretty surreal, to be honest. I didn't get the nervous 90s, because I'd never been there before.

I actually thought I had Murali's measure at one stage. I kind of worked out that if he bowled over the wicket and pitched the ball three feet outside off stump, chances are it was going to spin back to me, and if he pitched it on the stumps, chances are it was going to be a doosra or a straight one. So I kinda had a plan. And I was going okay until one day he came around the wicket and was pitching everything in line with the stumps. I had no way of picking him then, so I was absolutely stuffed.

Cricket was an obsession, yeah. I remember watching it on TV from six or seven years old - the one-dayers, Australia in the gold. I became absolutely hooked.

"I believe it's completely wrong that the stump mics should be loud enough to hear the exchange between a batsman and bowler. If it was entertainment, like WWE wrestling, then okay, but this is a hard-nosed professional sport"

I performed well for Adelaide Cricket Club, got in the A grade and was picked for the South Australia Under-19 team but didn't get originally selected for the Australia U-19 team. Then someone pulled out injured and they invited me to go to India with the U-19s. And from that I got the opportunity to go to the Australian Cricket Academy, based in my home town.

I idolised anyone who played for Australia, but the earliest "hero" would be Dennis Lillee, then Craig McDermott and Merv Hughes as a teenager. And Rodney Hogg. Basically any Australian quick.

We took different plans into that series in 2004. We tended to attack the stumps more and back our fitness ahead of India's. That was the crux of our bowling plan, you know. If they miss, we hit. We had a sweeper over on the leg side. Make them run singles and run twos all the time instead of getting easy fours.

Up until the '05 Ashes I felt that Marcus Trescothick didn't enjoy facing me. I got him out a few times. He certainly wasn't a bunny but I always felt that, in the back of his mind, he wasn't as comfortable facing me as some of our other bowlers for one reason or another.

It's hard to say who was the best captain. They all brought their own way of dealing with things. I enjoyed a really good run with Steve Waugh. He used to back me to the hilt. Mark Taylor, early in my career, gave me a lot of confidence, especially when I'd been in and out with injury. And Ricky was a great support as well. If you're pressing me to pick the best one, then maybe looking through rose-coloured glasses because I was younger… but tactically it's probably Mark Taylor.

I'm a firm believer that players should be allowed to say pretty much what they want to say on the field without being scrutinised by the media or the public. What goes on on the field stays on the field. That's one of my bugbears. I believe it's completely wrong that the stump mics should be loud enough to hear the exchange between a batsman and bowler. If it was entertainment, like WWE wrestling, then okay, but this is a hard-nosed professional sport.

The slips cordon - Healy, the Waughs, Warnie - certainly picked their targets. I wouldn't say there was any nastiness out there, though. I can't tell you 100% for sure, because I was too busy walking back to my mark or bowling balls, so I didn't hear everything that was going on.

Shane Warne had shocking taste in music.

Did it annoy us losing dead rubbers? You spend so much energy trying to win a Test series - I don't know, subconsciously do you take your foot off the gas? You could argue that, I guess, but I personally don't believe we did.

I have vague memories of being on the helicopter [after the Kandy accident]. I was in a bit of pain. Sanath Jayasuriya had a friend in the army and he arranged for the helicopter to come and transfer me to hospital in Colombo. So I'll always be very thankful to Sanath for that.

Dad got a job in Adelaide when I was ten. Mum and Dad were ringing around, trying to find a club for me to play for. I got rejected by a couple of clubs. I was only ten years, but Adelaide Cricket Club agreed to take me on. I was playing in the mornings for my primary school and in the afternoon for my club, sometimes on a Sunday. So you get up to three games on a weekend. It was fantastic.

I never felt any pressure to support the Aboriginal cause. I'm very proud of who I am but I never saw myself as a role model for anyone. If I was seen that way, then I thought the best thing to do was just show pride, passion and effort in what I was doing: playing cricket.

"I never felt any pressure to support the Aboriginal cause. I I thought the best thing to do was just show pride, passion and effort in what I was doing: playing cricket" © PA Photos

The 2003 World Cup was a really tough one to take. I do have a World Cup ring from Cricket Australia as part of the squad, but I had to fly home with an injury.

The match in Mumbai [2004] - the wicket we played on was not up to Test standard. With all due respect to Michael Clarke, a decent enough left-arm spinner, but for him to get 6 for 9 summed up the surface we played on. He was quite sheepish about it, actually, pretty humble about it. I remember bowling a slower ball to Sachin Tendulkar, a good-length delivery that he should have played off the front foot just above knee height, and it hit him on the shoulder, near the throat.

The best player I bowled at? Brian Lara. Lara's innings in Barbados [1999] was just about the best I've ever seen.

Winning 3-0 in Sri Lanka was incredibly special.

I always enjoyed bowling at Adelaide Oval. It's not seen as a bowler's wicket but it was my home ground. I suppose I grew up and learned how to bowl there. I knew my line and my lengths to put batsmen under pressure there. I always felt that no wicket was a flat wicket. You'd always get something out of it if you put the effort in.

We were living in Sydney and we used to go on family holidays down the south coast, rent a house right on the beach, and if there was a game on I wouldn't leave the house. Mum, Dad and brother would go down to the beach, and I'd spend the whole day watching the TV.

I don't mean this to sound crass but I always saw myself first and foremost as a Test cricketer. No disrespect to one-day cricket or T20 cricket, but the pinnacle for me was always Test cricket, although it was a bitter pill to swallow to be injured for that [2003] World Cup.

India 2004 was probably my pinnacle with the ball. But I batted a long time with Damien Martyn to save a Test match in Chennai, which got rained out on the last day. The chances are we were going to lose that Test. For me to be in a partnership and survive as long as I did - I only made 20-odd but it was an important knock in the context of the series, so I was happy to contribute in that way.

One victory song that sticks in my mind was my last Test match. I was lucky enough to get a double-hundred and we won the series 2-0. Adam Gilchrist allowed me the great honour of leading the team song. We were on top of the hotel in Chittagong. I knew deep down that it was my final time as an Australian cricketer. Everyone says they have a moment, or whatever, and I sensed - you know, I've never spoken about it with my great mate Gilly, but I sensed that he knew it as well. It's one of those things in sport and in life; you just know. So I sung that loud, I sung that proud. All your team-mates there - it was a wonderful way to finish a cricket career.

Scott Oliver tweets here





  • POSTED BY S on | May 16, 2014, 15:58 GMT

    For a couple of years i think, he was the best fast bowler in the world. He was virtually unplayable during that time. He was not a support bowler by any means.

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | May 16, 2014, 13:36 GMT

    A good read that: he comes across as a decent human being. I disagree with him totally about the stump mics - because I think sledging is an awful part of the game and needs to be eradicated - but everyone's entitled to their opinion.

    I reckon his 201 as a nightwatchman will stand as the record forever.

  • POSTED BY Alan on | May 16, 2014, 8:17 GMT

    @saifKhan it is fair to compare the 2 as they played an awful lot together Dizzy was the man to get the new ball a as he was more consistant , got ore bounce and did more with it both ways , Lee had to bang it in super short to get it above the chest , Dizzy was the man to find any bounce that was in a deck , I was a fan of Lee as well as i have watched near on every Australian test match and odis between 1984, when i was 8yrs old, till today , some live some on tv. I do not argue Bingas quickest delivery was quicker than Dizzys but i would rather face an 158 km skiddy outswinger over a 154km deliver that is just back of a length that is about to hit my throat , any day of the week . Dizzy bowled most of the time to the top order , Lee bowled a lot more at the tail , both 2 awesome cricketers but if i had to pick one it would be a no brainier

  • POSTED BY Arif on | May 16, 2014, 3:50 GMT

    AlSmug. You make some excellent point in your post. I admire Gillespie as well and my post, didn't mean to disparage his contribution to the game at all. I guess, i'm tad biased when it comes to lee's bowling because I personally saw, how destructive he was with his sheer pace and bounce. I still remember attending that match, when he retired Michael papps from the game. Cheers anyway.

  • POSTED BY rob on | May 16, 2014, 3:38 GMT

    Like most of the other comments I think Dizzy was an awesome bowler at his peak. I think it was mentioned in the article but at times he was too good and batsmen couldn't even get enough wood on the ball to nick it. It would go within 2 atoms of the edge but not bloody touch it. Completely exasperating to watch let me tell you. .. He was unlucky in other ways too. I once saw him clean bowl a bloke by smacking the off stump a fairly solid blow but, and I kid you not, the bails stayed on !

    Anyway, he seems satisfied with his career judging by this article so that's nice to see. Also, I'm not sure Dizzy is such a forgotten man of cricket, at least not in Australia. Most cricket fans here know exactly who he is and hold him in very high regard. He was a big part of our most legendary team after all.

  • POSTED BY carl on | May 16, 2014, 0:20 GMT

    sometimes its just so clear, i remember watching dizzy as a very young lad bowling in the sheffield shield, he was always going to make it, such a clean effortless action, just stood out from the rest as he would today if he was 19 again bowling in the sheffield shield, uncomplicated, fast, self belief, and always making the batsmen play, almost clinical, brilliant career. why there isnt another around now like him, i'll never know, but i guess the great ones make it look oh so easy, thanks dizz. to compile a top ten highlight list, i think the 200 would maybe scrape in to tenth, just.

  • POSTED BY Alan on | May 15, 2014, 22:42 GMT

    @safeKhan90 to be fair your analogy is a tad misguided, Lee never got the bounce that Dizzy got he would consistently hit the batmen with surprising bounce , just ask N Hussain for England and the majority of top order batsmen in the cricketing world. Lee was a skiddy bowler whom bowled predominantly outswing . Dizzy moved it both ways and in his early yrs he was consistently in the low 150k p/hr. If i had to chose one id pick Dizzy he always had a perfect seam position and if anything he moved the ball just a bit to much to beat the edge but a test av of mid 20s , accuracy, economy and bounce. McGrath at one end Dizzy t the other check mate

  • POSTED BY django on | May 15, 2014, 22:24 GMT

    If its a debate about Lee vs Gillespie its very clear how it works. Lee was one of the best one day bowlers we ever had. In test matches, I would pick Gillespie every day of the week. He was superior to Lee in almost every aspect. The only thing Lee had over Gillespie was he could bowl 150k+ while Gillespie could only manage a pedestrian 145k. Apart from that, Gillespie had Lee covered quite comfortably.

  • POSTED BY Jo on | May 15, 2014, 21:15 GMT

    He was a catalyst in Aussie team. His spells either got a breakthrough or let other bowlers benefit due to mindset shuffling.... it was very rare that he was not producing one or the other. I think Lee had that fearsome thing just in his name... His name by default produce him to a batsman as a capable player than he usually is. When players shrugged off that... it was not easy going for Lee

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | May 15, 2014, 20:55 GMT

    You beauty Jason !!! Thanks for the memories. With love from Sri Lanka!!

  • POSTED BY Arif on | May 15, 2014, 15:57 GMT

    Can you really compare Lee with Gillespie? I mean, both are different types of bowlers and had different roles within the team. Lee was an express pace fast bowler, who could intimidate the batsman and get wickets with sheer pace. Gillespie, relied more on line and length and variation to get his wickets. He was equally a great, great bowler but if you had to choose, wouldn't most people select a bowler, who could bowl 152+consistently and scare the bejesus out of people with pace, bounce and accuracy!! Just my opinion :)

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | May 15, 2014, 15:43 GMT

    Underrated and very much overshadowed by other players in the team due to unfair media coverage and team selection. Same thing happened with Dravid in India. Talented player, always comes through tough times unlike many players in the team, who never have to worry about getting dropped and be allowed to play for personal glory. Dravid has several defining knocks in his career yet, he never got the same level of media hype or the tag of God!! Yet, he did his quietly and was happy to play for the TEAM.

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | May 15, 2014, 14:24 GMT

    There was a spell in 2001 when India were chasing 150 on the final day of the Chennai test.. That is probably the best spell of fast bowling you'd ever see.. There was McGrath and there was Warne.. But this man made everybody including Laxman and Tendulkar, who had made a a century in the previous innings jump and prod.. This was on the final day of a Chennai test.. Testament to this guy's prowess..

  • POSTED BY xxxxx on | May 15, 2014, 12:06 GMT

    One of my all-time favourite cricketers. Even as a kid he not only had all the fast bowler's weapons (including a devilish bouncer) but possessed great intelligence of when and how to use them. For this reason I found him far more interesting to watch than McGrath, Lee and most others and in his prime was the best fast bowler on the planet. Just a little sad for me that his prime did not last as long as some due to the injuries.

    Great to see that his passion for the game is undiminished and I am completely unsurprised by his success at Yorkshire. Will be a future Aus coach when Boof eventually is dragged off kicking and screaming to cricket coaching heaven.

  • POSTED BY Guy on | May 15, 2014, 11:36 GMT

    @Akshay Kumar, sorry to bring some facts into this, but McGrath and Gillespie played 58 Tests together and took 484 wickets combined at about 23. McGrath and Lee played 45 Test together and took 371 wickets at about 25.5. Clearly McGrath and Gillespie were the superior combination. I agree with @Waseef Hussain and @CricketMaan, Lee's charisma made him more famous but Gillespie was a far superior bowler.

  • POSTED BY Vinod on | May 15, 2014, 10:51 GMT

    Nice interview, very candid andhonest, dizzy was under rated, had that awkard lenght and bounce and had a fantastic fighting attitude especially when batting, sort of the template for any aspiring tail ender. a pity that injuries robbed him of a few tests and also the presence of others like kasper, bichel, reiffel etc....he should make a good coach.....

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | May 15, 2014, 9:37 GMT

    Waseef Hussain - Perfectly pointed out. Gillespie was an underrated bowler.... He had the ability to get tat extra bounce and often caused problems to top class batsmen...Even i think Sachin found it extremely difficult and he also praised for Gillespie..

    A fantastic fast bowler, but underrated...

  • POSTED BY Sriram on | May 15, 2014, 9:17 GMT

    Gilllespie never got his due in an all start Aussie team. Lee had a charisma which made him toast, but Gillespie was a tough cricketer! What stands out after that 200 was Aus selectors dont go by name, rather performance. His bowling was on decline and despite his heroics in that test, time was up. That was the difference in selection policies in Aus then and now. Hopefully Rodney Marsh will set it right.

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | May 15, 2014, 9:04 GMT

    McGrath Gilliespie??? Oh... MAybe according to Allan Donald.. But really fantastic bowling pair of Australia is McGrath and Brett Lee.. It was a fearsome opening attack for Australia that rattled top class batsmen...

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | May 15, 2014, 9:04 GMT

    Gillespie was an excellent bowler, but always very underrated. He played alongside a team of champions and often got overshadowed by the great McGrath. Jason was easily better than Brett Lee, but I feel that the latter is praised more than the former. It's quite disappointing that Gillespie's career ended so early - he was only 30 when he played his final test. For a bowler of his caliber, you expect him to go on till 35 or 36. Nevertheless, he had a fantastic career and was part of one of the greatest teams the game has ever seen.

  • POSTED BY David on | May 15, 2014, 8:30 GMT

    Match_Referee, no offence, but your comment is nonsense. As others have said, Gillespie was a class above Brett Lee as a TEST bowler. A great bowler as it is, his record would be even more imposing had he suffered less from injuries.

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | May 15, 2014, 7:21 GMT

    amazing bowler. Really intimidating. Hated the batsman. Stastically too 260 wickets great achievement considering injuries and competition he faced - end up missing more games because likes of lee kasper and macgill were the ones filling his shoes. More most of his career his average with ball was similar to that of warne and mcgrath. Really had one bad (too be fair really poor) series and that was the end of him. Such a sad end.

  • POSTED BY GV on | May 15, 2014, 6:58 GMT

    Kensohatter, the most dangerous partnerships in history are Ambrose + Bishop and Garner + Marshall. This was on the basis of computing stats and came in a cricinfo article a few years back by S Rajesh. Here is the link.


    Ambrose and Bishop had a clear lead over even Garner and Marshall who were the best with the cutoff at 200 wickets. Their stats made all other pairings look pedestrian. By the time Ambrose and Walsh happened, Ambrose had reached the second half of his career, WI was not as formidable in batting, opposition was not under such pressure all the time, and the numbers slightly deteriorated. Still a great pair as well.

  • POSTED BY GV on | May 15, 2014, 6:15 GMT

    Gillespie's bowling in the Port Elizabeth test was just magic. Unfortunately his injuries resulted in his modifying his action and after that, there was a lot more body roll and less shoulder. The famous kick he used to earlier get did not come back. He would other wise have been more than a match for McGrath, as at his peak, he was clearly the more dangerous bowler. As it was, despite the handicap, he posted fine numbers, but did not knife through the opposition as often as McGrath did. His bowling in Barbados (the spitting cobras delivered to Lara), Calcutta test, then in the 2004-05 series in India, was very sharp, but only in that last series did they get converted to wickets. Else there was a bit of Morkel in him. He disappointed in the Ashes series of 2005, and but for this, Australia could well have won that series, close as it was.

  • POSTED BY syed on | May 15, 2014, 6:10 GMT

    Tendulkar had once said that it was face difficult to face Gillespie. So, it shows how good a bowler he was. He was one of the unlucky bowlers who's career got affected by injuries.

  • POSTED BY harvey on | May 15, 2014, 5:30 GMT

    A decent guy too; much admired, can't say the same for others.

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | May 15, 2014, 5:29 GMT

    Wonderful bowler. got outshone by Mcgrath & warne. I still remember the spell he bowled in second innings of the Chennai 1998 test which we won by 2 wickets.

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | May 15, 2014, 5:21 GMT

    Dizzy, The best fast bowler and my idol. Ambrose and Gillespie are the 2 special talents in cricket with the bowl. Far far better than Pidge and Binga for sure. Loved his aggression on the field. Australia and Ponting could have handled him nicely in 2005 as that was dull face for not only him but for Australian cricket. Still Miss your bowling but that to YouTube I can watch your bowling highlights anytime :)

  • POSTED BY Michael on | May 15, 2014, 5:01 GMT

    @Match_Referree - You're seriously putting Brett Lee on the same level as McGrath and Warne ? He wasn't even close. Gillespie was an excellent bowler. Yes, his form and pace faded in 2005 but he would be the next level down from McGrath and Warne. Brett lee would the next level down again. Andy Bichel and Michael Kasprowicz kept Brett Lee out of the Australian Test side for long periods of time.

  • POSTED BY Cam on | May 15, 2014, 4:54 GMT

    @Match_Referee, everybody knows Dizzy, he's not forgotten! He's now a very successful county coach and will likely, if he chooses, coach a decent international side at some stage.

  • POSTED BY Jon on | May 15, 2014, 4:47 GMT

    @Match_Referee you obviously never saw him bowl then. What a load of rubbish, for one he was in the team well before Brett Lee and cemented his spot as part of one of the most effective new ball partnerships world cricket has ever seen. He was right up there with pace and his seam position was impeccable. This guy often bowled too well! If you read Steve Waugh's dairies he states that Gillespie was the one bowler who consistently produced spells that were so good batters couldn't get out to him!! One the greats, a fantastic bowler and an awesome role model for young quicks.

  • POSTED BY Francis on | May 15, 2014, 4:14 GMT

    Wonderful cricketer, though I don't agree with his comments re: what is said on the field. If you need it censored that means you are ashamed. It isn't hard nosed, it is cowardly. Let the ball do the talking. Always wondered why he faded in 2005 as he was still young (about 30). I guess he had just too many injuries early on and the body gave up. Anyway, I will remember him as one of the best I've seen.

  • POSTED BY Phani on | May 15, 2014, 4:10 GMT

    A decent bowler, if not great... In the company of great bowlers like McG, Lee & Warne, he looked even more better bowler, because batsmen were already in defensive mood when he was bowling...Ten years down the line no one remembers this guy, he disappears in the history as one among so many decent bowlers played for Aussies...

  • POSTED BY Vaidyanathan on | May 15, 2014, 4:10 GMT

    There used to be a way to click on the profiles of the players being interviewed or the key matches they refer to in one inset box at the side. Not there anymore? There's no way I can actually go from this article to Gillespie's player profile, looks like. Odd.

  • POSTED BY Gopalakrishna on | May 15, 2014, 4:05 GMT

    Lovely bowler to watch, just wish he didnt get injured frequently though. Always have a grudge against you for having saved that test match at Chennai Jason :)

  • POSTED BY django on | May 15, 2014, 4:00 GMT

    An absolute demon bowler in his prime. As good as anyone I ever saw. Great bowler to watch as well. He had it all.