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When did the world change?

On January 23, 1998,


as Steve Waugh stared into his bowl of ice cream at
tea during the first final of the Carlton & United
series at the MCG and told Tom Moody to stand
down as Australia's ODI opener because he wanted
Adam Gilchrist to go in first? Or on November 7,
1999, when Gilchrist walked to the wicket as
Australia's Test match No. 7 and made 81 from 88
deliveries? Or maybe it was earlier, much earlier, in
1994, when he moved from New South Wales to
Western Australia because he couldn't shake Phil
Emery from his native State side?

Or perhaps it was when he made 149 not out to win


the game against Pakistan at Bellerive in his second
Test; or the double-hundred against South Africa,
when he was in such exquisite form that he amused
himself by trying to hit a sponsor's billboard offering
a million dollars; or when Mike Atherton looked
across at Duncan Fletcher's notes on the tactics for
bowling at Australia in 2001 and saw that all Fletch
had written next to Gilchrist's name was "?".

No, the world really changed once the rest caught on


and "the Gilchrist role" became a thing, despite the
fact that there was only one Gilchrist. It's hard to
think of another modern cricketer with such a
singular individual influence on the game. A
specialist position had its job description rewritten,

its specialisation changed overnight. Once, it had


been nice to have a wicketkeeper who could bat.
Now, not only did a wicketkeeper have to bat, he
had to average 40; he had to open against the white
ball and smash it over or through the field. It was a
reality shift, a future shock, and along came the
fruits of its influence - England alone have produced
in recent years Geraint Jones, Matt Prior, Craig
Kieswetter, Steven Davies, Jos Buttler, Sam Billings,
Jonny Bairstow and more, a pattern repeated across
the world.

The question now is: "For how much longer?"

That Test cricket will soon feel the shiver that has
run up through T20 to ODIs is beyond doubt. What
we don't know is how change will manifest itself.

My thought is that the Test game will become more


about phases of play, about specialisation, when the
small advantages and momentum shifts are
identified.

To best affect the game, batting orders may become


more fluid. The period before a second new ball, for
example, could be targeted for maximum effect.
There's no point having your Gilly sitting in the shed
waiting for his turn then.

Tiring bowlers, hot weather, excessive seam


movement, an approaching session break - there are
very many small events in games that are not always
matched by having the right man in at the right
time.