World Cup: Fleeting moment still ended in joy for Gillespie

Australia's Jason Gillespie celebrates after taking the wicket of England's Kevin Pietersen for 74 runs during the third NatWest Challenge match at the Brit Oval, London, Tuesday July 12, 2005.
Australia's Jason Gillespie celebrates after taking the wicket of England's Kevin Pietersen for 74 runs during the third NatWest Challenge match at the Brit Oval, London, Tuesday July 12, 2005.
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THE World Cup never really happened for Jason Gillespie.

The Yorkshire first-team coach played in only one tournament, got injured halfway through it and ended up watching the final thousands of miles away in an Adelaide pub.

Not that he is sore about it, of course.

Je ne regrette rien could be Gillespie’s motto, and he was simply pleased to be part of a cup-winning squad.

It was back in 2003 that Gillespie appeared in his solitary World Cup out in South Africa.

The 1996 competition on the subcontinent came a little too soon for him (he did not make his one-day international debut until later that year), he was overlooked for the 1999 event in England and, by the time of the 2007 edition in West Indies, had said farewell to international cricket.

What little World Cup action Gillespie did see was characterised by consistent performances from one of the game’s most talented pacemen.

In the 2003 tournament, Gillespie took 1-28 from eight overs against Pakistan, 3-13 from 10 overs against India (a man-of-the-match winning display that included the key wickets of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid), 2-7 from three overs against Holland and 2-50 from nine overs against Zimbabwe before injury struck.

“I developed a problem with a tendon in my right ankle,” recalled Gillespie, who was replaced in the squad by Nathan Bracken after Australia had 
earlier lost Shane Warne for testing positive for a banned substance.

“It was a really weird injury, a very rare injury, and although I probably would have been fit for the final if they’d kept me there and given me intense treatment, they wanted to bring in a replacement player.

“So I was back home in Adelaide when the final was on, and I watched a bit of it in a pub.

“Then I was tired and went home, watched the rest of it at home and went to sleep.”

Gillespie said he had got over his personal disappointment come the final. Australia beat India by 125 runs on the back of a masterly, unbeaten 140 from captain Ricky Ponting and an undefeated 88 from Damien Martyn, who played briefly for Yorkshire that year, with Yorkshire legend Darren Lehmann taking the cup-clinching catch when he pouched Zaheer Khan off Glenn McGrath.

“It was a shame not to be there at the end but when I look back on my career I don’t have any regrets because although I loved playing one-day cricket, Test cricket was always my No 1 priority,” said Gillespie.

“I feel very fortunate to have played in a World Cup and in 2003 I was just so chuffed for the lads to win it.

“They performed really well and Ricky got a brilliant hundred in the final and ‘Boof’ (Lehmann) took the catch that won the tournament.

“‘Boof’ hit the winning runs in the 1999 final and then he took the catch to win it in 2003, which was great for him.”

Such was Australia’s strength (even without Gillespie and Warne), they won all 11 of their matches in the 2003 competition, including a remarkable victory over England when they recovered from 135-8 to chase down 205 with two balls to spare thanks to Michael Bevan and Andy Bichel.

Gillespie’s tournament also had a happy ending.

“I still got a World Cup ring for playing in the competition and, when the squad arrived home, Cricket Australia flew me to Perth to be with all the lads, which was a really nice touch on their part,” he said.

Although Gillespie played only four World Cup games, he featured in 97 one-day internationals, taking 142 wickets at 25.42.

He is optimistic that Australia’s class of 2015 can follow in the footsteps of the one 12 years ago – although he believes that fellow co-hosts New Zealand will be equally threatening.

“I definitely think Australia are in with a good chance this time, although there’s a bit of pressure on them, to be honest, as they’re co-hosting it and everyone’s expecting them to do well,” he said.

“I think New Zealand have got a real advantage playing at home – probably even more so than Australia because of the unique-shaped grounds in New Zealand and the fact they know their own conditions so well.

“New Zealand are a side that know exactly what they need to do, they’re well-planned, they’re led aggressively, and they’ve got players who can perform well.

“I think they’re as likely as the Aussies to win the World Cup.”

Just as there is pressure on Australia, in particular, there is little expectation on England, who are no better than an outside bet to win the competition.

However, Gillespie – who said it remains to be seen whether South Africa can shake off their “chokers” tag – believes that could work to England’s advantage.

“England have got absolutely no pressure on them,” he said. “They can just go out and express themselves, and I really think they should do that.

“They should just go out with a really positive attitude – a carefree, devil-may-care attitude and see what happens.

“If they just attack and be aggressive and positive, you never know.”