Gilchrist says Tendulkar has not overstayed

New Delhi: Drawing an analogy with Sachin Tendulkar`s masterful strokeplay, Australian great Adam Gilchrist on Tuesday termed the iconic cricketer`s retirement "class timing, as usual" and said his contribution to Indian cricket goes way beyond the mountains of runs he has scored.

"Now, it`s perfect as he would be playing the 200th Test match in his home ground. I think he has identified that it is the right time to go. He has not overstayed. As usual, a classic timing," Gilchrist said.

Tendulkar will call time on his glorious 24-year long international career after playing in his landmark 200th and final Test against the West Indies in Mumbai, starting on Thursday.

Gilchrist said that the modern day`s greatest batsman timed his retirement well as his mere presence over the last couple of years was enough to help the youngsters.

"The way Sachin has been contributing to the Indian team it`s not always just about the runs. I think Ricky Ponting contributed well in the last few years of his career with the Australian team just by having a presence there.

"The learning effect, the education and knowledge that he passes on to young players is really great. Sachin has been a symbol of professionalism, his preparedness to commit to what he is doing, just by being present there, he had great effect on the new guys.

"I am sure if you ask Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma what`s been the most valuable part of them being around Sachin Tendulkar, him scoring a hundred or him just being there, I think just to be around Sachin they would all be very excited," Gilchrist said.

Regarding the hype around Tendulkar`s retirement over the past couple of weeks, Gilchrist said, "I beg to differ. His life has been in focus and not just the last 10-15 days.

"It`s amazing the way he has handled it, the scrutiny, expectations and hype."

Gilchrist is in town as brand ambassador of University of Wollongong (UOW), one of Australia`s leading research and higher education institutions, and is helping the university develop stronger ties with India.

Asked to pick his most memorable moment centred around Tendulkar, Gilchrist said in a lighter vein, "Best memory was seeing him getting out cheaply in the (2003) World Cup final in South Africa as it meant one step closer to winning."

On a serious note, `Gilly` recalled the innings Tendulkar played against Australia at Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1999.

"It was a Boxing day Test at the MCG in 1999, Brett Lee made his debut in that match, he was charged up and was bowling at 150 kmph, it was quite dark, drizzly, conditions were overcast and the ball was moving around a lot, but Sachin just played a masterful innings (116) and kept the team in the fight.

"That innings stands out in my mind. May not have been technically one of his superior knocks. Don`t know where he would personally rate the innings, but certainly it made me quickly realise, having played three four years of one-day cricket against him that he was dominating, showed his true class and how he applied himself to execute his skills in extreme pressure.

Since making his international debut in 1996 to playing his last game in 2008, Gilchrist has scored around 15,000 runs across Tests and ODIs besides effecting 416 and 472 dismissals in the two formats, respectively.

The 41-year-old said he won`t be there in Mumbai to watch the match due to prior commitments.

"I would have loved to but I won`t be able to as I have commitments back home. I wish him all the success in future and congratulate him on a career of amazing achievements," Gilchrist, who will be turning 42 the day Tendulkar`s final Test starts, said.

Regarding the upcoming Ashes, Gilchrist said Australia did not look the favourites at the moment.

"I thing we are progressing well from the experience we had and the knowledge we would have gained from the England series. I think something wasn`t gelling or working, but (coach) Darren Lehmann is fantastic at bringing people together, creating the right environment, distressing players and allowing them to enjoy their cricket.

"England will be much improved and we start second favourites but that does not mean we can`t go on to win the Ashes. This England team is extremely professional."

Talking about the infamous monkeygate episode in 2008, Gilchrist said, "You can`t change history, that is etched in memory."
He, though, added the players have moved on.

Asked about Ponting`s take on Tendulkar`s role in the monkeygate and his relationship with Michael Clarke in his autobiography -- `The Close of Play` -- Gilchrist said: "Ricky`s opinions on a lot of things are sought-after. I haven`t read the book but from the snippets I can say it looks pretty balanced. His opinions may differ with others. Ricky has given his version and he deserves it."

Regarding his association with the university, Gilchrist said they will look to have Tendulkar address the students there.

Last year, the university had Viv Richards and Brian Lara playing in a fund-raising T20 match.