The Spin | ‘Everyone loved him’: Jason Gillespie leaves England as a national treasure | Sport

On 4 October, Jason Gillespie planted a tweet – a memoji and the words “England – it’s been a pleasure”. After three years coaching at Sussex, a spell with Kent and five years with Yorkshire, he was on his way home to Adelaide. There he takes up a new job with the West End Redbacks, South Australia’s Sheffield Shield team, alongside his existing coaching responsibilities with the Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash.

With his standalone mullet and long elastic limbs, Gillespie was an iconic figure in Australia’s great team of the late 90s and early 2000s. But for all his success against England – those 65 Test wickets at 29, his seven wickets at Headingley in 1997, and his name painted on the Lord’s honours board in 2001 – that fifth wicket sliding into the hands of Mark Waugh at second slip to make Waugh the world Test catching record-breaker – his biggest impact on English cricket has been post-retirement.

Jason Gillespie 🌱

England, it’s been a pleasure.

October 4, 2020

Gillespie, who had playing spells with Glamorgan and Yorkshire during his injury-plagued career, took the coaching job with Yorkshire in the winter of 2011 after the club had dropped into Division Two of the Championship. In his first season they leapt up to Division one. In his second, they finished runners-up to Durham, in his third and fourth they won the title, and in his final year the club were pipped to the post by Middlesex on a compelling last day of the summer.

He gently nurtured the development of Yorkshire’s players, overseeing the reinvention of Liam Plunkett and Jonny Bairstow, whom he allowed to manage his own technique – coaxing runs from him in a way that no one at Yorkshire has managed since – and to a lesser extent Joe Root and Adil Rashid, tying together a diverse team with a laid-back vibe and an expectation of team unity. In the words of Ryan Sidebottom: “Well done on all you’ve achieved over here great man, thanks for everything. You put years on my career, I’ll never forget the Championships we won.”

Gillespie also emerged with honour from the recent racism allegations that have engulfed Yorkshire cricket. He saw in Azeem Rafiq a talented young man who was struggling, but had no idea that he was experiencing racism. Rafiq, in turn, singled out Gillespie, alongside Paul Farbrace and Root, as “amazing.”

David Hopps, who has reported on Yorkshire cricket for decades, cannot speak of him highly enough, “He brought a generosity of spirit to Yorkshire cricket, which is not always something it is famous for. He was an emollient you poured over Headingley, everyone loved him, when he walked through the gates he could make a Yorkshire fan who hadn’t smiled in five years beam with pleasure.”

If Gillespie’s spell with Sussex was ultimately less successful – though they did reach the T20 Blast Final in his first year in charge – that was more because of a lack of firepower than any failure of man-management. Just as at Yorkshire, he backed his team to the hilt, believing in the young players at his disposal, not over-complicating things with jargon, driven by a love for the game and a genuine desire to get the best out of his troops.

Jason Gillespie

Jason Gillespie in his pomp as a player, at Lord’s in 2001 as Australia romp to another Ashes victory. Photograph: Hamish Blair/ALLSPORT

Ali Martin ghosted Gillespie for the Guardian during the Ashes series of 2015 and 2017-18. “He was brilliant,” he says. “The first time I met him was at the Champion County Game in Abu Dhabi. I went over to him in a bar thinking I’d just say hello for two minutes and ended up spending the evening with him, he was a completely open book. He was an absolute professional as a columnist, always available and never baulked at a topic.”

Chris Waters of the Yorkshire Post recently summed him up perfectly: Dizzy is one of those blokes who, despite everything he achieved in the game, never talked about himself, he had no ego at all. The only time he ever mentioned his own performance was when he talked about that Test double-hundred, but that was only ever with a twinkle in his eye.”

Martin remembers phoning Gillespie up for a column after the Sandpapergate Test at Cape Town, and Gillespie calling for the Australian captain, Steve Smith, to go before any decision had been made: “I thought it was a very bold call for a former Australian Test player to make, but ultimately he was right.”

Such an instinct dovetails with Gillespie’s innate sense of right and wrong. He is famously vegan, calling for non-leather cricket balls and disagreeing with Yorkshire’s then sponsorship by a dairy company, and has used his influence to talk about the climate emergency. As the first indigenous man to play Test cricket for Australia (his grandfather was a member of the Kamilaroi tribe in northern New South Wales) he has also become something of a spokesman for Aboriginal affairs.

The other topic he has endlessly bigged up, spraying the party poppers in the face of what has occasionally seemed like a shrug and a wave from some in the England and Wales Cricket Board, is the County Championship.

“I just love county cricket,” he has said. “I love how everyone embraces it. It doesn’t get the credit it deserves. It’s a much better product than even the ECB gives it credit for. It doesn’t get enough love. I think the standard is quality and I’m going to miss it.”

In 2015 Gillespie was linked with the England job after Peter Moores was sacked for the second time, the job eventually going to Trevor Bayliss. If he fancied pulling on the tracksuit when it next becomes available, he would be welcomed with open arms, and the promise of a friendly pint and an endless opportunity to chew the fat.

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