GARY Gilmour, or ‘‘Gus’’ as he was known, was a gifted amateur in the days before Australian cricket embraced hard-nosed professionalism. His sheer talent and aggressive attitude with the bat made him one of the most exciting players.
He will be remembered as one of the cavaliers of a wild and woolly time in the game. In the pre-professional era he sported a healthy paunch and gave an air of finding sporting life no more important than life off the field. He was given a (reasonably) good-natured razzing by the press and fellow players when he declared his unavailability for a Sheffield Shield match to get married.
Gary John Gilmour was born on June 26, 1951, in Waratah. He went to Newcastle Boys’ High where he demonstrated his sporting talent. He earned Blues in baseball and cricket from the NSW Combined High Schools Sports Association.
Some of his feats were highlights of Australian cricket. At the inaugural World Cup in 1975, Gilmour’s left-arm, fast-medium outswing bowling claimed 6-14 in 12 overs against England in a semi-final at Leeds. These amazing figures were the best World Cup return for a bowler until the third tournament, and even today have been bettered only three times, and never by anyone taking six wickets.
But Gilmour had not finished as a playmaker in that match. Chasing only 94 to win, Australia slumped to a perilous 6-39, and England seemed on the verge of a famous victory. But Gilmour smashed five fours from 28 balls to help shepherd Australia to victory.
Such a performance was a glimpse of the unicorn that Australian cricket has searched for since Keith Miller’s day – the great bowling all-rounder.
Australia were defeated by the West Indies in the Cup final at Lord’s, but not before Gilmour became the first man to take five wickets in successive World Cup matches. His victims included such immortals as Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards.
With Australia enjoying an embarrassment of bowling riches at the time, Gilmour played only one of the four subsequent Tests against England that summer, but took nine wickets. It was only fitting that Doug Walters and Gilmour – two avatars of a larrikin age of Australian cricket – combined again to create the Australian Test seventh-wicket partnership record, scoring 217 against New Zealand at Christchurch in 1977. It stood for more than three decades.
Gilmour’s contribution of 101 was to be his sole Test century. Hopes that he might solidify as a batsmen were to remain unfulfilled as he battled to stay fit and injury-free. His Test batting average ended up an underwhelming 23.
Only occasionally did Test bowlers feel the brunt of Gilmour’s powerful strokemaking, such as in Adelaide in 1975-76 when he took 95 off the West Indies attack in only 137 minutes. That series he topped the bowling averages with 20 wickets at 20.3.
Gilmour had only a bit part in the Centenary Test at the MCG in March 1977. He was playing with a broken foot and bowled only nine overs. He never donned Australian colours again. He was left out of the 1977 touring squad for England, where Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket raid was announced.
Gilmour played in the Packer Super Tests, returning a moderate 23 wickets at 34, but scoring only 167 runs at 13.9.
When the cricket establishment made peace with Packer in 1979, Gilmour turned out for NSW but quickly faded. His first-class career was over at only 28. Gilmour suffered poor health in his later years and received a liver transplant in 2005.
But there was plenty of life for Gilmour outside the glare of public fame that comes with playing for Australia and he sold swimming pools for some years.
All three of his sons played first grade for Waratah.
He is survived by his wife Helen and children Brooke, Ben and Sam. Another son, Clint, died in March.