Jason Gillespie: A fearsome player, now forging a reputation as one the world’s finest cricket coaches

Jason Gillespie
Jason Gillespie

By Sam Cox

Sussex CCC have made a statement of intent by appointing Jason Gillespie as their new head coach.

Gillespie retired from playing the sport at the end of the 2007-08 season and after his, now defunct, Indian Cricket League stint he took charge at Yorkshire in November 2011.

After promotion from division two in his first season, the Australian won two County Championships the first in 2014 and the second, a year later and he’s hoping to repeat a similar feat at Sussex.

Gillespie became the first acknowledged Aboriginal to become a test cricketer after being a descendant of the Kamilaroi people from his fathers side of the family. Gillespe, nicknamed ‘Dizzy’ by his Australian teammates, was born in New South Wales, Sydney on the April, 19 1975 and was obsessed with cricket from a young age.

Attending the Illawong Cricket Club, Gillespie would practice his bowling hours on end after being inspired by Dennis Lillee. At the age of 10, Gillespie won Illawong’s junior cricketer of the year in 1985. Five years later, his family moved to Adelaide where he quickly joined the Adelaide Cricket Club and started to work his way up the ranks. Dizzy was first picked by South Australia in 1994 and, amazingly, he learned the news by overhearing it at a petrol station.

On his debut, Gillespie took four wickets from thirty as South Australia went on to win the match by seven wickets. After impressing for the Adelaide based side, Gillespie was called up to the 1996 Australian World Cup squad and was later named in the Test side to face the West Indies. Dizzy took 2-62 at the Gabba after being named in the starting XI for the second test. Australia won the match by 124 runs despite Gillespie finding no luck in the second. Australia eventually won the Frank Worrell Trophy 3-2 and created history by beating the West Indies at home for the first time since 1975-76. Gillespie later played a prominent role during Australia’s tour of South Africa as he bowled a total of 14 of the hosts out-Australia went on to win the three match series 2-1.

Gillespie soon formed an untouchable bowling partnership with Glenn McGrath; a fellow quick. Gillespie and McGrath guided the Australian bowling attack for years to come and played a big part in Australia’s 2002-03 ashes win. Gillespie bowled the most wickets for Australia as he recorded 20 alongside England’s Andrew Caddick.

In total, Gillespie played 71 test matches in what turned out to be an injury-hit career. Due to a spinal stress fracture, he missed the majority of the 1997-98 season and then missed the bulk of the 1999-00 campaign due to broken leg and fractured wrist after colliding with Steve Waugh.

During these 71 tests he recorded 259 wickets during 137 innings making him Australia’s sixth highest wicket-taker. During his last test innings for Australia, he hit a double century; something neither Andrew Strauss or Michael Vaughan can boast. What makes this statistic even more eye-catching is the fact that prior to this, Dizzy had never hit a century.

At the point of retirement, Gillespie had featured for three cricket clubs: South Australia, Yorkshire and Glamorgan. He later played in the unauthorised ICL for the Ahmedabad Rockets.

In August 2010, Gillespie began forging his coaching career by coaching in Zimbabwe. He worked primarily with the MidWest Rhino’s alongside working on grass routes projects to inspire and improve the performances of young players in Zimbabwe. After his spell in Africa, Dizzy moved to the IPL to become Kings XI Punjab’s bowling coach after their opening match against Pune Warriors in April 2011.

He then received his first job in England at Yorkshire. After his impressive spell with the Leeds based club, winning back to back County Championships, Gillespie was linked with the vacant England role left by Peter Moores. Trevor Bayliss was eventually appointed as Moore’s successor and Gillespie remained at Yorkshire. Despite narrowly missing out on a third consecutive title in 2016, Gillespie left his role at the end of the season. After leaving Yorkshire he returned home to coach the Adelaide Strikers in Australia’s Big Bash; a role he had also held in 2015. He also held coaching roles this year at Kent and then took interim charge of the Papa New Guinea national team after former New Zealand Test cricketer Dipak Patel was dismissed.

Gillespie will take charge of Sussex in the new year after the conclusion of this year’s Big Bash and Sussex will be hopeful that the Australian will be able to repeat his impressive first season with Yorkshire that saw them promoted into Division One.

As Gillespie has played all three formats of the sport for Australia, and due to his vast experience, Sussex will hope his experience can help them become more competitive on all fronts. The ambition shown to appoint Gillespie will no doubt prove popular among Sussex fans and it sends a clear message to the rest of the sides in Division Two.