''He didn't pick up the bat to block. You can't block with an axe.'' With these words Kerry O'Keeffe captured the essence of his friend and former teammate, Gary Gilmour, who has died in Sydney, aged 62.
Gilmour played 15 Tests between 1973 and 1977, and was hugely popular among teammates and opponents alike during his career with NSW and Australia.
''It's a very sad day for those who played with him because he wasn't a gregarious bloke, really,'' said O'Keeffe, who visited Gilmour at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, where he had been a patient with multiple health complications, in recent weeks. ''He was actually quite retiring, but he was always up for a bit of fun. He never seemed to take his cricket all that seriously, in that country way. Numbers didn't mean much to him. In a lot of respects he had that 'Hookesy' outlook. Why would you get eight not out in 10 overs? He couldn't understand, what's the use of that? His record suggests unfulfilled talent and I guess that's what it was to a certain extent.''
Gilmour had battled health problems for many years, and his friend and former captain Ian Chappell led the fund-raising effort for an urgently needed liver transplant in 2005. He and his wife, Helen, and their family had recently endured a tragedy, the death of their son, Clint, 33, after a long battle with brain cancer.
''Helen texted me to say that he is now with Clint,'' O'Keeffe said.
A left-arm swing bowler and a burly batsman, Gilmour famously starred at cricket's inaugural World Cup in 1975. He destroyed England, taking 6-14 at Headingley in the semi-final, then rescued the Australians with the bat after they slumped to 6-39 chasing 94 to win, scoring 28 not out in a man-of-the-match performance.
Wisden in 2002 listed his bowling performance as the greatest in the history of one-day internationals. ''He had unbelievable ability and I think that was best summed up by his performance in the World Cup semi-final,'' said Chappell. ''We were desperate to win that game, not just because it was England, our great rivals. But they didn't think we could play one-day cricket. Gus swung the ball all over the place, and then he got us home with the bat. I can still remember the headline the next day. It was a huge photo of him and 'Gary Glitter' was the headline.''
Gilmour followed with 5-48 in the final against the West Indies, becoming the first bowler to take back-to-back five-wicket hauls in ODIs. ''He was at the front of the queue when they were handing out talent but, unfortunately, he was right at the back of the queue when they handed out health and good luck,'' said Chappell.
Gilmour scored his only Test century (101) in 1977 in Christchurch against New Zealand, hitting an astonishing 86 runs in boundaries. He joined World Series Cricket later that year and was immortalised in C'mon, Aussie C'mon with the line ''And Gilmour's wielding willow like an axe''.
He is survived by his wife Helen, daughter Brooke Drelincourt and sons Ben and Sam.
Gus Gilmour has passed away..a sad day...had not an enemy in the game...his bat was an axe and he could swing a brick around a container.RIP — Kerry O'Keeffe (@kokeeffe49) June 10, 2014
with Mark Sawyer