'Where's your caravan?'

For eight years now English crowds have been taunting Jason Gillespie with shouts of “Where’s your caravan?”

But it wasn’t until Australia’s last tour of England in 2001 that the fast-bowler realised that home fans thought he looked like a gypsy with caravans—a common sight among the travelling communities of Britain.

Now aged 30, the bearded Gillepie’s “mullet” hairstyle is as wild as ever.

But his appearance has not been able to disguise a lack of wickets during the current tour that put a question mark over his place in the Test line-up ahead of Thursday’s Ashes opener at Lord’s, long before soreness behind both knees forced him to miss training on Tuesday.

The caravan jibes were at their loudest during last week’s final one-day international at The Oval where he dropped a catch at long leg to give England captain Michael Vaughan a reprieve.

“It’s never fun dropping a sitter like that,” Gillespie said, “and I copped enough grief on the fence.”

“Yet it’s been no worse than any other year,” he added ahead of Australia’s bid for a ninth straight Ashes series win.

“I’ve been copping the calls for so long now, I felt like putting a sign down saying ‘the caravan’s in for repairs.’

In an injury-hit career, Gillespie has still managed to take 248 Test wickets at 25,72. But the South Australia quick has found himself cast as a foil to new-ball partner Glenn McGrath, now just one wicket short of the 500-mark in Tests.

The role of “straight man” seems an odd-one for the laconic Gillespie.
But like the jazz trumpeter “Dizzy” Gillespie after whom he is nicknamed, the paceman was not inclined to dance to his critics’ tune

“I never thought my form was quite as bad as what I heard it was being described as in the press. I’ve got a couple of messages from home saying ‘hang in there’ so I must have copped a grilling in the media.

“But I’m cool. There is no problem at all. I know during the one-dayers I probably didn’t bowl as well as I would have liked but those have finished now and the pace is still there.

“My belief has not been shaken. You do go through phases when you are not bowling as well as you would have liked and other times you are bowling really well and not getting the rewards.”

Having come through stress fractures in the back and a sickening collision in the outfield with then-captain Steve Waugh in Colombo four years ago, that left him with a broken leg, Gillespie’s mental resilience is not in doubt.

“When you are lying in a Colombo hospital with your leg in a cast, you’re always asking yourself what’s going to happen in your career.

“Perhaps it made me stronger. I feel young, better now with my mind and body than I did when I was 22 or 23.

“I think the pressure is on England. We know if they don’t live up to their expectations, the media will jump on them.”

And that’s far worse than being asked what you have done with a mobile home. - Sapa-AFP

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