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Gilchrist leads charge of the entertainers

He is the perfect modern-day example of how an effective wicketkeeper-batsman can be as much a match-winner as any batsman or a bowler.

india Updated: Oct 09, 2006 14:24 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Australia's Adam Gilchrist spearheads a pack of explosive wicket-keepers in the Champions Trophy, ensuring plenty of fast and furious entertainment.

He is safe behind the stumps and devastating in front of them -- the perfect modern-day example of how an effective wicketkeeper-batsman can be as much a match-winner as any batsman or a bowler.

All keepers want to emulate Gilchrist, who has established himself as a player who can change the course of a match with breathtaking stroke-play even in a crisis.

South African Mark Boucher, Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara, Indian Mahendra Dhoni, Pakistani Kamran Akmal and New Zealander Brendon McCullum are all potential match winners.

Gilchrist opens the innings in one-dayers and bats in the middle in Tests with the sole purpose of dominating the attack.

Australia know what a gem they have in Gilchirst, 34, and are keen to save him for important tournaments, such as the Champions Trophy, the Ashes and the 2007 World Cup.

No wonder he was rested for the recent triangular one-day series involving India, the West Indies and Australia in Kuala Lumpur.

Gilchrist has been an integral part of the one-day team since he appeared on the scene in 1996. He already boasts 8,233 runs and 393 victims in the shorter version of the game.

Boucher's big-hitting was on view against Zimbabwe at Potchefstroom where he hammered a 44-ball century last month, the second fastest in one-day internationals after Pakistani Shahid Afridi's 37-ball effort.

The South African went on to make an unbeaten 147 off just 68 balls with 10 sixes and eight fours.

"I've been striking the ball a lot better than in the past and it's a matter of just getting runs behind your name. Hopefully, I can build on this," Boucher said after his maiden century in one-day internationals.

India's search for an attacking wicketkeeper-batsman has ended with Dhoni, known for his flocking locks, motor bikes and ability to smash the ball out of the park.

Dhoni, 25, may not be as steady behind the stumps as his Australian counterpart but has an uncanny knack of judging line and length which wins vital matches.

He shot to fame last year belting an unbeaten 183 against Sri Lanka at Jaipur, the highest score by a wicket-keeper in one-day internationals and ahead of Gilchrist's 172.

"At international level, it's all about confidence," Dhoni said.

"When I started playing, I never thought of playing for any team. It was just for enjoyment. Cricket was more an entertainment for me.

And destroying the bowling is Dhoni's aim.

"It's (now) my biggest high on a cricket field -- hitting the ball out of the ground."

Sangakkara has made rapid strides in both forms of the game since his international debut in 2000. He is a solid top-order batsman with a sharp eye for the gaps.

The Sri Lankan left-hander differs from Gilchrist and Dhoni in that he does not always believe in taking the aerial route to bolster the run-rate, but has the shots to dominate any attack.

Kamran may lack consistency but has played a few crucial top order knocks, including two successive centuries against England at home last year. However, he has been without a half-century since then.

The opposition underestimate McCullum at their own peril. The New Zealander can upset any opposition with hard and clean hitting lower down the order.

First Published: Oct 03, 2006 13:33 IST