Perth: Adam Gilchrist has ridden a magic carpet to the top since he gambled his future six years ago by leaving his home state of New South Wales to head for Western Australia.Impatient with the limited opportunities in Sydney, Gilchrist packed his bags and arrived in Perth with little more than a suitcase, his pet dog Roy - and a youthful heart full of hope.The move seems almost certain to be crowned with the Australian captaincy - albeit for a solitary game at this stage - when his record-breaking team tangle with the West Indies in the third Test in Adelaide Friday week.Gilchrist, 29, a Test player a mere 13 months, is the strong tip to take over from the injured Steve Waugh as Australia attempt to extend their world record 12 successive Test wins.A tall (almost 6 foot, or 1.83 metres) wicket-keeper and pugnacious left-hand batsman, Gilchrist was made vice-captain at the start of the season in succession to champion leg-spinner Shane Warne, stripped of the job because of a succession of indiscretions, which finally forced the hand of the Australian Cricket Board (ACB).Gilchrist's appointment to the top job is not automatic, but no-one doubts he will be anointed by the ACB after the selectors nominate him this week. As well as his exceptional cricketing talents and leadership skills - revealed as a stand-in captain for Western Australia - he possesses masterly diplomatic attributes. Gilchrist had to overcome bitter hostility in Western Australia when he was initially chosen in the state team at the expense of local hero and former Test wicket-keeper Tim Zoehrer. He was booed by sections of the WACA ground crowd. But he displayed enormous character as he gradually won over the fans with his dignity and daredevil cricket. Gilchrist has had an extraordinary start to his Test career, playing in 11 winning games in-a-row."He has probably won four or five on his own," said Steve Waugh, singing the praises of the man he clearly thinks should get the nod. Gilchrist would become Australia's 41st Test captain in 123 years and the first wicket-keeper to lead the country since Barry Jarman filled in for an injured Bill Lawry at Headingley in the Ashes tour of 1968. That was also the last time an Australian skipper missed a Test through injury. Gilchrist's promotion would revive the debate about the value of wicket-keeper captains, who have been rare in Australian cricket. Jack Blackham led Australia eight times - the last in 1894-95 - and the captaincy did not pass to a gloveman again until Jarman's one-off appearance. While he had to wait until last year for his Test baptism, Gilchrist has been a popular member of the Australian One-day squad since he played his first Limited-overs International in 1996-97."He's the sort of bloke who seems to thrive on responsibility," Waugh said. "It's a good opportunity to see how he goes and whether he can take it on later down the track." Waugh, heading towards his 36th birthday, may have a maximum of a couple of years left in the saddle. He has established an astonishing captaincy record, with 14 wins (a ratio of 73.68 per cent) from 19 Tests, of which only three have been lost.Even the incomparable - in other respects - Don Bradman cannot match that. He led Australia to victory in 15 of the 24 Tests in which he was leader for a 62.50 per cent success rate.England's Douglas Jardine, captain during the bitter Bodyline series of 1932-33, is next on the all-time list for captains who have been at the helm in a minimum of 15 Tests. He registered nine wins from 15 matches for a 60 per cent rating.Gilchrist would have a hard act to follow in Adelaide, because obviously no player wants to be branded as the man who broke his country's winning sequence.The omens are perhaps good. Gilchrist has found the Adelaide Oval a happy hunting ground. Two of his 10 first-class centuries have been made there, including a swashbuckling 189 not out five seasons ago.Copyright @2000 AFP. All rights reserved
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