Gilchrist named Australia's new vice-captain
The Australian cricket team has a new vice-captain following the announcement today that wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist has won promotion to the position. The Western Australian's appointment comes at the expense of Shane Warne, whose hold on the job has been fatally weakened by a string of recent off-field controversies.
Gilchrist's elevation to the vice-captaincy is the end result of several days of discussions and interviews in Melbourne between the fourteen directors of the Australian Cricket Board (ACB), the national selectors and a number of players from both the present and the recent past. Such discussions are a natural pre-cursor to any international series in which the Australians are involved - but these were more protracted than usual following revelations last month of Warne's involvement in a phone sex scandal with a British nurse. With less than a fortnight remaining before a three match one-day series against South Africa begins at Melbourne's Colonial Stadium, the Board was particularly keen to close the book on the adverse speculation and publicity that has emerged in the wake of their star leg spinner's faux-pas.
Gilchrist's clean image, skill in public speaking, and popularity with the Australian public have all been cited in the past - and were believed again to be at the core of today's decision - as attributes which make him ideally disposed to a leadership role in Australian cricket. Once the decision that Warne was no longer to be retained in the role had been made, the directors chose their new deputy ahead of batsman Ricky Ponting, the man originally touted as the most likely candidate for the position. Ponting's relative youth and his dynamic presence within the team were said to have been particularly appealing to the Board in the course of its deliberations but ultimately did not sway them from voting in their wicketkeeper's favour. Ponting's slightly troubled past - which has included an involvement in infamous off field incidents at a nightclub in Calcutta in 1998 and at a bar in Sydney in early 1999 - might have worked against him.
Although there have been a number of vice-captains in recent times who have not proceeded to take the top job, this appointment is widely interpreted as an indication that Gilchrist has now assumed the inside running to become Australia's next leader. With captain Steve Waugh now in his mid-thirties, Australian cricket is understandably keen to groom potential replacements and this decision unmistakably represents a key step in the process. While Gilchrist's work behind the stumps and his role as an opening batsman in one-day internationals already present him with onerous enough responsibilities, the feeling is that the twenty-eight year old has the nous to successfully adapt to his new role.
The directors are reported to have taken a number of factors into account as they weighed up the competing claims of the three men vying for the job. Warne's chances were believed to have received a boost when strong support came from past captains and former teammates early in the week and again when he received personal endorsement from both Waugh and the selectors. But his latest misdemeanour, together with his angry outburst in March toward two New Zealand teenagers who had photographed him while smoking, are understood to have ensured that such support was not enough to save him.