Australia in India 2004-05 September 24, 2004

Gilchrist ready for Indian challenge

Wisden Cricinfo staff

Adam Gilchrist: Australia's stopgap captain © Getty Images

Adam Gilchrist does not have especially fond memories of his last tour to India, in 2000-01, when he followed up a brilliant 122 at Mumbai with scores of 0, 0, 1 and 1 in his final four innings, as Australia lost a thrilling series 2-1.

And, as if the added responsibility of keeping wicket was not enough to be worrying about, this time around he has been landed with the captaincy as well, following the thumb injury that has ruled Ricky Ponting out of the first Test.

That is a lot of pressure to pile onto any individual, especially seeing as Australia are seeking their first series victory in India for 35 years, but Gilchrist - who has won two and lost one of his previous three matches in charge - was typically phlegmatic about the task ahead.

"I don't see it's going to be any tougher than what I've experienced previously as captain," he said. "Obviously the conditions there are fairly extreme, but we've played a lot of cricket there now and we know what to expect.

"It's a great challenge," he added. "I'm looking forward to it, and then you throw the captaincy into it again. But there's nothing you can do from the moment the bowler walks in and releases the ball. You can't do any more as captain, you've just got to switch purely into keeper mode.

A tour of India is the final frontier for any Australian captain. The task proved to be beyond even Steve Waugh when he was captain, so Gilchrist is well aware of the pressure he is under. "It's going to be demanding," he conceded, "but I think I've got great talent and cricketing nous around me to make sure that we can do it."

Gilchrist was appointed as Australian vice-captain way back in 2000, but he had no qualms about being overlooked for the leading role following Waugh's retirement earlier this year. "Ricky was actually the best man for the job," he said, adding that the intensity of the wicketkeeping role made it impractical on anything other than a one-off basis.

"On a fulltime scale I totally agree [with the decision]. But I'm more than happy to take the selectors' backing in thinking that I can do it on a short-term basis, given the nucleus of this team. I don't necessarily see it as me taking over the leadership - it's a bit of a cliche, but I see it as the leadership group taking it on.

With a brains trust that includes Shane Warne, Darren Lehmann, Matthew Hayden and Glenn McGrath, he is not going to be short of sidekicks when the Bangalore Test gets underway on October 6. "I'll toss the coin, I'll be accountable, but there's so much experience there and guys that are experienced on the sub-continent."

'There's nothing you can do from the moment the bowler walks in' © Getty Images

But, he concedes, he will need to blank out the peripheral factors - the heat, the noise, the intense crowds - if he is to improve on his performances in 2000-01. "I got worn down last time," he said. "I was worn out by the end and I think that showed in my keeping.

"I think that's more mental too," he added, "because my batting [suffered] too. I think a lot of us were pretty worn out." But on the plus side for Australia, they did enjoy a successful tour of Sri Lanka earlier this year, triumphing 3-0 in spite of the most intense heat and humidity.

But ultimately, Gilchrist is simply holding the fort until Ponting returns from injury. "The loss of Ricky both as a player and a captain far outweighs any personal satisfaction of getting this job, believe me," he said. "Like I've said whenever I've filled in before, I won't be trying to change anything or make my imprint on this team, I'll be trying to keep the ship going."