It’s been said before in these pages: when
Adam Gilchrist leads Australia, expect something big.

Sunday night’s six-wicket belting of Sri Lanka was the best example yet of what happens
when the jug-eared West Australian is put in charge. His 116 from 105 balls
was, after a couple of miscued slogs early on, classic Gilchrist batting –
aggressive, controlled and virtually unstoppable. Gilchrist now averages nearly
52 as captain in one-dayers, 16 runs per innings above his career average.

Many have praised the selection policy
which rested Gilchrist for a week, but it was another controversial decision
from Talking Boony and the other selectors which led to the keeper’s
resurgence, and it would be worth them writing it down. It goes like this: if
you need Gilchrist to fire and Australia to win, drop Ricky Ponting.

Contrast Adam Gilchrist’s situation with
that of Brad Hodge. Hodge was called into the one-day side for the
Chappell-Hadlee series in New Zealand last December and in his five matches has
accumulated scores of 13, 0, 59, 5 and last night 2, far below the high
expectations that were placed on him after a twelve-year wait to break into the
top level and far below his Test performances in the same period, which include
a double-century.

There is a long list of players who have
started slow and gone on to greatness – Matthew Hayden is probably the textbook
example. However, what Hodge faces that Hayden did not is a long queue of
fringe players trying to break into the team and an unusually fluid team
line-up. Hodge will no doubt lose his place when Ricky Ponting returns and will
then have to compete for a middle-order spot with the established middle-order
list of Martyn, Clarke, Symonds and Hussey, plus all-rounder Shane Watson who
will shortly return from injury, plus a clutch of new prospects like Phil
Jaques and South Australian Mark Cosgrove.

For these players to get to the Caribbean next year it’s going to be necessary to
make the most of rare opportunities to play in the canary yellow.
Unfortunately, Brad Hodge may have just muffed his.