ADELAIDE:Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist faced pressure on Friday to prove his critics wrong after a series of fumbled catches sparked debate about his future.
Gilchrist is just two dismissals away from claiming the world record of South African Mark Boucher.
But his latest wicketkeeping blunder -- dropping an absolute sitter off Indian batsman V.V.S. Laxman on the opening day of the fourth test here -- raised further questions about his tenure in the game.
The 36-year-old veteran of 96 Tests has revolutionised cricket and at times produced almost superhuman feats on the field.
He recently said he wished to play on for at least another year, and those who witnessed his World Cup final masterpiece and 59-ball hundred in Perth 13 months ago would be unlikely to doubt his ability to do so.
But he has been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series, dropping four catches in the second Test in Sydney, of which at least two were simple.
His blunder from Laxman was quite inexplicable, grassing a regulation outside edge from Brett Lee for which he barely had to move and that came to him at a perfect height.
Former Australian captain Steve Waugh conceded Gilchrist's 'keeping was down on his past standards and said he was fortunate the Indians didn't fully punish the error, with Laxman adding just 14 more runs.
"For a world-class keeper, Gilly's concentration and consequently his sharpness of footwork hasn't been up to his usual exceptional standard and this one could have really hurt Australia," he wrote in his column for News Limited newspapers on Friday.
But former Indian batsman Ravi Shastri backed Gilchrist to leave the game on his own terms
"If he believes he has got stuff left in him, I think he should be entitled to play on," Shastri told the Herald-Sun newspaper.
"He has set such high standards that no wicketkeeper-batsman in the history of cricket has done.
"So you get that bad feeling when he does make a mistake. He is only human. Before you jump at criticism of someone like that, you have to be careful.
Speaking after the first day's play on Thursday, spinner Brad Hogg said the Australians wouldn't dwell on the Gilchrist error.
"It's always frustrating to have a couple of catches dropped," he said.
"Catches win matches, as they say, blokes don't try to make those mistakes and we've got to forget about that."
Gilchrist's batting has also lost a little of its once supreme lustre in recent years.
While his World Cup and Perth innings were the sort of batting gems that have made Gilchrist one of the world's most damaging cricketers and turned countless matches, his batting has also become more sporadic.
Where his average sat at 60.81 in 2003, it now lies at a relatively more modest 47.89 and is danger of dropping to its lowest point since he was dismissed in the first innings of his second Test.
In his past 20 Tests, he has made 784 runs at 31.36, but 246 of those runs came in two centuries, and in the current series he has 136 runs at 22.66.