Whenever a player stands out as being the best ever in his field, he is automatically used as a yardstick to judge others by. Any new half-decent spinner will be compared to Warne. A batsman who starts making a few runs will be touted as a successor to Bradman. And a wicketkeeper who starts scoring quickly will be called the new Gilchrist. Today Matt Prior completed his century - his second successive ton in a test shirt, and they've both come at a fair lick. So with the traditional hyperbole that so often follows English cricketers before coming disappointingly short, the press box went into overdrive, with Prior / Gilchrist comparisons hitting Twitter almost as often as Justin Bieber gets requests to post his phone number.
So what would being "the new Gilchrist" entail? Well, the 'Gilchrist', or the attacking wicket-keeper batsman role is all about scoring quickly. Coming in at number seven, the Gilchrist can either further cement the superiority of an innings by blazing a quickfire century, or turn around a failing innings by chipping in with handy quick runs after the top order failed. The Gilchrist always puts the team's needs above his personal average, sometimes giving his wicket away in the noble cause of forcing the pace. In terms of wicket-keeping, the Gilchrist is a more than capable keeper - not unprone to the odd howler but generally sound.
It's impossible to ignore that Prior ticks a lot of these boxes. He has a First Class strike rate of 67 (test SR of 64), so he knows where the boundary is. And with 5 test tons and an average of over 43 to his name, he is also prone to finding those boundaries fairly regularly. However, Gilchrist, who as I said earlier is the benchmark, made 17 test tons at 47, with a colossal strike rate of 82. While Prior is doing pretty damn well for himself, Gilchrist comparisons may be a touch premature.
There's no doubting that Matt Prior is a much improved keeper (although he has only made 4 stumpings in a four year test career, much of which he's spent keeping to 'the best attacking spinner in the world') and an excellent batsman down the order. Of the keepers currently plying their trade in test cricket, Prior is probably the most consistent batsman, and a massive reason why England have been so successful recently. It's probably fair to say that Matt Prior is the best wicket-keeper/batsman in the world. However, as with Warne, Bradman et al, Gilchrist was a one-off - the sort of cricketer that defines a role, rather than letting the role define him. While there is absolutely no shame at all in being currently the best in the world, perhaps those blowing the Matt Prior horn should reign in the notion that he's the best ever.