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Parthiv appears set to keep in opener
- Decision after Kirmani-Wright-Dravid meeting today

New Delhi: Despite a below par performance in the Mohali Test, Parthiv Patel appears set to do the wicketkeeperís job in Team Indiaís opening tri-series game, versus New Zealand in Chennai, on Thursday.

The Indians, therefore, will then be reverting to the days of six batsmen and a specialist íkeeper, instead of fielding seven and getting Rahul Dravid ó now the stand-in captain ó to enact a double role.

Except for the Dhaka tri-series (in April) when Dravid wasnít available, he kept in almost every match since the start of the 2001-2002 bilateral series in the West Indies. That allowed an extra batsman to be accommodated.

According to The Telegraphís sources, with Parthiv íkeeping, Dravid will be able to focus wholly on the captaincy and his batting. In any case, he has always been saying that in the long run, a specialist must be made to wear the big gloves.

Itís not insignificant, perhaps, that chief selector Syed Kirmani has been consistent in speaking about doing away with stop-gap wicketkeepers. His argument is straightforward: If the (top) six batsmen canít do the needful, itís unrealistic expecting the seventh to do so. Itís another matter that regular captain Sourav Gangulyís views are quite different.

Dravid wasnít available for a comment, but a formal decision will only be taken once Kirmani, coach John Wright and the (stand-in) captain have had a tête-à-tête in Chennai on Wednesday.

Of course, itís not that Dravid hasnít kept as captain. He has done so twice ó in Jodhpur and Vijayawada, against the West Indies, 11 months ago.

Parthiv, the youngest-ever Test íkeeper (at 17-plus in Trent Bridge, last year), has so far kept in six ODIs ó once in New Zealand (Queenstown) and on five occasions in Dhaka. Dravid has done the job 41 times ó his debut was in Taunton (versus Sri Lanka) in the 1999 World Cup.

Meanwhile, the selectors havenít yet discussed naming a (stand-in) vice-captain. Usually, no appointment is made for engagements at home but, in a departure, Dravid was officially named Souravís deputy when the squad for the Motera Test was announced in Rajkot.

Given that Virender Sehwag was Souravís vice-captain in Dhaka, itís possible that he will be temporarily Ďpromotedí.

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