The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dravid puts to rest the ’keeping issue

Cuttack: Sourav Ganguly has been spared the responsibility of wielding the axe. Rahul Dravid lessened the burden on the Team India skipper by deciding to don the big gloves against New Zealand on Thursday.

The stand-in skipper’s decision to play Parthiv Patel as a specialist wicketkeeper in the ongoing triangular series had opened a Pandora’s box, threatening to snowball into a national debate. Sourav, recuperating from a surgery back home, had made his displeasure known. The team management was also aware of Sourav’s motives but the dogmatic attitude of Dravid prevailed.

Dravid had even made his intentions clear at the media conference on the eve of the match here. “In Indian conditions a specialist wicketkeeper is as important as a specialist batsman or bowler. I don’t mind a stopgap arrangement, but it should not be a practice. Parthiv has done well and he will only get better.”

Dravid has always enjoyed the backing of national selection committee chairman Syed Kirmani in this respect, which made the task of sticking to his stance that much easier.

It is learnt that coach John Wright was also in favour of Dravid performing the dual responsibility in one-dayers, but did not wish to go against his wishes since it was a very ‘delicate’ matter. It was almost certain that Sourav would have forced Dravid to keep wickets once he took charge in Bangalore.

There is no denying the fact that Parthiv’s presence always upsets the team’s ideal combination. It was evident last season, when, in his absence, and with Dravid keeping, Team India performed superbly, culminating in their reaching the World Cup final.

Be it the ICC Champions Trophy tie against Zimbabwe in Colombo or the NatWest Trophy final against England at Lord’s or the ODI against the West Indies in Ahmedabad, the late-order flourish has won numerous matches for the Indians.

The sudden injury to Virender Sehwag and Anil Kumble’s unavailability here also meant the team was short on experience. Parthiv’s batting abilities were never to be relied upon in a crucial encounter as this, and Dravid decided to take no chances.

Shunning the idea of opening the innings with Parthiv, V.V.S. Laxman was convinced to come out with Sachin Tendulkar. Sairaj Bahutule’s inclusion meant the batting was bolstered and the lower-order could come in handy if the situation so demanded.

This Sourav inspired formula may have forced India to play with four specialist bowlers last season, but there were very few complaints. The batting dictated the terms to the opposition. Playing a specialist wicketkeeper in such circumstances and breaking free from that successful theory will always remain an ill-affordable luxury to the Indians.

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