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In-form Uthappa writing good India comeback script

Last updated on: April 20, 2011 17:55 IST

'I would do anything to play for the country'

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Out-of-favour Indian batsman Robin Uthappa has given up the funky haircuts to get back on the national team and said he would gladly give up his $2 million Indian Premier League (IPL) cheque if it were to help the cause.

The 25-year-old batsman played the last of his 38 one-day internationals in July 2008 but remains hot property among the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises for his fearless power-hitting and wicket-keeping.

Uthappa, who was bought by IPL newcomers Pune Warriors for $2.1 million in the player auction, made 45 off 37 balls (4x6, 6x1) against the Mumbai Indians on Wednesday and has had a decent outing in the IPL so far this season. But his main goal is to use the Twenty20 tournament as a springboard to force an India recall.

"I would do anything to play for the country," Uthappa told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"Swapping the cheque would be a very easy thing to do, with my eyes closed. Coming back tothe Indian team is the most important thing for me."


Image: Robin Uthappa
Photographs: Reuters
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'Shoulder injury kept me out of the team'

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Uthappa, a key member of India's 2007 Twenty20 World Cup-winning team, was at one point India's answer to Kevin Pietersen, thanks to his hard-hitting and array of conspicuous haircuts.

At home batting anywhere from one to seven in the game's shorter formats, Uthappa also appeared comfortable switching from buzz cut to mohawk and another infamous style resembling a sideways zebra-crossing.

Born in a Coorg, a hill station in southern India, Uthappa now wears his wavy hair short and business-like, and insists he has matured as a player in the nearly three years on the sidelines after being dropped for poor form.

"Unfortunately because of a shoulder injury, I missed an India comeback last year. God willing, if I can better my IPL performance this year, I can certainly come back in the side."


Image: Robin Uthappa
Photographs: Getty Images
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'The scoop is not my go-to shot anymore'

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"I missed playing for the country in the last couple of years but I think I have improved a lot as a cricketer.

"I have grown up and matured over the time and realised cricket is lot more than just fancy haircuts. Call it a sign of maturity," he quipped.

While the showy hairstyles are gone, his flamboyant batting remains a delight to watch.

No mindless slogger, Uthappa is a smart cricketer who blends aggression with improvisation in his knocks.

"You have to improvise, playing against top class bowlers and against certain field settings. But you should be mindful of your improvisation as well.

"I used to play the scoop shot a lot but it's not my go-to shot anymore. Probably reverse-sweep and switch-hit are."

While Pietersen has been credited for pioneering the switch-hit, Uthappa insisted the maverick English batsman was not his inspiration.


Image: Robin Uthappa
Photographs: Reuters
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'Sehwag would understand me best as a cricketer'

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"I did not look at KP's video. I practise it in the nets very often. I'm a very instinctive player and if I feel the need to play it, I play it.

"Last year in the Bangalore nets, I was batting and suddenly felt the need to play the shot. Anil Kumble was bowling and I thought 'well, if I can play it against Kumble, I can definitely play it against anybody'.

"I was lucky enough to pull it off against him and hit the ball a long way. That instilled lot of confidence in me. Of course everyone advises me not to play the shot."

Uthappa said he had learnt to stay away from unwanted advice, however, fearing it might clutter his otherwise simple approach to the game.

Batting advice is sought from India opener Virender Sehwag, who has a similar 'take-no-prisoners' attitude at the crease.

"One person I look up to is Sehwag, I guess we have a similar game. If I have to discuss my game with anyone, it would be him. He would understand me best as a cricketer."


Image: Robin Uthappa

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