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'I would love to see myself in India colours again'

Last updated on: May 4, 2011 08:21 IST

'I would love to see myself in India colours again'

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Manu Shankar

Pune Warriors India's Robin Uthappa tells Manu Shankar the IPL has helped him understand his game better.

He is a fearless, attacking opening batsman; one who can walk into a fast bowler and slam him out of the park.

- 'As a batsman you got to be ready to adjust in IPL'

In his first match in Team India colours he smashed a 96-ball 86 -- the highest by an Indian on ODI debut.

But, since then, it's been a roller-coaster ride, and Robin Venu Uthappa has come a long way.

After India's disastrous exit at the World Cup of 2007, Uthappa biggest moment was when MS Dhoni and his men rocked the world with the surprise triumph in the World T20 that followed the same year.

But then things began to go wrong for the then 21-year-old. Instead of building on the WT20 success, he lost his way amongst the adulation and glamour of it. Inconsistency and poor fitness, in the main, saw him in the wilderness.

Photograph: Getty Images


Image: Robin Uthappa

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'IPL has been a big confidence booster'

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But Uthappa did not yield. The Bangalore boy was willing do all it takes to regain his place in the Indian team.

A poor showing in the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League did not deter his resolve either.

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Today, after excellent performances in subsequent editions of the T20 extravaganza, he's back in India reckoning. And for that he credits the IPL.

"IPL has been a big confidence booster. I can now express myself as a batsman. I have understood I'm an instinctive player and like to dominate the bowling attack," Uthappa told rediff.com, looking back on his showing for debutants Pune Warriors India in the ongoing fourth edition of the IPL.

"IPL has been a boon to me; I'm a lot surer of myself," he added.

Photograph: Hitesh Harisinghani


Image: Robin Uthappa

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'I have been working hard on my wicketkeeping skills'

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Fitness was one of the reasons why he lost out to players like Suresh Raina, who, at that time, was setting the field on fire with his batting and fielding abilities.

But Uthappa worked on his weaknesses and is now an asset to any team. He can be used as a floater, as he can bat either as an opener, in the middle order player or as a finisher.

"Ideally I would like to open, but coach and captain here [Pune Warriors India] feel that I'm a better finisher; so I'm batting lower down the order in this IPL," said Uthappa, who was purchased by Mumbai Indians for $800,000 in the inaugural IPL edition.

- 'Duncan Fletcher coaches very much like Kirsten'

But it was the third edition of the IPL where he made everyone sit up and take notice of his abilities. Backing his batting was his wicketkeeping skills, which boosted his performance overall. It was not surprising that Royal Challengers Bangalore chose to play Uthappa as wicketkeeper, despite having a specialist in Mark Boucher, when he represented them last season.

"I have been working hard on my wicketkeeping skills over a couple of years now. It has helped my batting immensely as well, as you tend to concentrate that bit longer," he said.

Photograpgh: Hitesh Harisinghani


Image: Robin Uthappa

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'I'm a very instinctive kind of a person'

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And with Sahara Pune India gobbling him up for a whopping $2.1 million (Rs 9.4 crore approx) this season, the Karnataka batsman promises to repay the faith reposed in him by the franchise.

"I did not expect the amount I got. But it's nice to know that your talent is being recognized and now you have to live up to that expectation," said Uthappa.

Though Pune started off really well, winning their first two matches, they lost the next six. But Uthappa is optimistic.

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"We have a good team and although we haven't performed as well as we would have liked to we just need to get back to the winning ways," said the 25-year-old.

Known for his outrageous shots, the 'walking assassin', feels that IPL is all about outsmarting the opposition with innovation.

"I'm a very instinctive kind of a person. I visualize a shot in my mind first, and then try it out in the nets. If it comes off then I try it out in the middle," he explained.

The reverse sweep, he says, is something that comes naturally to him.

"I'm good at the reverse sweep. Being ambidextrous also helps, as I have played as a left-hander in a couple of domestic matches."


Image: Robin Uthappa

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Decent outing in IPL-IV

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The national cap is now what Uthappa yearns for.

"I would love to see myself in India colours again. If it's as a wicketkeeper-batsman, then so be it. Like I said, I've been working hard on it.

"It is a big plus for me that I can open the batting as well as keep wickets. An extra bowler or batsman can be drafted in the side in that case," he said.

The IPL is at the half-way stage and Uthappa has already given a good account of himself aggregating 191 runs from eight innings at an average of 31.83 to go with a fine display behind the wickets.

If he continues in the same vein in the remaining matches, certainly, an India berth in the shorter version of the game could be his for the taking.


Image: Robin Uthappa

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