Keeping up the team spirit

Ayan Acharya
NSoJ Bureau

The year was 2007. On September 5, with India trailing the 7-match ODI series 3-2, England batsmen set India a stiff target of 317. As the middle order wobbled, and English bowlers raged, Uthappa took the attack to England, scoring a quick-fire 47 of 33 deliveries to steer India home.

Uthappa’s innings at the Oval ought to have been among the most entertaining knocks under pressure.

Indian batsman Robin Uthappa, who completed ten years in international cricket in 2016, thinks it takes a little time for a player to make the adjustment, from international to domestic cricket. “It depends on where you are playing”, said Uthappa. “If you have been playing international cricket consistently, then domestic cricket is a jump down and that jump takes a little time to adjust. Similarly, its vice-versa. There is a drop and there is a jump in both stages.”

The dynamic Karnataka batsman, who played in his fifth Karnataka Premier League (KPL) [Karnataka’s domestic T20 league], last year, sees the tournament as a chance to blood in more talent. He believes, “KPL is an opportunity to see who the young cricketers are out there who can represent Karnataka and anyone exciting, who can represent the country.”

The conversation moved to IPL and his time with the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) where South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis is the batting coach. According to Uthappa, “Jacques [Kallis] was someone who did not speak very much when he was a player. So, as a coach, it is refreshing to have someone who is as great as him [ Kallis] to share as much as he shared with us.”

“The greatest players on earth kind of follow the same pattern. They say similar things about what can make you successful; like discipline, remembering the basics, thinking through your processes, not fussing over technique and enjoying the game,” he added.

Asked about day-night Test cricket, Uthappa said, “For me, it is a very new experience.”

He explained, “I think the pink ball in the day will be a little bright. It takes a little getting used to but under artificial lights, it should be easier because the ball is a lot glossier.”

Having said that, he thinks, “It [Day-Night Tests] should be entertaining for the crowds. They will come in and watch Test cricket under different conditions. It will make [cricket] more crowd friendly.”

As someone who has traveled across the globe and faced all kinds of bowling attack, is there a particular bowler he loved batting against? “Brett Lee,” said Uthappa, with a broad smile. “For me, to have played against him and to have scored runs against him has been very satisfying. He has got the cleanest action and I love the ball coming onto me as quickly as it can. He has been one of the fastest bowlers in the world. I respect him a lot.”

Asked about the challenges of performing in crunch situations, particularly when one has been warming the bench for too long, Uthappa said, “Those are opportunities to grow as a cricketer, those are opportunities to find out what kind of capacity you have to handle pressure.” According to him, it all comes down to how a player perceives it. “If you perceive it is going to be hard to compete, it (the situation) will beat you but if you try and stay in the present and make the most of it, you will come out on top.”

The Bijapur Bulls captain thinks, “KPL is a fantastic tournament for blooding talent from Karnataka. We have been a state that has been constantly and consistently providing talent to the country. A tournament like this is a stepping stone to that. It is a really important tournament for the youngsters.”

However, the challenges are different for Uthappa. “At this stage of my career, I find bringing a team together and making them work towards achieving one goal more exciting,” he said.

Uthappa talks like he bats; with confidence and style. Needless to say he will hold the key for KKR in IPL 2017 , and who knows, an India call-up may be around the corner too.

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