Robin Uthappa has found the midpoint between aggression and composure and the rewards in terms of runs, has been phenomenal.
The metamorphosis of Robin Uthappa has perhaps been the most riveting tale in Karnataka cricket in the recent past. Just like the many languages he speaks, Uthappa the cricketer has embraced multiple roles over the last decade and aptly his whatsapp status is: “I’m different, get over it.”
Uthappa has donned many avatars in his evolution as an aggressive opener: a slightly over-weight kid who donned the wicket-keeping gloves and biffed with his bat; a brash teenager who smote the ball hard and drew the appreciation of former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar; the youngster who turned out for India, sparkled briefly and then was resigned to be on the sidelines; the man who asked for the Karnataka captaincy because he believed he could deliver; and now an elder statesman though he is just 28, scoring runs by the ton, lending whole-hearted support to captain Vinay Kumar and also dreaming about wresting back the India cap.
It is an exhaustive list but the varied experiences have shaped Uthappa well. There is a sense of calm and a whole lot of perspective in the way he approaches the game and his life and all that has helped him individually besides lending stability to Karnataka's batting. It is a point that has caught his State coach J. Arunkumar's eye. “Robin is very composed now. Even when he talks, he thinks a lot before he says anything. Earlier, he wasn’t like that, he could snap. Now he is in a good space personally and that shows in his batting. To be honest, he is batting the best in the State and he is ready to play for India again, especially in the shorter formats,” Arunkumar says. During Karnataka’s recent Vijay Hazare Trophy triumph, Uthappa's tons (133 vs Jharkhand and 132 n.o., vs Gujarat) helped Vinay Kumar’s men to extend their good form that has already yielded the Ranji Trophy and the Irani Cup. Uthappa’s merger of aggression with remarkable consistency, has been a work in progress.
Last season, he roped in former India batsman Pravin Amre as his personal coach. And in a lovely tandem that tided past egos and focussed on the larger goal of good cricket, Amre and Arunkumar, worked out an easy understanding between themselves which helped the player improve rapidly. “Pravin has led me when I played for India ‘A’ and I have a lot of respect for him. There are no egos here and it is all about helping a player become better as well as help his team,” Arunkumar says.
To Uthappa’s credit, he found a mid-point between his innate aggression, while also adapting to Amre’s Bombay school of batsmanship that paid its traditional respects to defensive batting. Arunkumar, who was an aggressive opener in his heydays, says: “I believe that if a ball is short and wide, you should cut it, no point in leaving it. I tell that to Robin and the others, the situation might be 30 for three but you should be alert to scoring runs. Yes, he did get a bit too defensive when the last season began and then I had a chat with both Robin and Pravin. Now the good thing is that he is neither too aggressive nor too defensive. He has found his balance.”
Many years ago, when asked about the defining influences in his life, Uthappa spoke about Him. The Him was none other than Jesus Christ and Uthappa's spiritual leanings, which continues to this day, his strong sense of self-esteem that has not lapsed into arrogance.
The easy camaraderie he shares with his team-mates and his constant instrospection about his game, have helped him find his feet. Having played for India in the past, Uthappa has reiterated his credentials again. May be it is a matter of time before he joins the 'Men in Blue.'