METRO PLUS

The Robin files

The comeback kid Robin Uthappa hopes that a good performance in the Champions league would cement his place in the Indian team Photos: Bhagya Prakash K.

The comeback kid Robin Uthappa hopes that a good performance in the Champions league would cement his place in the Indian team Photos: Bhagya Prakash K.  

Cricket Robin Uthappa hit the high notes in the Indian Premier League before a shoulder injury brought him to the surgeon's table in London. Now on the rapid road to recovery, Uthappa believes that he can make a comeback

A t 24, Robin Uthappa has in a sense seen it all. He coped with the highs of being part of India's World Twenty20 winning squad in 2007 to the lows of being dropped from the team mid-way in 2008 and also coped with the heart-break of losing a Ranji Trophy final that was on the razor's edge against Mumbai at Mysore while leading Karnataka.

And in keeping with the trends of his topsy-turvy fate, Uthappa soared and slumped in recent times. He blitzed 374 runs at an incredible strike-rate of 171.53 in the IPL that elicited profuse praise from his Royal Challengers Bangalore team-mates like Jacques Kallis and Kevin Pietersen and just as whispers of a probable comeback to the Indian limited overs' team did the rounds, the Kodava lad was laid low by a right shoulder injury that forced him to wing his way to London for a corrective surgery.

Thankfully for him, the shoulder is getting ready to cope with the workload of a long season ahead starting with the Champions League in South Africa, next month.

“It has been a difficult period for me,” admits Uthappa. “I set a standard for myself in the IPL and then was part of the Zimbabwe tour but I had to back out because I wasn't 100 per cent fit. It's been tough for me to watch fringe players play there, watch the India ‘A' and Emerging Players train at the NCA and leave while I am doing rehabilitation. At the end of the day I believe there's fruit to hard work. No one knew about my injury. In fact I went to the BCCI and told them about it,” he adds.

Put behind him

The days of doubts are over for now as Uthappa is racing ahead to get fit in time for the Champions League commencing at Johannesburg on September 10.

“It has been 10 weeks since the surgery and I am two weeks ahead in terms of recovery, so hopefully I should be ready for the Champions League,” Uthappa says and he is game for a repositioning of his role within RCB.

Mark Boucher was dropped from the squad and that presents an opportunity for Uthappa to don the wicket-keeping gloves too while adding aggressive depth to his team's batting strength.

“Now that I am a full-time wicket-keeper in shorter version of the game, I need to make sure my skills are intact. I don't think it's a burden at all for me,” he says after training under the watchful eyes of former Karnataka wicket-keeper Somashekar Shiraguppi.

As for his primary function of being an attacking batsman, Uthappa has tested his shoulder while flexing his bat in practice sessions.

“I have been knocking around for a while now. It's been three weeks and it's going well. But I haven't gone at full throttle. It's been a while since I played in the IPL so I need to get into a match situation to know exactly how I feel about it,” he says.

Though Uthappa's heart goads him to make that extra effort to recover faster, his mind steps in to rationalise the recovery process that has its own time and space.

“I am listening to my body. I am not pushing myself, the minute I feel I am tired I let my physio take control of me in terms of what I need to do. It's a borderline as far as recovery and 100 per cent fitness is concerned. I am pushing the limits whenever it's required, but otherwise I am staying within the line given to me,” he says.

With just 38 One Day Internationals and nine Twenty20 matches so far under his belt, Uthappa is keen to etch a firmer footprint in the rough and tumble of global cricket. Hope tweaks in a smile as he says, “If I can follow-up my IPL performance in the Champions League, I am hoping I will make it for the Indian squad against the Australians in the one-day series.”

K.C. VIJAYA KUMAR

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