Uphill task for Robin Uthappa to make the cut for the T20 World Cup

“Robin Uthappa (above) is in impact batsman and can destroy any bowling line-up on his day. I think after Chris Gayle, he is the one who can alter the game’s complexion,” says Piyush Chawla. © AFP

 

By Karthik Parimal

 

There are a few players whose skill and potential are not reflected by the statistics. Robin Uthappa is one among them. Averages of 18.66 and 27.10 in Twenty20 (T20) and One-Day Internationals (ODIs) respectively do not do justice to a batsman who was once touted to be the next big thing in Indian cricket. He is well known for his ability to walk down the pitch to even the faster bowlers and hoist them over the fence on a regular basis. That is what made him an integral part of the Indian team during the 2007 T20 World Cup. Alas, the charisma this extravagant right-handed batsman from Karnataka possesses does not seem to be enough to help him forge his way back into the national side.

 

Uthappa started this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) on the right note. He struck two fine half-centuries against the Royal Challengers of Bangalore (RCB) and Delhi Daredevils (DD).  He is currently the seventh highest run-getter in this IPL. More importantly, he is Pune Warriors India’s (PWI) leading run-scorer. Nevertheless, he cannot afford the luxury of slowing down during the final stages of the tournament if he wants the selectors to take notice of him before the T20 World Cup that is scheduled to commence in just a few months’ time.

 

For a player who is generally accustomed to playing at top of the order, Uthappa’s task of making a comeback isn’t going to be straightforward, considering the fact that Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane and Virender Sehwag – all opners – who’ve made their presence felt in this edition of the IPL. In fact, Rahane, Sehwag and Gambhir are the first, second and fourth highest run-scorers in the IPL thus far. Although performances in the IPL can by no means be a basis of selection for the Tests and ODIs, it certainly can be used to pick players for T20 Internationals; more so for the T20 World Cup this time considering that it is being held in Sri Lanka, where the conditions are very similar to India.

 

Rahane’s batting has been like a breath of fresh air. An orthodox technique combined with a desire to score quickly is a blend that sets him apart from the rest of the crowd. The fact that Rahane has consistently performed in this IPL puts him streets ahead of Uthappa for a spot in the Indian line-up. What Uthappa must be hoping is that the selectors consider his performances in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy – India’s domestic T20 competition. In that tournament, Uthappa scored 246 runs at an average of 41.00 and an outstanding strike-rate of over 219. But the question still arises as to where he fits into this Indian side if there is no vacancy in the opening slots.

 

Gambhir, Sehwag and Rahane will no doubt form a strong opening line-up. Suresh Raina has been an integral part of India’s abridged version squad and the same applies in the case of Virat Kohli. However, Rohit Sharma has the dubious distinction of performing tremendously well in the domestic tournaments and then losing steam when it matters on the international circuit. Uthappa could be a good back-up option. Moreover, he has played in the middle-order in a few games for PWI in the IPL and has done a fairly decent job. But it remains to be seen how easily he could adapt himself by coming in to bat during the later stages of an innings for India.

 

Uthappa brings in added value as a back-up ‘keeper in an emergency. But the chances that the selectors will consider that aspect while picking the Indian team for the T20 World Cup looks remote as a replacement could be flown to Sri Lanka in quick time should the need arise. 

 

Uthappa still has the ability to intimidate an opposition with his range of shots, and it could augur well if that reputation works in his favour. Piyush Chawla framed it well when he said, “Robin is in impact batsman and can destroy any bowling line-up on his day. I think after Chris Gayle, he is the one who can alter the game’s complexion.”

 

Coming from a bowler, the comparison with one of the most destructive batsman in international cricket is not merely high praise; it also speaks volumes of Uthappa’s potential and how he is perceived by the opposition.

 

(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. His zeal for writing and love for the sport of cricket is what has brought him here. Karthik can also be followed on Twitter)