2007 team must reunite: Uthappa
Mumbai, Mar 12: Known for his ability to strike the ball hard and torment opposition bowlers on his day, Robin Uthappa is a natural contender for a spot in the Indian team in the shorter formats of the game. Included in the national side for the one-off Twenty20 match against South Africa later this month, Uthappa is keen to make his presence felt.
In an exclusive telephonic interview with bcci.tv, Uthappa spoke about his batting, the influence of Rahul Dravid and playing under Sourav Ganguly in the IPL.
You are returning to South Africa, the country where your team had won the ICC World Twenty20 title in 2007. Brings back memories?
Sure, but it is only one game. It is a great opportunity for me and I want to make the most of it. Earlier last year I got an opportunity against England but unfortunately for me it didn’t go my way.
Has the T20 format changed in terms of field placement, shot selection and other aspects ever since your team won the championship in 2007?
As you play a particular version of the game a lot more, you tend to understand what can make you successful in it. Obviously a lot has changed. Players have become a lot more aggressive but at the same time more intelligent and clever about the game. People think on their feet very quickly and are very aware about what is going on out there.
Is it very difficult to adapt to the different formats of the game?
I enjoy the one-day and the T20 format. It is something that comes very naturally to me; it suits my game a lot. As an opener in the four-day format, there is so much room for improvement and it is something that I am working on. But I have got my own set of ideas, I have got my own plans when I go into a T20 or a one-day game, so I stick to what I know best. I want to stick to the same mantra that has got me success.
Could you talk us through your batting style in the shorter versions of the game?
I like to get myself in a little bit because I know that if I am out there, I can always put the team in a good position. The whole idea behind me hanging around the wicket is that I look to bat as long as possible and at the same time play shots that come to me naturally and instinctively. In T20 cricket, I rely a lot on my instincts. In T20 one also needs to second-guess the bowler to find success.
Both Irfan Pathan and you were part of the wining squad in 2007. Your thoughts on the twin comeback?
Irfy is someone who works very hard on his bowling and fitness and I am glad for him. I am exceedingly happy for him that he has made a good, solid comeback into the side. It motivates people like me as well because we have all been part of that same team and the camaraderie that went around in that team was amazing. If we can all come back and play together right now, then I am sure we can do great things for India.
Being a senior player in the Pune Warriors India team, how has your role changed in the absence of Yuvraj Singh?
Most definitely my role changes because of the absence of Yuvi. Yuvi’s absence is a big gap to fill. He is such an awesome player in this format that we are going to miss him sorely. We will miss not only his batting but his bowling and fielding also. He brings in a lot into a team so obviously a few sacrifices have to be made. It is a team game and I am willing to do things that will benefit our side. I am looking forward to the IPL; it will be interesting. We have a lot of new and young players coming from all over the world [and] with Dada [Sourav Ganguly] leading, it’s going to be interesting.
What are your thoughts on playing alongside Sourav Ganguly?
I have played with Dadi [Ganguly] before. He has got a keen eye; he is a very keen observer. A lot of inputs come from him which are very valuable for people like me. He is someone who has played a lot of cricket and led the Indian team successfully. It’s great to have someone like him in the side and I am looking to learn a lot from him. He played a few matches last year with us and I picked his brains and picked up a few things from him that came handy for me last season. I am looking forward to interacting with Dadi again.
What are your thoughts on Rahul Dravid’s retirement?
It is kind of a mixed bag to me. I have known Rahul from the age of 12. Both of us come from the same school, though he was lot more senior to me. I have followed Rahul’s game right from the time he made his debut and to see him walk away from such a illustrious career is definitely sad. But at the same time, the kind of things he has achieved, and the way he has handled himself, is just prodigious to say the least. We are certainly going to miss him. I have learnt so much from him. His insights and thoughts have been so valuable to me. Ever since I was kid he has followed my game and he has watched me grow as a person. He is such an amazing role model. We can only look to him for inspiration and do a couple of things that he does; he is quite amazing because he works so hard. As cricketers, we know there is no substitute to hard work and that is something that a lot of people like Rahul, Anil [Kumble], Venky [Venkatesh Prasad], [Javagal] Srinath and [Sunil] Joshi have taught us. People like Vinay [Kumar], Manish Pandey, Abhimanyu Mithun, Sreenath Aravind, myself, and so many other youngsters, are just looking to follow in their footsteps. It’s been great to watch Rahul change as a person, from someone who has been intense about the game to someone who became philosophical about life and cricket. I always enjoy my conversations with him. What I love is that at the end of his career, probably at 36 or 37, he is probably the fittest he has ever been and that is hugely motivating for people like me. He is a true role model. I’d definitely pick up the phone and call him in case I have any doubts about my game.