Karnataka have revealed that the Ranji team will continue to alternate wicketkeeping duties between Robin Uthappa and CM Gautam in an effort to facilitate the former’s return to the Indian national team, ESPNCricinfo reports. Uthappa is hoping that his abilities with the gloves could put him in contention once MS Dhoni retires from the shorter formats of the game.
Batting coach Arun Kumar confirmed that Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) Secretary Brijesh Patel has sounded his approval for the move and spoke about the efforts that are being made to ensure that both the players in question are kept happy regarding the arrangement.
The defending champions have played three matches in the new Ranji season so far with Gautam keeping wickets against Assam in the opening game while Uthappa did the glovework Bengal. The last match against Vidarbha saw both players handle the duties with Gautam keeping in the first innings before Uthappa took over the job in the second innings.
"It was not a strategy, but it was just the interest of Robin Uthappa trying to play for the country as a wicketkeeper-batsman after Dhoni has retired," Arun Kumar told ESPNcricinfo. "We took it to Mr. Brijesh Patel also, and Brijesh Patel took the decision that now let them alternate keeping. Even it was beyond my comprehension, but we still went to Brijesh and he said (to) share the duty."
Kumar said that the arrangement seen against Vidarbha would be the way forward for Karnataka as he attempts to keep both players happy.
"Basically Robin wants to keep in touch with keeping, CM is a professional keeper. For Robin to keep in touch even in the second innings is good as long as he gets every match. So I thought the logical way to do it is that let CM keep in the first, Robin in the second so that we are fair to both of them. Now we have come down to this and both are happy now."
Kumar revealed that he did have some trouble initially to make the players, especially Gautam, understand the decision.
"I am [in] a bit of a tight spot, to be honest. It's not an easy thing for me convince both of them. It took a lot of sleepless nights for me to decide on this. Obviously CM Gautam was really hurt, and then I explained to him that people know you are a good keeper. You don't have to prove anything. The selectors know apart from [Wriddhiman] Saha you are the best keeper in the country,” he said.
“Same thing to Robin also. He has kept in IPL and people know he is a good keeper. Both of them will have to get 1000 runs a season to break into the India side, as simple as that."
Gautam annoyed by move, but willing to sacrifice
Gautam confessed that being asked to switch between duties as a fielder and wicketkeeper was not something he was thrilled about but added that he was willing to perform the duties for the sake of the team.
"It is irritating because on and off keeping is not that easy also because I have to focus on my fielding," Gautam told ESPNcricinfo. "It's a new challenge for me because I haven't done this for the past seven years."
“I don't really want to think too much and get frustrated over the issue. I want to focus on my cricket. End of the day, I want Karnataka want to win. I always played for that. Whether I play for India or not, I ultimately want my team to win. So, whatever they feel comfortable or happy with, I will go by that."
Arun Kumar told that Gautam would be stationed at slip when Uthappa is keeping wickets in an attempt to bridge any differences between the pair and expressed confidence that the team’s decision would not create a rift.
"I want both of them to talk to each other, understand each other better than keeping somebody away," he said. "If it's filled up with a lot of silence then you don't know what's running in each other's mind. As a coach of a very confident team, a very understanding team, we are like a family. Obviously there will be a lot of quarrels and misunderstandings in the family, but it's my duty as a coach to set everything right. So, it's a healthy competition going on. They have no animosity between them."Published 19 Oct 2015, 18:07 IST