Robin Uthappa: Tracing the right-hander's journey thus far
A brief look at the career of a batsman who showed enormous potential in his early years.
If we talk about batting talents of Indian team from the previous decade, Robin Uthappa was the one who had impressed everybody from the way he started his international career. During the 2006 Indore ODI against England, he scored a brilliant 86 on debut against England. A bright future beckoned for the then 20-year old.
The control over his shots and his ability to time the ball was outstanding. He had impressed everybody to become a contender for the Indian top order which contained numerous high-profile names like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly and Gautam Gambhir.
After getting the nod for the West Indies series in January 2007, he scored 98 runs from two matches. His performances led him to earn a spot in the Indian squad for the 2007 World Cup. However, he managed a paltry 30 runs from three matches.
However, Uthappa got selected for the inaugural edition of the World T20 which the MS Dhoni-led Indian team ended up winning. He was a key member of India's triumphant campaign. He also toured England for the 2007/08 Natwest Series and played a match winning knock of 47 from 33 balls in the sixth ODI. But India started to shuffle his batting position as he was not fitting into the lineup as an opener. As a consequence, he found himself playing at a difficult batting position in the lower-middle order.
Loss in form and subsequent ouster from Indian team
In the 2008 edition of the Asia Cup, Uthappa could only manage scores of 15, 2 and 20. He could not snap out of his poor run of form and was hence dropped from the team. The emergence of talented batsmen such as Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma made it difficult for Uthappa to return to the Indian team.
Consequently, he looked to add to his repertoire by taking up wicket-keeping duties in the IPL. The right-hander also began to don the keeping gloves on a few occasions in the Ranji Trophy which eventually made him a handy cricketer across formats.
When Sri Lanka visited India for a 5-match ODI series in November 2014, Uthappa returned to the Indian team. With regular skipper MS Dhoni's absence resulting in him gaining entry into the team as a wicket-keeper batsman, he played in the fourth and fifth games. However, his scores in those two matches were just 19 and 21.
The talented batsman was sent back to the domestic circuit wherein he looked to regain his place in the Indian team by performing consistently. However, the chance of a national recall continued to elude him.
In contrast to his exploits at international level, Uthappa's tryst with the Indian Premier League has been relatively more productive. During the 2012 as well as 2013 season, he scored over 400 runs and produced several game-changing knocks. In 2014, he scored 660 runs in the tournament and proceeded to secure the Orange Cap. His success in the popular Twenty20 tournament helped him a recall to national side during their limited-overs trip to Zimbabwe. But he failed to grab the opportunity with both hands and was consigned to the wilderness once again.
This year, Uthappa switched allegiance from Karnataka and started to search for opportunities in other state teams due to unspecified personal reasons. Following an unsuccessful deal with Kerala, he finally found abode in the Saurashtra side. After a woeful start to the season, he finally crossed the 50-run mark in the second innings of the game against Gujarat.
At 32, Uthappa continues to put in the hard yards in the domestic arena. If he keeps working hard on his game, a comeback into the Indian team is not out of the equation yet. The right-hander could be an ideal candidate for the ill-fated number four slot in India's ODI and T20I teams.