Robin Uthappa’s scores on this tour of Zimbabwe have progressed arithmetically — 0, 13, 31 and 39*. The second-most experienced man in this young squad is hoping that the remainder of his start-stop international career also progresses the same way.
After top scoring for his side in the first T20 on Friday, Uthappa spoke about taking his chances and why this team is just as good as a full-strength Indian team. Excerpts:
How has this tour been for you? The runs didn’t come easy in the ODI series.
Yes. In the first match, it was a judgement call (he was run-out for zero). And the second match was towards the end, it could have gone either way. But in the third game, I should have consolidated my start. Put in a lot of hardwork in the middle and eventually one error cost me. But I’m feeling good, ever since I’ve come here. I’m glad that I was able to bat through for the team today and set up a good total. It was a pretty challenging wicket to bat on, so pretty pleased with the way I performed today.
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Happy with the way the wicketkeeping is coming along? You had said before the tour that you’re eyeing the ‘keeper-batsman spot in the team. But there seem to have been a few byes through the legs…
The wickets here at quite different from your regular international standard wicket and it takes some time to get used to the pace. I’ve been standing closer to the stumps in the last couple of games to collect the ball on the full and not get hit on the bounce. Definitely there’s room for improvement. As I keep more in matches I get better and better. So if I have to rate myself I’d say there’s room for improvement and I’m working on it.
Was 178 a good score on this wicket?
I thought it was a very good score, given the slowness of the wicket. Quite unlike the other T20 wickets you play on around the world. Generally you get good, flat even tracks that aid both the bowlers and the batsmen. This was quite different. It was slow and low and hard to score runs. So I had to depend on the twos and had to make sure that I backed myself a little bit more. I also realised that it’s not easy for new batsman to come in and settle in immediately. So it was important for me to hold one end up. I realised that when Manish (Pandey) got out. It was important for one of us to bat through and I was happy that I could do that for the team.
Five debutants. Was there any nervousness?
No, absolutely not! We just play so much T20 cricket these days. All of us must have played a 100 games each in the IPL where the pressure is a lot more, against the best players in the world. You’re already cooked and ready when you come into a game like this.
Zimbabwe have been close only in the first game and have fizzled away after that. Have you focussed on their weaknesses in team meetings?
No, we’re just focussing on our strengths. The first game was close mainly because most of us played a match after four or five weeks of rest. We were a little rusty, if I may say so. We got rid of that rust there and have been on the button since. In every game we’ve had a couple of guys rising to the occasion and turning into match-winners. That augurs well for us.
Happy to be touring with India again, albeit in a second string side?
I wouldn’t agree with you on that. There’s a pool of about 30 players who deserve to play for the country and you cannot carry more than 15 on each tour. So I politely refuse to believe that this is a second string side.
I wouldn’t say we’re less talented or that we can’t do as well in international cricket. I just think the guys who’re in the 15 have done well for themselves when they got the opportunity and it’s just hard to leave out those players and play us. So it’s of paramount importance for us to take our chances when they come by and I think this team has been doing that.
Is it difficult for an opener like you to bat in the middle-order?
It’s quite different and I’ve been trying to adjust to what a middle order spot requires. Because through the year, in the IPL or domestic cricket, I’m always opening the batting. So suddenly when you have to play in the middle order you need to prepare differently and make slight adjustments to your game. For me, it’s the waiting, the wait to get in the bat, that is hard. Because I like to get in there and set the foundation for the same. But here you’re going into a situation that’s already set for you and you have to give it the finishing touches. But I’m getting the hang of it and the more I play the better I will be.