Robin Uthappa: Away wins critical in the IPL

Kolkata Knight Riders plays four consecutive away games on the trot and it would like to create a ‘momentum’ by winning the first one against Delhi Capitals at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Saturday.

Kolkata Knight Riders batsman Robin Uthappa in action against Kings XI Punjab in IPL 2019.   -  AFP

 

Kolkata Knight Riders has begun its Indian Premier League campaign well, having collected two convincing wins at the Eden Gardens. Away from its fortress, however, it hasn’t been tested so far.

Gearing up to play against Delhi Capitals at the Feroz Shah Kotla here, it hopes to start its away sojourn on a winning note. It plays four away games on the trot, and a win will provide it “momentum” for the rest of the contests, according to Robin Uthappa, the top-order batsman.

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“The importance of away wins is critical in a tournament like this. Since we have got four away games on the bounce to get a good start in the first one is very important to keep that momentum going. At home we’re very strong; we all know that as individuals and as a team. We all understand that. But I think understanding the fact that we need to create momentum in away games is also important. And to create that momentum, to build that confidence, is important. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get that win and that momentum going right away and hopefully, the rub of the green will go our way tomorrow so that we move on to Bangalore [for the contest against Royal Challengers Bangalore] on a positive note,” Uthappa said here on Friday.

The role of Russell

Andre Russell has been at his destructive best for the side so far, collecting two Player-of-the-Match awards for his blitzkriegs. Against Sunrisers Hyderabad in his team’s opening game, he secured a strike-rate of 257.89 in his unbeaten knock of 49, and against Kings XI Punjab, he achieved an even better strike-rate of 282.35 in his 48.

Andre Russell (right) and Robin Uthappa celebrate the dismissal of Chris Gayle in their last encounter against Kings XI Punjab.   -  PTI

 

Russell’s fireworks proved decisive in both contests. Underlining the value of the all-rounder to the side, Uthappa said, “He plays a very important role. So, a lot is dependent on him and how he comes off. We understand the value in the team that he has, [taking totals] from somewhere like 180 to 215. That’s the impact that he has over the last five overs. It’s important for him to have that sense of freedom. It would be great for him to be in a situation where a batsman is batting with him so he has the freedom to go out there and play that role. The fact that he led Jamaica Tallawahs in the CPL has given him the responsibility towards the team. He understands the value that he brings to the side.”

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There will be days when Russell may not fire, and KKR is prepared for that eventuality, pointed out Uthappa. “When you’re batting in the middle, Russ is going to have a few bad days. It’s bound to happen with the way he plays. Hopefully, not as many bad days as good days for him. We take that in our stride and understand that there are days when he may not come off and the onus will be on us. We’re happy to take it. We’re happy to deliver and we’ll deliver again,” declared Uthappa.

Anchoring the side

Uthappa is happy to play the sheet anchor role for his side, despite possibly being overshadowed by more aggressive knocks.

He said: “I think it becomes extremely important to set up good totals for a team. And in as much as that is concerned, I think, being able to play that role – a sheet anchor role where you hold one end together so the others can go out there and express themselves – that’s an important role to be played and I understand that. It’s the requirement of the team and it’s something that I love doing.”

The pitch is likely to be on the slower side, and that may prevent a run-fest of the kind KKR has witnessed in its two matches so far.

Uthappa advocated pitches that are “evenly balanced” in Twenty20s. “T20 cricket is made for entertainment. It’s extremely competitive, but you have to have a whole wider perspective about what’s happening as well. You want it to be evenly balanced as well. Slow wickets are fine, but rank turners like Chennai [in the season’s opening contest] are not conducive for T20 cricket,” Uthappa said.

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