Spotlight back on ‘under-rated’ Robin Uthappa

A belligerent knock of 87 and three stumpings on Wednesday reinforced the all-round value of the Karnataka batsman.

Robin Uthappa en route to his whirlwind 87 on Wednesday.   -  Vivek Bendre

While Gautam Gambhir and Darren Bravo were tonking the Kolkata Knight Riders at will during the team's pre-match training on Tuesday, Robin Uthappa didn't even pick up the bat at the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium. Instead, with his headphones plugged onto his ears – he listens to all kinds of music – with a nonchalant look, he preferred to do his sprints.

Come Wednesday, however, and the man from Bangalore blasted the Rising Pune Supergiant bowlers to hog the limelight. He was fortunate to have been dropped on the boundary line early on in his innings, but the manner in which he exploded thereafter – scoring a 47-ball 87 – to help Knight Riders overhaul a target of 183 with no trouble, was an exhibition of Uthappa at his best.

Such was Uthappa's onslaught, especially against the Supergiant spinners – he fetched 57 runs off 25 balls of spin, that the wicketkeeper-batsman stole the limelight away from Gambhir, who was featuring in his 100th game for Knight Riders.

The belligerent knock turned out to be a perfect icing on the cake for Uthappa, who had earlier done his glovework to perfection. His three stumpings were instumental in Supergiant being unable to construct an unsurpassable total in the first innings. No wonder that young chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, who combined with Uthappa to see the back of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Manoj Tiwary in the same over, lavished praise on his senior team-mate.

“85-plus is a very good score in T20. As compared to Test level, it would be around 150. In T20 if someone scores around 85, you have almost won the match,” said Kuldeep. “He batted very well and was good in wicket-keeping. He has been working very hard on it. Hopefully, he continues to do the wicket-keeping like this.”

Reliable and consistent

Uthappa may have had a quiet season of domestic cricket, losing his place in Karnataka's Ranji Trophy squad for the first time in a decade. But when it comes to the IPL, the 31-year-old is one of the most reliable batsmen. However, despite having entered the list of top-5 run-getters in IPL, Uthappa is often not given his due as a backbone of the squad.

During his ten-edition stint in the IPL – spanned across four different teams – he has put in impressive performances on a consistent basis. Still, he is not often considered in the league of top batsmen in the IPL. No wonder then that Matthew Hayden, the former Australian opener, referred to him as an “under-rated” batsman in T20.

Over the last couple of years, having tied the knot with his long-time girlfriend Sheetal, Uthappa has tempered down, even leaning towards adopting a philosophical approach. If he continues to not pay heed to the perceptions and remains his nonchalant best – as was evident on Tuesday – for the next four weeks, he would do a world of good for himself and Knight Riders.

Uthappa in IPL

# Uthappa's knock of 87 on helped him cross David Warner's tally of 3,655 runs and earn the fifth spot in the highest run-getters in IPL.

# Uthappa became only the second wicket-keeper to effect three stumpings in an IPL match. Dhoni has done it twice.

# Uthappa's 87 was his personal best in IPL, surpassing his 83 not out for Knight Riders against Royal Challengers Bangalore at Kolkata in May 2014.