Uthappa set to make ODI return

Uthappa set to make ODI return

The fourth one-dayer between India and Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens simply does not suit the occasion.

After all, the iconic venue is celebrating its 150th anniversary and a ‘dead rubber’ is a dampener.

But for Robin Uthappa it is a lifeline. The Karnataka batsman, who celebrated his 29th birthday on Tuesday, was fast slipping into that ‘oh! he could have been’ zone – something all sportsmen hate.

Now, he has two matches to breath life into his career that once promised so much.

In fact, Uthappa had to wait six years to get another look in to the Indian team after the Asia Cup final in Karachi on June 28, 2008.

In the meantime, players like Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Shikhar Dhawan, and Ajinkya Rahane became familiar faces in the Indian team, especially in the limited-over versions. Uthappa was fast becoming the forgotten man.

He tried so many things to revive his career.

Once he stopped wicketkeeping in his effort to concentrate more on batting, then he again took to wicketkeeping, he asked for Karnataka captaincy to become more a responsible and mature individual, hired Praveen Amre as personal coach, but none seemed working.

The first sign of a turnaround came in 2014 Indian Premier League.

He was the top run-getter in that edition with 660 runs, also helping the Kolkata Knight Riders to their second IPL title.

The performance earned him a berth in the Indian squad for the three one-dayers against Bangladesh in June this year – his first chance in six years. But a lone fifty never seemed enough to convince the selectors, and subsequently he didn’t find a place in the one-day squad against England.

But with Dhoni injured and Wriddhiman Saha not fully firing, the selectors needed a wicketkeeper-batsman in the last two one-dayers against Sri Lanka.

They drafted in Uthappa, who also had some good outings for Karnataka in the South Zone one-dayers for the Subbiah Pillai Trophy.

Stand-in Indian skipper Virat Kohli vindicated the move to give Uthappa a chance.

“Robin Uthappa will keep the wickets as he has been brought in as a wicketkeeper-batsman. He has kept in the IPL as well. He has been batting well too, so this is an opportunity for him to do well. With the bat and the gloves behind the wicket, Uthappa should be very handy for us in the future.

“The reason why he has been picked up because of the way he batted in the IPL. He batted quite well there, as there was no slogging. There was a lot of self-belief in him while facing some of the best bowlers in the world. I think he is in a good mental space, which I think is very important, and it is equally important to keep someone like Uthappa confident because of the value he brings to the side,” said Kohli.

Now, it is entirely up to Uthappa to make Kohli’s words count, as opportunities will never come in herds.

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