Robin Uthappa - the DNA of a massive talent that didn’t end with massive numbers
He was the star with the bat for India in 2007 ENG series [PC: Twitter]
Robin Uthappa is a colossus that never really was. Robin Uthappa is a giant that couldn’t really be.
More importantly, Robin Uthappa was, is, a talent that comes once in a long long time.
In a cricketing universe that was and will likely be flooded with nicknames; Kohli’s King, Sachin’s God; Ganguly’s Maharaja; Robin Uthappa, 59 international appearances for India, never needed a nickname.
His natural ability to marry timing with power made him such a joy to watch and pleasing to the eye. That’s when, Uthappa’s unrelenting blade differentiated between none, whether Brett Lee, Stuart Broad, Mitchell Johnson, Jimmy Anderson or Liam Plunkett.
Though, it’s such a disconcerting sight to take note of just how big a talent Robin was and yet how diminutive his numbers seem at the end of what’s a fifteen year stint for India.
It’s perhaps just as mind boggling a fact that the batsman who appeared in great touch in his debut year, circa 2006, didn’t play a single international for his country from the onset of 2009 until the end of 2013.
Robin Uthappa’s a career riddled both- breathtaking strokes as also the lost chances; the hits and misses of his journey ultimately yielding just 1,183 runs.
Can you believe it?
A statistical tally that makes one of the most elegant batters of his generation as the owner of a career ultimately too modest, not mighty!
When one of Karnataka’s most swashbuckling exports to Indian cricket arrived in Indian colours, which was sixteen years back in the day, he seemed utterly capable of authoring a stellar career.
He was also a key member of the 2007 World Cup winning side
As big hits flew to all parts of Indore’s dashing Holkar stadium, so flew with it the hopes of an English team that had conjured 288 on the board and was packed with Plunkett, Anderson, Blackwell and Mahmood.
An innocent looking “Robbie” who seemed as new as the freshly baked early morning loaf of bread harangued pacers to different sides of the lush green park.
Authoring a high octane run chase, it could be said, the best view to that very brave 86 (Uthappa’s best knock in all of 2006) was with Rahul Dravid, batting at the other end.
So began the journey of a man who could’ve been a talisman if he wanted to
2007, a year where Sachin was closer to his swansong, Dravid no longer a regular fixture in white ball games, a time where the team was experimenting with new names such as a certain Rohit Sharma, Uthappa found several opportunities to cement his place.
And he did capitalise on quite a few of them; 509 of his 934 ODI runs came in that single calendar year where several meaningful contributions from down the order and importantly, during close run chases for India.
With vital knocks such as that unbeaten 47 off just 33 deliveries during a crunch contest at England’s Kennington Oval saw India get over the line. Rare are occasions where a batsman’s cameo can be as relevant and eventually, decisive as Tendulkar’s mighty half century.
In that September 2007 contest, you couldn’t say as to whose knock was more important for the team’s cause: Tendulkar’s dogged 94 or Uthappa’s match winning 47 not out.
It’s not that the right hander’s exploits stopped there; he ought to be remembered as a T20 World Cup winner, the prized 2007 tournament that matters as much to Cricket - and rightly so - as the sovereignty of the republic that’s India.
Uthappa during the bowl out against Pakistan
Uthappa was part of an elite World Cup winning squad that included other notable names such as Irfan Pathan, Gautam Gambhir, Sreesanth, all shining under Dhoni’s maverick captaincy.
But despite having all the makings of a fine fine bat that Robin Uthappa calls time on a long career that failed to touch even 1,000 ODI runs and ends just painfully 1 run shy of touching 250 T20I runs is inexplicable. It’s sad. It’s a shocker of the worst kind.
But deeper inquiry into the haves and the have nots of this accomplished stroke maker also compels us to take note of the inner storm that Robbie was braving.
It’s one that the best in the business have been consumed by, think Marcus Treacothick, Jonathan Trott and many more.
In the 2010s, Robbie was so far away from cricket and so down and out that truth be told, he actually contemplated taking his own life.
It’s the very affable young man we’ve loved seeing around and are probably going to miss for his brazen abuse of bowlers on the pitch of all kinds - whether spin or medium pace.
He won the Orange Cap for KKR in 2014
And yet, that a cricketer sunken in life-threatening depression came back mightily to eventually end up with 4,952 IPL runs is no mean feat; it beckons greater celebration and regard that it attracts.
And in this space of having been there, done a few things, missed out big only to come back again and strongly so- rests the essence of the 36-year-old.
Brave as few can be, absolutely inimitable until the very end!
Go well, Robbie.