Having enjoyed a purple patch in the domestic circuit with Karnataka by winning the Ranji Trophy, Irani Cup and Vijay Hazare Trophy back-to-back, Robin Uthappa hopes to stretch his superb form into the IPL and beyond.
It was Uthappa's outstanding performance in the Ranji season of 2006-07 that pushed him into the national side. And he hopes that this Ranji season too, which ended with a century and two half-centuries, can do the trick for him. If not, he has the stage set in the IPL to prove his credentials.
Coorg's own, Uthappa has not featured in the scheme of things for India after playing a part in the T20I against South Africa in Johnnesberg in 2012 but he hopes that IPL 7 will put him back in the reckoning.
"It is about putting runs at the right time and if you can contribute with the bat, then you always are in the reckoning," Uthappa told Gulf News. "I'm very happy that I have been able to contribute to Karnataka. And I'm not that old, I'm only 28. The thing is I started at the Under-19 level and you guys have seen me for so long that you think I can't make it to the team."
Asked if being dropped from the national team was the most challenging phase, Uthappa could not agree more. "It has been a challenging one for sure and I had lost track due to some personal issues, but yes, common sense prevailed," Uthappa said. "I have been able to embrace difficult times and learnt from it because it has brought me where I am today and helped me grow not just as a cricketer but also as a human being. Trials and tribulations help one grow and I have used it in a very positive way. I think I have grown and have matured a lot."
The swashbuckling Karnataka batsman, also a terrific fielder, a reliable makeshift wicketkeeper and now a medium pacer, was first bought by Mumbai in the inaugural IPL, before being traded to Royal Challengers Bangalore. In IPL 2011, he played for the Pune Warriors in a line-up of several stars and managed to finish the season as the highest run-getter for the team. This time, however, he will feature for the Gautam Gambhir-led Kolkata Knight Riders.
"On paper, KKR are a very, very balanced side," Uthappa reflected. "I have been in three different teams in the IPL and I have to say that the way they have treated me thus far has been very forthcoming and warm. And you can see that it is like a family and there is a lot of care that goes around within the unit."
KKR will play the opening match of the tournament against defending champions Mumbai Indians at Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on 16 April.
"Conditions and timings are similar and it is such a viewers' sport, we want the viewers to enjoy it as well," Uthappa said. "I have played two ODI's here when this stadium opened and all that thoughts came to my mind when I was batting there in the nets. The wickets are slow but it is similar to what we have back home. It will be interesting."
Previously based in Bangalore, Uthappa moved his base to Mumbai for training. And asked if he had a chance to get some tips from Sachin Tendulkar, Uthappa said it's never enough talking to the Master Blaster.
"Yes, I have made Mumbai my base because of cricketing reasons," Uthappa added. "The wickets in Mumbai are the most productive and challenging in the country and there is always something in it. I have been training under Praveen Amre at Khar Gymkhana. I have spoken to Sachin in between but not for long. It would be interesting to meet him and have a long chat on batting. I'm looking forward to one as early as possible."