India vs Australia: As T20 season kicks off, where is Robin Uthappa?
As Manish Pandey was steering India closer to a much-needed win in the 5th ODI against Australia, cricket stalwarts were closely monitoring every shot he played. After the successful record run chase, cricketers - current and retired, hailed the right-hander on Twitter for his brilliant effort that brought smiles back on the faces of Indian fans, who were fearing a 5-0 whitewash.
Robin Uthappa was one of them. While he could have easily been currently playing for India at that spot, the Karnataka batsman was more than happy to back his teammate, who went on to slam his maiden international ton for India, timing of which could not have been better.
It was good to see Indian selectors naming several youngsters for the Australian tour, but the mystery around Uthappa's exclusion remains unsolved. Here is a cricketer who has tremendously improved his temperament and strokeplay in limited-overs cricket, but continues to wait for his recall, for reasons only the selectors would know.
Playing for the Kolkata Knight Riders, the 30-year-old scored heaps of runs in 2014, where he also broke the record for maximum 40-plus scores in the slam-bang version. For those who don't rate the cash-rich tournament highly, Uthappa backed his record knocks with a series of formidable scores in domestic cricket. But when the selectors announced India's squad for the ICC World Cup 2015, his name was nowhere to be seen, which was a huge shock not only for fans, but also for experts, who thought he deserved to make a comeback.
Indian team surprisingly performed well in the prestigious event, where they were beaten by Australia in the semis, and Uthappa's snubbing was part of history. But the right-hander didn't lose hope and played another key role for the Gautam Gambhir-led franchise in the 2015 edition.
There was a lot of calmness about him, playing sensible shots when the pressure mounted, unlike the old Uthappa, who would charge down the track and aim to hit every ball over midwicket, in a manner which was Hayden-esque. Now he was building partnerships, and ferociously pounced on poor deliveries.
While most cricketers get carried away with the money on offer in the IPL, Uthappa once again made sure to perform well in the Ranji Trophy. While he hit several big scores, his three consecutive tons (160, 148, 148) against Odisha, Delhi and Maharashtra respectively were the highlights of yet another superb season.
But yet again, when the selectors met to announce India's squad for Australia, Uthappa's was overlooked. Apart from ODIs, the Indian board's think tank didn't consider him worthy enough even for the T20 squad.
Indian selectors have missed a trick here, as with a long T20 season ahead, Uthappa was someone they could have kept into the scheme of things at least for the shortest format of the game. He is a much improved cricketer than the Uthappa we saw as part of India's T20 World Cup winning squad in 2007.
If there is a cricketer, whom MS Dhoni & Co could have nurtured as a T20 specialist, it is Uthappa. If form is anything to go by, he deserved a call up, along with the veterans who have been recalled into the team based on their past heroics.
With the ICC World Twenty20 scheduled to be played in India, it would have been a great opportunity for Uthappa to get some exposure in Australia ahead of the tournament. If he isn't included in India's squad for the tournament, BCCI asking players to perform consistently in domestic cricket for a Team India spot, might sound nothing less than ludicrous in future.