Babasish Nanda

Robin Uthappa who was once called ‘The Walking Assassin’ is still a brute with the bat, but is now more balanced in the crease and in his approach.

Robin Uthappa is 36 years old. He is everything that personifies the Chennai Super Kings. He is old, wise and is assertive. Against Kolkata in the IPL opener, the yellow army lost Ruturaj Gaikwad early. Umesh Yadav was swinging the ball and the pitch was slightly tacky. In came Uthappa, with a walk that had a lot of self-belief written all over it.

Self confidence has always been Uthappa’s greatest virtue. Back in 2007, when he was perhaps in his peak form while playing for the India blue, what stood out was his sanguine nature. He was the first Indian to score a half-century in a T20I. He could walk down the pitch to Brett Lee and pull him for a six over mid-wicket. He could scoop and lap, irrespective of the game situation. He was dynamic in all phases of the match.

His supreme belief in his own abilities prompted MS Dhoni to give him the ball in the iconic bowl-out against Pakistan in the maiden edition of the T20 world cup. Uthappa not only hit the stumps that day but took his cap off to acknowledge the crowd. But you know by now that the wheels of fortune change dramatically in this game.

For the first time in seven years of IPL did Uthappa score less than 300 runs, 282 to be exact in the 2019 season. Form eluded him and Kolkata Knight Riders sidelined him. He took his trade to Rajasthan Royals in 2020 but still struggled to get the runs. He finished that season with a mere 196 runs at an average of 16.33. Before the start of the next season, he was traded to Chennai.

In 2021, in the yellow crest, he carried drinks, spoke to the youngsters and sweated his heart out in the nets. He played just four matches. However, therein lies the beauty of Chennai as a sporting management group. Even while Uthappa wasn’t playing his presence was valued in the Chennai dressing room. That value they instilled in him translated into his game plan as he came and played his shots right from the word go. In two of those four matches he played a brand of cricket that rolled the clock to the Uthappa we all knew. Thus, he was retained and is now batting at number three in this year’s competition.

Batting at number three demands the most out of any top order batter. He is a virtual opener, an able striker, a fluent scorer and ought to be someone who reads the situation the best. Uthappa is all the above. On days when one of the opener’s does flunk, he has the skill to take over that role. Similarly, if he’s coming in to bat with a set platform, then he is more than capable of launching an assault right from the word go.

When Uthappa shuffled across and flicked Yadav deep into the square-leg boundary there wasn’t an iota of insecurity in it. Rather, his body language was a testimony that he’s made peace with the player he has become. He has rectified inadequacies in his game that were perhaps impediments to goals. The thing about pursuing goals that stands out the most is that it automatically transforms you as a person.

From being called ‘The Walking Assassin’, Uthappa has transformed himself to be ‘The Calming Assassin’. He is still a brute when taking down bowlers but is far too balanced on the crease and in his head to stay in the present and maximise every single opportunity that he gets. For Chennai, Robin’s boon will continue to bloom.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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