Coach Pravin Amre tells mid-day the ingredients that went into the making of IPL-7's Orange cap man
If a debut is the most special moment in the life of a sportsperson, then a successful comeback must come a close second. For, it's a triumph against odds, and a battle won against those who believed you were finished.
KKR co-owner and actress Juhi Chawla with his players Robin Uthappa, the IPL-7 highest run-scorer, and Sunil Narine (r), the highest wicket-taker in the T20 tournament so far, after win over RCB yesterday. Pic/PTI
Two years ago, Robin Uthappa was nowhere in the reckoning and was in danger of slipping into oblivion after poor domestic seasons for Karnataka and Indian Premier League (see box). But, this year, Uthappa has roared back and made critics eat their own words with his batting.
Yesterday, Uthappa became the highest run-scorer in IPL-7, scoring 572 in 13 matches to take the Orange Cap from Glenn Maxwell (533 in 12 matches) of Kings XI Punjab. Uthappa's 83 not out helped Kolkata Knight Riders clinch the play-off berth and beat Royal Challengers Bangalore, who were knocked out of the T20 tournament, by 30 runs. Chasing KKR's 195-4, Virat Kohli & Co were restricted to 165-5 in 20 overs at Eden Gardens.
The turnaround in Uthappa's career was a work of an entire team of professionals in 2012, the last he donned India colours (in a T20 International against South Africa at Johannesburg).
Shifting to Mumbai
The first thing he did was to shift base from Bangalore to Mumbai to train under Pravin Amre, who is his personal coach. "He rented an apartment in Khar for 11 months. His only goal was to get back into the Indian team and his dedication and determination was unmatched.
"He is the first player in India to think of hiring a team of professionals to get back to top form. He roped in John Gloster (formerly with the Indian team) as his physio and Arjun Gautam as his mental conditioner. He hired a personal trainer as well. So, what we are seeing now is the result of his hardwork over two years," Amre told mid-day.
Uthappa also joined yoga and meditation classes. "He practices meditation which is also very helpful. He has put in all efforts from his side to get back in form. He was consulting a dietician as well and lost 17 kilos. We hired the indoor academy at the Bandra Kurla Complex where we would hold our practice sessions during the monsoons," said Amre, who coached him at Pune Warriors in the last IPL.
Uthappa came into IPL-7 with some strong performances in domestic cricket. He was one of the chief contributors in Karnataka winning the Ranji Trophy, Irani Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy.
But after just 97 runs in five innings for KKR, which included a half-century in the first leg of IPL-7 in the United Arabs Emirates, talk of him being inconsistent resurfaced. However, the right-hander made sure UAE was only a blip. Ever since the IPL-7 returned to India, Uthappa has not settled for anything less than 40 in his last eight innings.
New T20 record
Yesterday, he set a new record in T20 cricket with eight 40-plus scores, according to noted statistician Mohandas Menon. The previous mark was six 40-plus scores by South Africa's HD Ackerman in 2006.
"His consistency can be attributed to his return to his favourite position. He is a natural opener. Opening the innings has made a lot of difference and he is more effective. The fact that he stayed unbeaten (against RCB) in a T20 match is very pleasing," Amre said. In the post-match ceremony, Uthappa also acknowledged Amre's contribution for the turnaround in his career.
So what did Amre do that was so special? "I just did what (Ramakant) Achrekar Sir would do for us. I made minor corrections to his technique without changing his natural game.
He has improved his temperament. It was important to hit the ball correctly. I am also very pleased with the way he now plays incoming deliveries. Those are wicket taking deliveries," said the former India batsman.
Uthappa, meanwhile, has served a timely notice to the India selectors, who are looking for a consistent opener. "I hope the selectors take notice of his form. Uthappa is a right candidate for the India squad," Amre signed off.