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Batsmen and Robin
by Sreelata Yellamrazu
Jan 30, 2007
Indian selectors have a whole new problem. He goes by the name: Robin Uthappa.

Contradictory to any negative portrayal that may have been attached with the implication, Robin Uthappa will have a say (and hopefully a place in the Indian eleven) in his own right. He only strengthened his stance in the third one day international against the West Indies in Chennai.

Ever since their last tour to the Caribbean last year, India has repeatedly encountered hurdles in the form of the West Indian resurgence. Such has been Greg Chappell’'s grim reign that not being able to get past the West Indies has become more than a matter of prestige. It has represented a stagnancy of thought and process. While it may be purely coincidental that India faced a downward slide since that fateful tour, more than one player from the Indian team has suffered a fallout with fame and fortune.

With only about a month to go to the World Cup, the Indian line up is hardly looking like a settled lot. Worse still, more than one player is proving a nagging worry for the selectors who would perhaps have few options in selecting the fifteen man squad from the list of thirty probables. But the selectors have one unique dilemma on their hands.

At present, India has the option of a few tried and tested openers in Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa and even Wasim Jaffer. However, it is a safe bet to say that on board the flight to the Caribbean and the World Cup, there may an opening slot for only one player. Dilip Vengsarkar, the chairman of selectors, has openly expressed his desire to see Sourav Ganguly open the innings for India to provide seniority and stability while also, taking an assertive approach and provide impetus.

While Sourav Ganguly has sprung into a prominent role in one of the most remarkable of cricketing career comebacks, the same may not be the case with the others. While to criticize a man of Sachin Tendulkar's ability is harsh, he is perhaps not the same aggressive individual with the free flowing end of the bat. With the sometimes brittle-like appearance to the middle order and the question of recovery from Yuvraj Singh, there is certainly a need to lend weight to the middle order. Sachin Tendulkar could well be thrust into that role for good measure.

But what this all means is that India will only take on board one more batsman with the ability to open the innings. To leave Gambhir out without a proper look in may seem harsh, but even R.P. Singh was not spared from the dejection of not being given a game before leaving him out of the squad for the final two games of the series against the West Indies. But it seems a toss up between Virender Sehwag and a fair contender in Robin Uthappa.

Sending back Irfan Pathan raised the question why Sehwag was allowed to continue the tour in languishing form. Leaving Sehwag also means perhaps losing out on the odd blitzkrieg of an innings that could turn a game on its head. But even the merit in that thought withered as Sehwag went too long without a knock of repute to his name. His absence has provided the much needed breather for the likes of Gambhir and Uthappa to show they were just as good to play at this level of the game.

Robin Uthappa has come across as a compact player, both in technique and in flourish. His forty-one ball seventy in the third game in Chennai against the West Indies gave India a golden opportunity to bury the visitors into the ground. That it did not happen, is another issue with the rest of the order falling like nine pins in the pursuit of a day dream. India may have hit lows in trying to accelerate their innings, a rather common phenomenon in the mid-nineties. But Uthappa has stood out, in rather emphatic fashion.

Uthappa has shown the technique and ability to both, bide time as well as add impetus to the innings. A flourishing batsman in the domestic seasons for the last few years, his has been the name that popped ever so often but never given a longer run. The time and his form seem ripe for India to reap the fruits of a genuine opener with a penchant for shaping the innings.

Are the selectors bold enough to take the risk of playing Robin Uthappa on the basis of consistency while leaving the experienced but out-of-sorts Sehwag out? Would it be prudent? If a place must be made for Sehwag, then it would have to be made in the middle order and let Sehwag resolve his way into form in the rather questionable middle order. In which case, the selectors will have to pick one amongst Suresh Raina, Mohammad Kaif or Dinesh Mongia to be the dispensable player to accommodate Yuvraj Singh. According to reports emanating from the camp, Raina enjoys the coach's vote. Kaif's story has been euphemistic and well documented in recent months. More ignominy could not have come to a more vibrant player.

What though becomes very obvious is that there are more than a few intriguing headaches for the Indian team management, perhaps a visible outcome of the prolonged experimentation. And there are certainly not many more games to truly field and test the line up for a dry run!

 
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