Royal Challengers Bangalore's decision to make Robin Uthappa the wicket-keeper despite having a specialist in Mark Boucher has lent balance to the side, feels coach Ray Jennings, who says the seasoned South African may have to sit out more if the experiment goes well.
Uthappa has kept the wickets in the Royal Challengers' two matches so far and Jennings says he would continue doing so if that is what the team requires. Boucher has so far been out of action.
"I have a lot of respect for Mark Boucher. He put my name forward to the bosses in Bangalore. At the end of the day, Mark's got to understand that it was a cricketing decision. I know he is the world's best wicket-keeper. But if our balance demands that we have got to leave him out, then that's what's got to happen," Jennings was quoted as saying on the IPL's official website.
"Robin is keen to keep wickets and we have been working on his keeping. It puts a new dimension on the side. Maybe it's a message to Dhoni to be careful because Robin is going to take his position in the Indian side (smiles)," the South African joked.
Jennings said Uthappa's eagerness to keep wickets is driven by his ambition to find a place in the Indian national team as having an extra skill would strengthen his case.
"Robin does realise that to make it to the Indian side he has to do something different and he is showing that type of commitment. And the skills that he showed the other night were exceptional. They were international skills," Jennings said.
"It leaves Gary Kirsten to think about something. In the World Twenty20, you will need a second keeper. Robin is a quality batsman. So from my side, it's really an important factor to put Robin in the side," he said.
Jennings said he was impressed with Uthappa's dedication to the job.
"He is keen to actually work at his keeping. In the opportunity we gave him, he actually showed me that he has something. Being a wicket-keeper myself, we worked on one or two aspects. His batting speaks for itself. This puts a whole new dimension on our side as well as on the balance of our side," he said.
Elaborating what has changed in the side, which finished second from bottom last year, Jennings said, "Every player, as I have said before, will try and understand the role he plays. And obviously the guys understand their responsibility. They know what the owner actually wants. And guys understand when to party hard and when not to. The credit really goes to the players themselves."
Jennings also lauded the team's seniors Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble.
"When we were in Bangalore few months ago, they said we had a Test side. It just surprises me that we have two Bangalore guys who they said were too old and were just Test cricketers," Jennings said.
"Both are leaders in their skills, which tells me that there is a lot in it for both of them. They are both quality cricketers. I always said that every cricketer must adapt to 20-over cricket and they have," he said.
New skipper Kevin Pietersen also came in for praise from Jennings, who said contrary to his media image, the South African-born English player comes across as a down to earth person.
"I think KP is a fighter. He likes to win. He doesn't like to be written off. When obviously the thing flared up in England, to me it was an opportunity to show people that he is a leader. I found him very inspiring. It is a privilege to work with KP. I really enjoy his honesty and openness," said Jennings.
"He keeps his feet on the ground. He doesn't give me the impression that he is better than any other player in the team. I like that because at one level one player maybe better than the other player. KP shows that from a leadership point of view, as well as his passion and desire, and of course his commitment to the boss," he added.