IPL 2018: Robin Uthappa feels U-19 players asset for Kolkata Knight Riders
Of the two most interesting aspects of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) squad this season was that they had inducted three Under-19 World Cup winners in their side and had ended up with the least number of players from the players’ auction.
However, despite all the raised eyebrows, the former IPL champions have done relatively well and find themselves in a comfortable position in the points table.
A day before they take on Mumbai Indians here at the Wankhede Stadium, Robin Uthappa brushed off the problems, stating that the smaller squad has helped the team gel better.
“With a small squad the roles are more defined. (The) boys have a clearer picture of what their roles are within the unit. It doesn’t take too long to get to know one another personally. So the sense of unity is a lot more,” he said.
A major reason why they haven’t really suffered despite not having too many big names in the squad is because of the prolific show put up by the under-19 stars Shivam Mavi and Shubman Gill. While Mavi has done well so far in spearheading the pace attack ahead of the experienced Vinay Kumar, Gill’s batting has been one to watch out for.
“So the younger generation today, with the kind of exposure they have, they are much more mature at such a young age. The way they take on the onus, the way they take on the responsibility for the side to take the team through,” Uthappa said.
He stated that Gill might find himself demoted down the order given that Nitish Rana might make a comeback after missing out the last game against Chennai Super Kings owing to an injury.
“Looking at the batting order we have. With Nitish Rana the kind of flexibility he brings us with a left-right combination, Shubman will not be finding a spot at the top four or five. Because you also can’t send DK lower than five. As a youngster for him to get that sort of match time to play under pressure, be it fielding or batting - getting match time is a big thing,” he said.
Uthappa was also full praise for Sunil Narine, who has been their opener for the last two seasons. “Sunil is someone who’s always enjoyed batting. But what he bowled and what he does with his bowling skill is that his batting got overshadowed. And having someone like me at No 3 also makes it easier for the team and the management to make that decision that if a wicket falls quickly, then you have another opening batsmen going in.”