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Tragedy of being Uthappa

The axe expectedly fell on Uthappa, because strange are the ways Indian cricket functions, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: Aug 10, 2006 16:24 IST

The Indian team's selection is always a matter of passionate debate. And there were strong views flying this time round too. Immediately after the announcement made by More and company, TV channels came up with some interesting observations. Not many, however,criticised thenon-inclusion of Robin Uthappa.

It was little disappointing as the omission of the lad from Karnataka was strange to say the least, considering the promise he had shown in his very first innings.

Indore blitzkrieg

Debuting as an opener can be unnerving for any young boy. More so in a match where one faces a mammoth total of 288. That was the situation that Robin Uthappa faced against England at Indore in the final match of the March-April ODI series.

 Top Indian debutants in ODIs






 R Uthappa





 Yuvraj Singh



 Nairobi (Gym)


 BP Patel





 NS Sidhu





 AL Wadekar





But in the company of ever-reliable Dravid, the Karnataka lad refused to be cowed down. He carted the English bowlers to all parts of the ground, hitting 12 fours and a six in a hugely impressive debut innings of 86, the best by an Indian.

But for an unfortunate mix up, the century was his for taking. India won the match, pocketed the series 5-1, and Uthappa was hailed as the next big find on the evening of April 15.

And look what happened to the find in the next few matches.

India played seven ODIs after Uthappa's magical innings -- two in Abu Dhabi andfive in the West Indies.

In normal course of time, one would expect a batsmen as young as Uthappa to be played in all the matches after strong debut performance. Or miss just one or two. But these are certainly not normal times if a talent as prodigious as Uthappa gets a chance in only two of these seven encounters.

Critical Failure

In the first match at Abu Dhabi in the DLF Cup against Pakistan, the Karnataka Opener failed making only 12 runs.

But to put that in perspective, none of the famed Indian batsmen got past 20. Dravid, Yuvraj and Dhoni totalled 30 runs in that match!

If India could manage a total close to 200, it was only due to a fighting half-century from Venugopal Rao, another batsman who does not find a place in the team albeit after string of some unimpressive performances, and 40 runs of Raina.

Now, unlike the chosen ones, just one failure was deemed enough to keep Uthappa out of the team for the next five matches. The second match of the DLF Cupand the first four matches of the ODI series in the West Indies.

The young openerwas called back only when a demoralized India has conceded a winning 3-1 lead to the West Indies. He managed to play justthree balls at Port of Spain, and that was the end of a promising career.

One hopes, temporarily.

Former cricketer Brijesh Patel has hit the nail on the head when he said that it was a step backward. But then Mr Patel hails from Karnataka, so can always be accused of promoting a 'son-of-the-soil'. Such sentiments from non-Karnataka cricketers would have been more welcome.

Yuvraj vs Uthappa - contrasting careers so far

After a superb 84 against Australia in the quarterfinal of the ICC knockout tournament at Nairobi, it took Yuvraj as many as fifteen innings to make another 50 plus score.

In between these matches, his average was a measly 16.Despite these failure,the Punjab youngster was played in five out of seven tri-series matches in Sharjah involving Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe and in four out offive ODIs against Zimbabwe. Though against a side as strong as Australia, he was protected and made to play just one match at Goa in 2001.

Patience with Yuvraj bore fruit and it was more than evident this season in ODI results against Sri Lanka, Pakistan and England.

Then why not persist with Uthappa? Are two failures enough? Commonsense dictates they are not.

On one hand the team management wants to give confidence to talented players like Irfan Pathan by keeping them in the team even if others are preferred over them in the playing eleven, and on the other, Uthappas of the worldare ignominiouslydispatched out of the team without being given their fair share of chance.

But the worse part is, there are not too many voicing as strong a disapproval of Uthappa'snon-inclusion, as they are of the failure to include Zaheer Khan - a bowler who has got his fair share of chances, and might get a few more.