Robin Uthappa has been one of the mainstays of Kolkata Knight Riders batting line-up since he joined them in 2014. His consistent and often commanding performance at the start of the innings has been a big boost for the the two-time champions and they rely on the stylish batsman to set a solid foundation for the match.
On Tuesday, chasing a relatively small total of 139 against Kings XI Punjab, he showed once again why his speedy stroke-making at the top order is crucial to KKR's chances. His quickfire 28-ball 53 set the platform for KKR's six-wicket victory which propelled them to the top of the table.
In the ninth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), he has amassed 134 runs in four matches and is the second highest run-getter for KKR, second only to Orange Cap holder and opening partner Gautam Gambhir. The two have been scoring prolifically at the top of the order and such has been their success, that Firstpost's Tariq Engineer called Uthappa and Gambhir the best opening combination in this edition.
Uthappa attributes this success to the understanding between the two. "Gauti and I, I think we kind of understand each other very well and we just carry that forward," he told iplt20.com in an interview. "I just think that when it is a 130-140-run chase you tend to hang back a little bit sometimes. And I knew that these are those middle scores where sometimes it can catch you off-guard. So I knew that it was important for us to get off to a good start. I knew that if we get off to slightly good start where we got 25-30 in the first three-four overs we would put them on the back-foot and then we could dominate as we would be creating momentum," he said after his Man of the Match-winning performance against KXIP.
Talking about his consistent performances for KKR, the Karnataka batsman believes his technique is the key. "I feel very sorted, very clear in my head what my game plan is. As far as technique is concerned I feel very sorted (and) so I feel very confident about my game. There are no doubts, so there is a huge sense of clarity in my head and I feel very confident when I go out to bat. I am not worried about if my technique is okay or not because I am constantly feeling good because I have worked on my technique... Things are going well and it’s not broken so I am not trying to fix anything. I am continuing to do what I am doing and it’s working for me," he is quoted as saying in the interview.
The opening batsmen has been more than handy for Kolkata behind the stumps as well, despite not being a regular wicketkeeper. In the match against Punjab, he scalped three catches to dismiss dangerous batsmen David Miller and Wriddhiman Saha. "I haven’t been ‘keeping on a regular basis and I tend to practice a month before the IPL begins. So it’s about match practice. There is nothing as good as match practice. I think I am getting better with each game," he said.
With only four done, there is a long way to go in IPL 2016, but judging from Uthappa and KKR's performances so far, the team is a strong contender for the top four slot.