Ahead of the 2021 edition of IPL, CSK’s new signing Robin Uthappa has admitted that he would love to play for CSK at the top of the batting order, adding that he has always thrived as an opener. He added that while neutral venues would eliminate advantage, the ball will still turn in India.
When Chennai Super Kings announced Robin Uthappa’s trade for cash, the decision was met with a strange reaction from the fan base. With Murali Vijay being released by the franchise and with the retirement of Shane Watson, the lack of openers was certainly an area that was exposed, which CSK have now filled with the purchase of Uthappa and C.Hari Nishaanth.
Since CSK’s purchase, Uthappa has lit the domestic scene as an opener, with 377 runs for Kerala in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, at a strike-rate of 131.81 and an average of 75.4. In the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the opener had a tally of 161 runs, at a strike-rate of 140. Ahead of the IPL season, Uthappa has admitted that he would love to play for CSK as an opener, a spot where he has always ‘thrived’.
"I would definitely like to play as an opener. It is where I naturally thrive. Getting the team off to a good start and winning matches for the team is what I am most comfortable doing. In the last few years, people have tried to use me in positions that I am not necessarily good at,” Uthappa told TOI on Wednesday.
Last season, the lanky batsman was used in the middle-order by Rajasthan Royals, a move that did not pay any dividends to the franchise. Eventually, the franchise had used Uthappa at the top of the batting order.
“It is probably why you have seen a dip in performance. But whenever I have opened the batting, I have done really well," Uthappa added.
Uthappa also opened up on his relationship with MS Dhoni, stating that the duo are very close and have always been in touch with each other post their days together in Indian colours.
"I have got the fondest memories with Dhoni. We met for the first time during a Challenger Trophy campaign and played an NCA (National Cricket Academy) match together around 2004. We were very close when we were playing for India together. Since then, we have always been in touch.
Before the start of the IPL, CSK were jolted by the news of neutral venues, with their team well-suited to play in Chennai. However, Uthappa had none of that, stating that having neutral venues eliminates home advantage. But since the tournament would be in India, it would invariably assist spinners, a move that wouldn’t affect CSK too much.
"It is definitely a level playing field since no team is playing at home. As we are playing in India, spin will still play a role, especially at the back end of the tournament. It is unfortunate that we are not playing at home and in front of our fans, but home advantage is being nullified for all teams," he said.