Robin Uthappa revealed that things got ‘really heated’ in India-Australia games in the late 2000s, and recalled an incident where Hayden, after being sledged, stopped talking to him for 3 years. Uthappa, incidentally, revealed that it was Hayden who inspired him to play the ‘walking drive’.
Robin Uthappa’s career is now seen as a ‘what could have been’ story, but there was a time in the late 2000s when the veteran was a mainstay in the limited-overs setup. Uthappa found himself as a top-order bat in T20s and a designated finisher in the ODI set up in the 2007/2008 period and incidentally featured in several India-Australia contests, at a time when the bitterness between the two sides was at an all-time high.
The biggest India-Australia clash the right-hander was part of was the semi-final of the World T20 in 2007, and speaking in the ‘Wake up with Sorabh’ show, Uthappa revealed that the sledging in that particular contest was ‘incredible’.
"The amount of sledging that happened in that game (WT20 semis) was incredible. I remember people having a go at me and at that time, when they had a go, very few people retaliated. Only Zak bhai (Zaheer Khan) was one of them and a few other fast bowlers. But none of the batsmen gave it back," Uthappa told stand-up comedian Sorabh Pant on his YouTube show 'Wake Up With Sorabh'.
"In that game, Gauti (Gautam Gambhir) gave it back. I gave it back to Andrew Symonds, Mitchell Johnson, Brad Haddin.”
It was a game that the Men in Blue eventually won, but Uthappa recalled an incident that destroyed the relationship between himself and Matthew Hayden. Uthappa revealed that, in the heat of the moment, he released a tirade against Hayden, and his words infuriated the Aussie so much that it ended up fracturing their relationship.
“The toughest one that I encountered in that game was Matthew Hayden. He inspired me as a person and batsman. In fact, my walking shot was picked out of him. I remember Haydos was batting and in that game, he was going at me and that is when I decided, 'Ok, I'm going to give it back'. So when they came to bat, I was giving it. And it got to Haydos at a point, while he was batting.
“He said something to me which I'm not going to repeat and I said something back to him. He did not speak to me for 2-3 years. He would be very cold-shouldered to me. And it hurt. Because at that point, it was about winning. I wanted to win and make them feel as uncomfortable as possible, and I did that. We won but I missed out on interacting with someone who truly inspired me,” Uthappa revealed.
Post the WT20 semis, India locked horns with Australia in a seven-match ODI series at home, and Uthappa revealed that he was the designated ‘Ponting sledger’ in that series, which the visitors ended up winning.
"Later that year, when Australia came to play a seven ODI series and a one-off T20Is, even then we were at each other's throats. In a one-day game, MS and they (senior players) would make me stand at silly point just to chew Ricky Ponting's head and stuff like that. It was a great time.”