Ten years after the famous World T20 triumph, the sight of Robin Uthappa in full swing can’t help elicit a deep sigh from the cricket faithful.

What went wrong? Robin Uthappa was certifiable Twenty20 rockstar material. He arrived with the Dhoni and Yuvraj generation, far before the Kohlis and the Jadejas took over the world. That World Twenty20 in 2007 should have been his launching pad.

One look and you’ll be drawn in. Uthappa has it all. Clean, beautiful hitting…through the line, across the line, over the line, you name it and he has it. Beautiful reach. The unflappable demeanour in a crisis. The cute flicks, dabs and scoops. Uthappa should have prevailed, nay, excelled, and not just in the Indian Premier League. He continues to have the game for all formats. And that’s not something you can say for a lot of top-order Twenty20 batsmen.

Image credit: Rahul Gulati/Sportzpics/IPL

“I back myself,” said Uthappa, simply after his 47-ball 87 on Wednesday which took Kolkata Knight Riders to a comprehensive seven-wicket win over Rising Pune Supergiant in Pune. He no longer opens for KKR this season having gone done to No 3 in the batting order. This obviously means that he doesn’t always get to enjoy batting in the first six overs when the field restrictions are in place, a point he himself noted.

But, as he blithely stated, “I have immense faith in my batting and I know that I don’t really need that advantage of the first six overs to score the runs for the team.”

Splendid touch, overwhelming power

Of course, even in the IPL where Uthappa has done noticeably better, it’s often been the temperament that’s let him down. He has all the shots in the book but sometimes he’s too eager to bring them out. It’s brought upon his downfall more than once. And perhaps, therein lies the answer to the question asked earlier: what went wrong?

Wednesday night could well have seen that similar, familiar tale. Take a look at Uthappa’s glitzy 47-ball 87 in isolation and it’s a classic T20 knock. Perfectly timed in a tough chase, the target snatched out of the opposition’s grasp and the knockout punch delivered overwhelmingly. A perfect knock.

But take a look at the first 12 balls he faced and you probably wouldn’t have predicted what would have followed. On only his second ball, he played an ugly reverse sweep and faced a close leg-before-wicket call from Washington Sundar. His first boundary wasn’t timed clearly but went over mid-off. On his eighth delivery, he closed the face of his bat early and was lucky the ball didn’t carry.

On the 12th and 13th deliveries, he again played ugly-looking slog sweeps. On the first, he got an inside edge which went back to the bowler, on the second, he got a juicy top edge which was horribly snaffled by Jaydev Unadkat in the deep.

It wasn’t the best of starts. But then it summed up Uthappa’s career. Fits and bursts. Flamboyance and recklessness in equal measures.

Flamboyance and recklessness

Then, the 31-year-old actually started batting. And once he did, the question came up again: why does Robin Uthappa bat ugly? Because, he doesn’t need to.

Uthappa, in full flow, is a delight to watch. There’s neat precision — the very, very late cut he used to guide the ball to the third man boundary. There’s power in equal measure as well, when he lines them up, spots the length early and follows it up with a clean, uncomplicated bat swing to send it soaring into the stands. There’s the quick presence of mind – that shuffle across the stumps to guide the ball to the deep square leg boundary.

Image credit: Vipin Pawar/IPL/Sportzpics

In short, Uthappa is a batsman who’s a rare commodity. You usually have the run plunderers or the big hitters in this format. But Robin, he can do both. Maybe that has been his undoing...

Robin Uthappa is still not one of the big glamour stars of even the Kolkata Knight Riders, let alone the IPL. As a comparison, even in the KKR squad, his name is rarely tossed around. Among the Indian players, Gautam Gambhir, Yusuf Pathan and nowadays Manish Pandey get top billing. Even Suryakumar Yadav is a crowd-pleaser.

That’s where the IPL is special. Of course, it lets us all get a glimpse of the Rishabh Pants, the Shreyas Iyers, the Sanju Samsons. But it also gives us a chance to pause and reflect on these cricketers who were at the threshold but could not make it count. There is a nostalgia and an aggravation which perhaps is difficult to find elsewhere.

“The dream is there to play again and represent the country in Test matches,” said Uthappa. Will that ever really happen though? Who knows? Yes, Robin does not sing every day but on the day he does, it’s a symphony that sets your heart aflutter.