Revamped Uthappa hits the high note
Ninety-seven runs from five innings, at an average of 19.40 and a strike rate of 108.98 - these are not confidence inspiring numbers from the point of view of a captain, team management or the fans. These stats, from around three weeks ago, belong to the man who is currently IPL 2014's second-highest run-getter. The numbers inarguably point to the fact that Robin Uthappa's performance in the UAE leg of this year's IPL was below-par. Apart from one good innings of 55, his scores read - 1, 22, 19, 0. When the IPL returned to India, Uthappa, however, came roaring back to form, showing everyone that the lows of the UAE were nothing but a blip.
Uthappa's rise began with a strong showing in the domestic one day season. He scored a run-a-ball 104 against Kerala in the Subbaiah Pillai Trophy, the south zone qualifiers to the national one day tournament - the Vijay Hazare Trophy. He top-scored in the Vijay Hazare Trophy with 536 runs at an average of 76.57 including a 132 not out against Gujarat and 133 against Jharkhand, thereby taking Karnataka to the title, and a historic treble (winning the Ranji, Irani and Vijay Hazare trophies).
Uthappa has so far scored 392 runs in the India leg of the 2014 IPL, when no other batsmen has managed to score even 300 runs. Below is a table of the top five batsmen in the India leg of IPL 2014.
|AB de Villiers||7||299||89*||49.83||194.15||3|
Uthappa has not only scored the most runs, but also has the second best average and strike rate among the above batsmen. Further, Uthappa's ordinary numbers in the UAE were when he batted in the middle order. After the move to India, Uthappa has opened the batting in each of Kolkata Knight Riders' games. The below table demonstates how Uthappa has made himself one of the best openers in the tournament, despite the five-match handicap.
Uthappa has clearly played fewer innings than any opener in the above table, yet has scored the second-highest number of runs. He has the best average (56.0) and strike rate (142.02) amongst these openers too. However, due to some exceptional performances over the years by Chris Gayle, Shaun Marsh and Michael Hussey, Uthappa's numbers are not the best for an opener in any given season. Not yet at least.
In the seven innings Uthappa has opened, he has crossed 40 each time, pointing to his consistency. Before this season, Uthappa had never managed to string together more than two 40+ scores. Including his score of 55 in the UAE, Uthappa has eight scores of 40 or more in this IPL - only Mathew Hayden and Michael Hussey have more such scores in a single season.
Uthappa still has at least two more games to better his record - if all goes well for Knight Riders, he could even have five more games. The only criticism of Uthappa could be that despite crossing 40 on eight occasions, he has not kicked on to make a really big score often enough. This can also be seen from the above table where Uthappa has the lowest aggregate runs, lowest number of fifties and lowest high score (though less relevant). In order to put Uthappa's success in context, it would be useful to consider his performances in previous seasons.
This is clearly Uthappa's best season yet. His aggregate runs, batting average and number of fifties are the highest for any season and his strike rate of almost 134, is better than each of his previous seasons barring the 2010 IPL. Keeping with this, the 2010 season was also the only time that he had a lower dot-ball percentage (30%) than he has in this IPL (36%). Uthappa's form also comes at the right time for him with India's three-ODI tour to Bangladesh lined up followed by the tour to England.
Bishen Jeswant is a stats sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here.