'I can't wait for that Test cap'
Robin Uthappa speaks to Cricinfo about his batting technique, lessons he learnt from the Australian tour and his dream to play Test cricket
What has been the biggest learning experience you have had on the Australian tour?
It came from Sachin Tendulkar. It's about delaying every time you get the thought of hitting over the top. Delaying that thought is the key to winning the game. If I have to get 60 runs in eight overs, I will say, ok... I will delay it. I won't go after the bowling now ... I will take it to five overs now. Once I reach five overs I will take it to three overs. The bowler is under the same pressure as you. I remember telling Sachin I wanted to go after Bracken for an over. He said, no, just bat. These little things just give you a different perspective
So it's anyone's game from there. Like what happened in the Oval game. I was just delaying it. We needed 80 in 8 overs, we said we will take it to the last four overs and that's what we did. I was able to soak in the pressure in delaying. And I enjoy the feeling that I can win the game for my country.
You changed from a front-foot initial movement to a sideways shuffle mid-tour in Australia. Why the shuffle?
When I went to Australia I thought that, because of the bounce, I could probably stand on the leg and middle instead of my usual position at leg stump. And I wanted to stop the big initial movement. Probably that and batting in the middle order brought out the old bad habit.
Since I am batting up and down the order, you can't really think about your technique as it is basically about getting the runs. So I didn't really have a trigger movement; I just went forward towards the ball because they are usually looking to pitch it full up. And when I bat up the order I move back initially but since I was batting down so often, the bad habit of shuffling that I had in Under-19 days had crept back. I think it's just muscle memory and getting that right.
So the recent shuffle that had you exposing leg and middle stump at times will stop in the near future?
Yes. I am working on that already. I saw the video replays of some of the innings in Australia. I was moving too far across and the leg stump was visible. In the future, it will just be back and back and then move towards the ball. Once they said I was going to open the batting I started concentrating on that and I think I did well in the last game and was not shuffling so much.
You move straight back as opposed to the more conventional back and across. What's the reason for that?
I stand on leg stump and I am a big guy. If I move back and across I would probably end up on being middle and off. I just want to be about leg and middle so I don't play across the line. That's the reason I move back and back. I am very aware of what goes through my mind when batting. If not while I am batting, when I see the replays I know exactly what I was thinking and feeling that point in time.
What gave you the confidence during the Australian tour. What changed things around for you?
That 50 at SCG against Australia in the 317 run chase, that turned it for me and the whole team. When I was batting, every time I looked at an Aussie face, I knew he had no clue to what was happening. They knew we were calling the shots. I could take a look at Ponting's face and take lots of confidence in my batting.
That's one thing I do, taking cues from the opposition. Even in the finals, when we got the 50-run partnership in the first final, I looked at the players and they were down. I knew I just had to hang in there. Because I felt in the minds of Aussies, I was dangerous enough and I felt they couldn't get me out. When they started bowling these slower balls; I knew they were trying some thing different and I knew with the ability I have the ones would easily come.
You seem to play that walk-down-the wicket shot quite a bit. Would you would say that the six against Brett Lee, during the free hit, when you walked couple of steps before hitting it right back over his head was your standout shot?
Yeah I came back and watched at least a couple of times. I enjoy playing straight in the V and that's where I get most of the runs. Even when I shuffle, my head is still. Even when I walk down, I try to stay side-on, keep my head still and try to hit it straight. That's the difference between me and the other guys who walk down. When Hayden walks down, his shoulder is more to midwicket but I am looking to hit straight.
Can you tell us how you picked up this habit of batting straight?
It's a thing I picked up and worked on heavily during a camp at the CCI with Nari Contractor, the late Hanumant Singh and Vasu Paranjpe in my younger days. Makarand Waingankar [the Mumbai-based coach] had this drill called the Productivity Zone, basically hitting the ball within the width of the sightscreen.
In Australia, you were out trying to play across the line and getting leading edges. Was it because you lost concentration?
Well. It was because of the bounce there. I started flicking and trying to pick the ball up. I thought it was easier that side, to pick the ball up. I kind of got carried away. See, in Australia, down the ground is very big; you don't get too many boundaries quite often like you do in Indian grounds. Here, it would be four, in Australia if you hit it past mid-on, it's two. So to score those extra two runs, I was taking lots more risks. It was a good learning and now that's something I don't want to be doing. I just want to play in the V but it crept in Australia. I have shaken it out of my system in the practice sessions now.
You had some problems with the left-handers before. Have you sorted it out?
I did have problems but not any more. If you remember when Australia came to India, I got lbw couple of times to left-handers. Once in my third ball against Mitchell Johnson in Hyderabad. I came back to Bangalore after the series and I had a session with Rahul Dravid. He told me that he had a similar problem in his younger days and asked me to open up my stance a little bit, get your leg a little wider, against the left-handers.
What are the areas you want to work on your batting to be good enough to get into Test team
Occupying the crease a lot more. I have discussed it with Sachin and Laxman. That is the necessity to me. If I can bat for 40 overs, for the kind of player I am, I can easily score 70-80 runs comfortably. I have to give myself the best opportunity to score runs. I am pretty confident that I can do it. I am very intense when it comes to my batting.
Now I go out there, I don't feel any one can get me out and that's pretty much what happened in all the games recently. If I can slowly tick off the things one by one, I am pretty sure I am very much there in the reckoning for a Test place. I am growing as a cricketer; I am thinking a lot more and not so instinctive anymore.
For me, Test cricket is the biggest thing in the world. I can't wait to wear that Test cap.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo