A greater sense of assurance about his game has instilled in Robin Uthappa the hope of a return to national colours. The Kolkata Knight Riders batsman's 47-ball 87 highlighted an already productive evening that had seen him effect three stumpings, as his team sauntered past Rising Pune Supergiant by seven wickets at the MCA Stadium in Pune. Uthappa's third half-century of the season was, by his own admission, a crucial knock, but he said it was important to not get ahead of himself.
"They batted well to get 182, and we knew we had to keep the run rate going even after the first six overs," Uthappa told iplt20.com. "We could not take our foot off the pedal and were looking to get nine runs from every over and we were in a very good position by the 15th over.
"It is important to keep performing and I have been doing that. The dream is to play for India again and represent the country in Test matches. The dreams are there but one can't think too far forward. You want to stay in the present and give your best foot forward. I believe hard work never goes unnoticed. I truly believe my turn will come."
In a departure from past editions, Knight Riders have chosen to move Uthappa down the order and make captain Gautam Gambhir open with different partners - Chris Lynn, Colin de Grandhomme and Sunil Narine. Uthappa admitted that his new position meant he lost out on the advantage of batting in the Powerplay sometimes, but said he had the game to cope with the change. "I have immense faith in my batting. I know I don't need that kind of advantage to score the runs that I need to score for the team. I back myself and I am really confident and sure about my batting."
On Wednesday, though, Narine was dismissed in the third over and the Gambhir-Uthappa reunion that followed produced a 158-run alliance, the second biggest for Knight Riders. Uthappa said their understanding of each other's games contributed to their successful partnerships. "Gauti and I understand each other very well when we are batting," he said. "We understand the importance of strike rotation and support each other in that sense. When we take a decision on the field, we really stick to that decision, and when you do that, it works in your favour."
Another area of improvement for Uthappa has been his wicketkeeping. A case in point was his sharp work off Narine's bowling when Ajinkya Rahane made room to cut but missed and lifted his back leg momentarily for Uthappa to whip the bails off. Uthappa said keeping to the three spinners in his side - Kuldeep Yadav, Narine and Piyush Chawla - was as enjoyable as it was challenging. "Obviously, you keep to them as often as you can in the nets and that helps in understanding what they are bowling and when they are bowling it.
"Also, during the course of the game you understand what the batsman is doing and what the bowler is probably going to bowl. So, there is a sense of anticipation as well. It worked today for me and I am very happy. Piyush is an extremely challenging bowler as he has different kinds of googlies. All our spinners are a little bit of hard work, but it makes keeping a lot more fun."