Uthappa to lead Kerala in shorter formats

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KCA will evaluate Robin Uthappa’s leadership skills during the Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali tournaments © BCCI

Ever since India international Robin Uthappa decided to switch his allegiance to Kerala for the upcoming domestic season, there were whispers in state cricketing circles that the Karnataka batting stalwart would lead the state side.

The growing murmurs got further credence when Uthappa led the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) XI in his first match for new outfit against Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) XI in the Captain K Thimmappiah Memorial Cricket Tournament in Bengaluru last month. Though Kerala’s skipper for last two seasons, Sachin Baby, didn’t play that match due to a nagging injury, there was intense speculation that Uthappa would lead Kerala in domestic cricket this season.

On Tuesday, KCA put speculations to rest and confirmed that the 33-year-old will lead the Kerala team in the Vijay Hazare one-dayers that will begin next month. The Kolkata Knight Riders star will also lead the state team in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament that follows the Vijay Hazare.

“Uthappa is an India international and we will like to utilise his experience in the best possible way. We have communicated our decision to coach Dav Whatmore and he has expressed no reservation. We have faith in Robin’s leadership skills and that’s why we have decided to name him captain for the shorter formats,” KCA secretary Sreejith V Nair said.

But the KCA secretary maintained that no decision has been taken regarding the leadership role in the Ranji Trophy, where Sachin Baby has admirably led the Kerala team to quarterfinals and semifinals respectively in the last two seasons. “We will evaluate Robin’s captaincy once both Vijay Hazare Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy tournaments end. Ranji Trophy is beginning only in December. So we still have time to take a decision on Kerala’s Ranji Trophy captain,” added Sreejith.

Though Kerala has done well in Ranji Trophy in the last two seasons, its performance in shorter formats has not been up to scratch. The state cricket body hopes for a course correction this year from the team under the leadership of Uthappa. But more importantly, indications are that it wants to quell any internal dissent and groupism that has plagued the team in the recent past despite the impressive performances in the last two seasons.

After playing for his home state Karnataka for almost a decade and a half, Uthappa moved to Saurashtra two years ago. But he missed the last Ranji season due to an injury. Uthappa has represented India in 46 ODIs and 13 T20Is for India. He has also played 136 and 189 List A matches in a career spanning almost 17 years.

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