Uthappa says Indian team touring Zimababwe can’t be called ‘second string’

India might have played five Twenty20 international debutants in the first T20I against Zimbabwe, but Robin Uthappa felt that the players’ extensive experience in the Indian Premier League helped them immensely.

A second-string Indian team trounced a hapless Zimbabwe by 54 runs in the first T20 International cricket match here last night to take a 1-0 lead in two-match series. “We play so much of T20 cricket, all of us must have played 100 games each in the IPL, and there the pressure is a lot more. There’s more of a crowd, you want to perform, you’re playing the best players in the world. You’re already basically cooked when you’re coming in here, so you’re ready for it,” Uthappa said after the first T20 game.

Uthappa has dismissed that this is a ‘second string’ side, insisting that India have a good bench strength. “I think we have a pool of 25 players, and all of us deserve to play for the country, it’s just that you cannot carry more than 15 in a side. So unfortunately the rest of us kind of miss out,” stressed Uthappa. “I wouldn’t say we’re less talented, or we can’t do as well in international cricket, I just think that the guys who are in there have done well for themselves when they got the opportunity.

“It’s hard to leave those players out and play us. We need to take our chances when they come our way. I would never call us a second string side, because the kind of talent that we have in our pool, I think that we’re pretty good for the next 10 to 15 years,” he added. Uthappa, who chipped in with a crucial 39 not out last night to help India post a competitive 178 for five, said he was glad to have made a significant contribution after a dull start to the tour.

“I missed out in that first game, a judgement call, and the second one was towards the end, so it could have gone either way as well,” Uthappa said. “The third game I should have consolidated, but made one error. A lot of hard work, and eventually one error cost me. But I’m feeling good since I’ve come here. I was glad I was able to bat through for the team (in the first T20I) and set up that good total. It was quite a challenging wicket to bat on, so I’m pretty happy with the way I performed,” he said.

Uthappa had to bat in the middle order rather than his usual opening slot, but he felt that his batting consultant Pravin Amre has helped him deal with it. “Yeah, I think he’s done a lot for me,” Uthappa said about Amre. “I’m happy with the way I’m playing right now, and my game is kind of set. I think I’m not batting in my regular position. I’m an opening batsman but I’ve been batting in the middle order, so it’s quite different for me, and I’ve been trying to adjust myself.

“Through the year in domestic cricket, in the IPL, or otherwise I’m always opening the batting and so suddenly when you have to play in the middle order you have to be more flexible. Make slight adjustments, because your preparation is different.

“For me, just to wait to bat is very different because I like to get in there and set the foundation for the side. But here you’re going into a situation that’s already set for you. It’s quite different in the middle order. But I’m getting the hang of it. I’m learning as I go. The more I play the better I’ll get at it,” he explained.