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Robin Uthappa wins with his positivity

The cricketer on the IPL experience and being ‘dadda’ to his little boy Neale

By Saionee Chakraborty

  • Published 6.05.19, 6:37 PM
  • Updated 6.05.19, 6:37 PM
Robin Uthappa at ITC Sonar in Calcutta
Robin Uthappa at ITC Sonar in Calcutta Picture by Pabitra Das

A sunny disposition and heaps of positivity in his heart. That was Knight Robin Uthappa when t2 had met him at ITC Sonar earlier in the IPL. Though KKR did not make it to the play-offs, taking off from Robin’s optimism, here’s thanking the Knights for the effort.

Calcutta must be becoming your second home!

Practically, yes!

How does a typical IPL season pan out now?

The routine’s pretty much the same for the last four or five years where we get in here, get to work and we’ve been at the same hotel as well. You know the staff personally. They know your preferences, what you like and what you don’t like, what rooms you like. They have also been kind enough to give us rooms which have been lucky for us in the past… cannot wait for the new wing to open. It looks beautiful. We have been waiting for the last couple of years… hopefully, next year, we’ll be able to check in.

(Coming back to the routine)… it is like getting back to riding a bicycle after a while. You get back on, it feels familiar and you are a part of this whole machine. You just become a spoke in the wheel and then it keeps moving.

Do you still get anxious before a game?

Before the last game… I got to be honest, I did feel pretty anxious, (but) it’s quite a good feeling. It’s got to be anxiety. If you are nervous, then may be you are not prepared well enough. If it is anxiety, then it’s a positive emotion that precedes a tournament.

You do keep everything aside in these three months?

We do. Let’s be honest, for most of us domestic cricketers who have been in and out of the Indian side, this basically puts food on the table for us. This becomes the primary tournament for us in the year outside of the Ranji Trophy. We look forward to this tournament. For me, especially, because I get to play international-level bowlers… international-level cricket… what you don’t get to enjoy in domestic cricket is the lack of pace of the faster bowlers….

Spectators too?

Of course… they support us… but purely from a cricket and technical perspective, I miss the speed of the game, the intensity of international cricket. I really look forward to this part of the year… it really brings back that feel for me for a couple of months in the year.

How do you usually prep for the IPL? Your fitness videos are giving us major goals…

All of that becomes a lifestyle, honestly. I pretty much work out every day. The hours depend on how the body is feeling. We don’t go crazy working hard. Working smart is also a critical thing, understanding your body, how much recovery is required… all these aspects play a huge role in training. You are cognisant of all these aspects and you train accordingly. Sometimes you train for an hour and hour-and-a-half, sometimes it goes on for a few hours and sometimes just 45 minutes, just a top-up on all that you have done. Sometimes you are feeling good, but you are also sore. So, you pop in and out of the gym for a 20-minute-half-an-hour session.

Primarily, it is a combination of speed, endurance and strength. Cricket is a start-stop kind of sport. Today the sport is moving towards the power aspect of the game. You want to keep in mind those aspects as well.

Do you play anything else?

We don’t get the time.

Your son Neale Nolan is keeping you fit too, with all that running around!

He is definitely keeping his nanny fit. (Laughs)

Is he naughty?

He is naughty in a positive way. He is not destructive, but he is mischievous and a very cerebral kid, which I think we are very lucky about. He is smart and sharp and at 14 months, he was trying to achieve something… climb a ladder, but he knew that we won’t allow him to climb the ladder. So, he would take us away from the ladder and then try and fool us and leave us where we are and then try and run with the ladder just to climb it. He is a very good and kind kid. He is a happy kid, which is most important.

Does he understand cricket?

Of course! He plays cricket! I have videos of him batting. We were stunned. At 13 months, he was pretty adept with the bat. If you rolled a ball to him, he would swing the bat and connect most of the times. He was always inclined towards balls. So, we had tennis balls, cricket balls, golf balls and all kinds of balls. We put a small tennis racquet out there, a cricket bat and stumps… he loves stumps. He saw me once knocking in a stump… every time he gets a bat, he tries to do it. He is very cute, ya! You miss him when he is not there.

Is he travelling with you?

He did but he is going to this wonderful school which we don’t want to keep him too far away from. He is only 16 months but he has been going to this Norwegian school back in Bangalore, which is one of a kind. They follow the Scandinavian method of schooling which is considered the best in the world. We have seen him grow and evolve in the last six months, like we never expected. At 13-14 months, he was eating by himself. After he finishes eating, he says, ‘I am done’ and wants to take the plate and put it in the washbasin, because in school he is taught that… and wash his hands. He could barely walk then. Today when he can walk and run, he wants to go put his plate back and wash his hands. He knows when it’s time to sleep. All his patterns are set and he follows all of those patterns.

He interacts with kids who are slightly older than him… three or four years older. He looks at them and imitates them. Those kids are at an age when they are taught to hug kids younger than them and look after them. At the age of 14-15 months, he was taught to sow seeds. In our herb garden, there is ragi growing which he has sown and is watered by him.

You must be his hero!

(Laughs) I don’t know. He is his own hero right now! He knows dadda plays a sport, he sees dadda on the television… I am doing a little bit of commentary… so, he plays the sports and watches videos of me batting, glued to the television.

Are you getting to spend time with him?

I am trying. It’s hard but I make it a priority. I know how important it is for parents to spend time with the kids in their formative years, how impressionable they are and how much good it does to a kid’s future if they are there in the first few years of their lives. I make sure I speak with him in the morning when he wakes up and before he goes to school and before he goes to sleep even if it is for two minutes, just to see him smile at me and that makes my day.

Shah Rukh Khan (Kolkata Knight Riders’ principal owner) has always been supportive...

He has been consistent in how he has been with the group… win or lose. We never see him saying anything that will remotely put pressure on the team. He understands it’s a sport and he has played sports as well during his college days. He is a non-intrusive owner.

How much of Calcutta do you know?

Well, quite a bit. The scheduling hasn’t been too kind for us over the last couple of years, so we haven’t been able to step out and explore, but being a foodie myself, we regularly visit a few places that we know of.

Like?

We go to 6 Ballygunge (Place), Nizam’s… we also went to Chinatown.

So, you love Bengali food?

Oh! I love Bengali food!

What do you want to explore this season?

I think the animal shelters, orphanages and street food.

In your leisure time, are you reading anything?

I am listening to audiobooks, because that is more convenient right now. You can listen to 20 pages a day. I am listening to a couple actually. I am reading a book by Gregg Braden called The Divine Matrix. It’s quite different and people give me strange looks when they look at what I read. I had grown out of fiction by 18. In the spiritual realm there is so much that is conceivable….

Are you spiritual?

I am. I was religious, but I have transcended to being spiritual.

What songs or which musicians are you listening to?

I think groups like Coldplay and artistes like Jason Mraz resonate with me. There is a lot more to life than what we see and experience.

Anything you are watching?

Recently, I watched The Dark Tower… Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey.

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