Gautam Gambhir was appointed in 2011 to lead Kolkata Knight Riders, and in his first season as skipper, the Indian opener took the team to its maiden IPL playoffs. He tried to better it in the next season, steering the franchise to a maiden IPL trophy and repeated it two years later. Apart from being a reliable top-order batter, Gambhir earned praise for his tactical acumen during his illustrious stint with the Kolkata outfit. (IPL 2022 Full Coverage)
While someone like Sunil Narine was advocated by Gambhir himself, Robin Uthappa had to insist on his promotion in the batting setup. WV Raman, who served as batting coach of the Knight Riders during the 2014 IPL edition, shared how Uthappa was slotted at the top after repeated requests to the then skipper. Uthappa played six years for Kolkata with his maiden season in 2014 being the most successful. He won the Orange Cap after scoring 660 runs.
“A few days before the auction was scheduled, I was a part of the leadership team which decided the possible players to rope in. There were a lot of options and then it came to opening batsmen. My suggestion was Robin Uthappa while the others were looking at Murali Vijay.
“Uthappa can double up as a keeper as well and you can have a multi-dimension player who can be very useful. When the season started, he was told he’ll keep regularly. As a batter, he played in the middle order. Bisla, who engineered KKR’s triumph against CSK two years prior to that, was opening alongside Gambhir. Bisla was also a keeper, which meant Uthappa was more of a middle-order batter,” Raman told cricket.com.
Back in 2014, the first leg of IPL was held across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah as the competition clashed with India’s Assembly elections. Kolkata managed to win just two games in the UAE before staging a turnaround in the second leg. They went on to win the title by defeating Kings XI Punjab in the final.
Raman recalled how he went to Jacques Kallis, who had a lengthy discussion with Gambhir over Uthappa’s elevation to the top.
“KKR played the first half in UAE and victory was looking very, very far. We were losing games which were obviously winnable. Robin then came to me and said, ‘Sir tell Gauti sir I’ll open’. I went to Gauti and the team wasn’t among the runs and not winning as well. It was not a very conducive time to go to the captain and talk about the promotion of a batter who wasn’t getting runs too. From his response and body language, I realized that (Uthappa’s promotion) wasn’t going to happen.”
“I went to Jacques and said Gauti doesn’t see any merit in what was being suggested to him. Kallis had a chat for about half an hour in Ranchi with Gambhir. He had to hard-sell it to Gautham before he agreed. He couldn’t say no to Jacques… and Uthappa opened and got 40 odd. Since then, Robin got back into the groove and made a lot of runs up the order. The turnaround happened and KKR won,” Raman elaborated.