Learning to live again

His life took an ugly turn some years ago when his parents’ abusive relationship came to light. Post 2008 Robin Uthappa’s dazzling cricket career took a nose-dive. Then just 23-years-old the dashing lad from Bangalore went through one of the bleakest periods of his life – both personally and career-wise. But this year Lady Luck finally paid him a much-needed visit. He hogged the limelight during IPL 7 and his name, that was but a distant memory for many-a-cricket fan, shot to the top of the list once more. Archana Shenoy has a candid chat with him.

Twenty-eight-years old, 20 pounds lighter than he used to be, as fit as an athlete in his prime and with a newfound appreciation for life, Robin Uthappa is a changed man today. Gone is the wild brat who took the Indian cricket stage by storm. Life has dealt the muscular lad from Coorg some pretty hard knocks over the last few years. But he emerged from those trying times – stronger, more determined and much more focussed – all characteristics that have reflected positively in his game and his lifestyle.

“I’ve fallen in love all over again, with my soul-mate Sheethl Goutham, with my game and with life itself,” tells Robin. What we find most startling in his metamorphosis from wild-child to mellow adult is the Zen-like calm that surrounds him. “Post the dark period in my life, when I had to struggle through the disintegration of my family as a unit, I had to rebuild everything from scratch. It was a lonely time for me, but I look back at it with a lot of gratitude because it has shaped me to be a better, stronger person today,” he says.

Robin says that when he was riding high on his cricketing success (from 2006 to 2008) he used to be a very flamboyant Christian boy who aspired to live life in the fast lane. “I was young, flashy and proud. Today I am more simplistic, consistent and private. It was only after I met and got into a relationship with Sheethl that I was able to pull myself out of the dark space that I had holed up in and take a new look at my life,” he says. According to him Sheethl has been instrumental in shaping him into what he is today. “I was happy to hold her hand and walk, she accepted me for who I was and that acceptance is what I was craving,” he explains.

A former tennis player Sheethl is the fulcrum of Robin’s existence. Though the couple does not plan to tie the knot any time soon they are in a committed relationship and are often seen dining together or chilling out at one of Bangalore’s hot spots.

Over the last year Robin has been successfully playing in the Karnataka squad, aiding them in their winning spree. With a string of impressive performances, the stylish Bangalorean is now dreaming about another stint with the Indian team. “Well it’s been a good season so far. I’ve worked hard on my game for two years and continue to do so because I believe I should be playing at the highest level. I’ve put in the work and I will reap the results as long as I keep working and growing as a cricketer,” he says.

For a lad who began playing the game from the tender age of seven, Robin has come a long way. The son of Venu Uthappa, an international hockey referee, he scored heavily in the Ranji Trophy till he could not be kept out of the Indian one-day team any longer. His mother Rosy was also an avid athlete and Robin feels he has inherited his sporting genes from both his parents.

As a batsman he has always been attractive to watch, hard-hitting, with every shot, unafraid to hit the ball in the air. A useful member of the India under-19 team that won the Asia Cup, he first caught the eye of the selectors when he made a brilliant 66 in a losing cause for India B against India A in the Challenger Trophy in Mumbai in 2005, against an attack that included a very young Zaheer Khan, Murali Kartik and RP Singh. But it was in the subsequent edition of the same tournament, in Mohali in 2006, where he cracked a match winning 93-ball 100 for India B against an India A team, that Robin Uthappa really arrived in the big league.

Post this season’s IPL Robin’s career has been given a new lease of life. “Today I know that my team can rely on me. My game has become consistent because of my positive attitude and renewed outlook to life. My game isn’t as unpredictable as it used to be and I can feel my team mates appreciating that change in me,” he says.

“I firmly believe that growth happens only outside the comfort zone. I play cricket for a living – it is my passion. How many people get to live their passion?” he asks, reflecting on the opportunities he has been given. “I now look at myself as a very happy person and irrespective of the turn my career may take in the future I know that I will continue to be in this happy state as I have come to appreciate life much more than I used to before.”