Having battled depression before crying tears of joy in two IPL triumphs with the Kolkata Knight Riders, Robin Uthappa points to Muhammed Ali when you ask him about the inspiration behind the remarkable turnaround in his life. Uthappa is now hoping to inspire the Rajasthan Royals - his new team - to make a deep run into the 2020 edition of the world's biggest T20 league. In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, the 34-year-old Uthappa who played a key role in India's 2007 T20 World Cup win, talks about the key to winning the IPL and his willingness to assist Royals captain Steve Smith if the Australian needs support on slow wickets. Quite a few training sessions have been done in the new normal and some of the foreign players have also arrived. What is the mood like in the team as we get closer to the tournament? The mood is really good. All of us are really happy to be here and are delighted to be back doing what we love doing. Everyone's really working hard now, enjoying the training sessions, and combining well in preparation. All of us have gelled really well and we're building a good rapport amongst ourselves and really looking forward to that first game on the 22nd (against CSK). It's been a long wait but the excitement's really building up now. Just can't wait to get out there and play for the Royals.
You have joined the Royals, having won two titles with the Kolkata Knight Riders. What does it feel like to be in a new set-up after spending so many years at KKR? It's a refreshing feeling. I had some great moments at KKR, the franchise is brilliant and I have moments with them that I will always cherish. It feels good, moving to a new team, a new franchise, however, here at Rajasthan Royals, it's been a wonderful welcome. It's been an easy process thanks to the management and the team, I've just fitted in perfectly and feel at home. Right from our first camp in Guwahati, it's been an easy transition. I've been given the freedom to express myself and contribute as a senior player in a frank and honest way.
The Royals team is dominated by foreign players. You are among the few experienced Indian players in the team. The pitches are likely to be on the slower side here. Captain Smith might turn to you for advise. Yeah definitely, if Steve Smith ever needs me, I'll am there to help out. I feel as a senior player, it is important to contribute in different ways and make yourself available to the team. So if Steve or anyone for that matter needs me, the door to my room is always open and I'll be more than happy to help the team and my fellow teammates. The Royals have a few very talented youngsters. Yashasvi Jaiswal, Riyan Parag, Kartik Tyagi. How have they impressed you with their talent and work-ethic? Extremely impressed. It's been fantastic to train alongside these youngsters who're all so hungry to do well and register themselves on the biggest of stages. I think all of them are good boys, they train hard and have the right mindset along with the talent. For them, I feel consistency is the key, to work hard and put in regular performances for their IPL and state teams to get in contention for the Indian team. Patience would be another key aspect of their journey to keep delivering and not being rushed by outside voices. Having been part of the title-winning KKR teams and the 2007 T20 World Cup-winning Indian team, you are in a great position to talk about the key to winning a T20 tournament.. I think in a long tournament like this it is really important to have the entire team rally for the cause. To win something like the IPL, it's important that you have a collective effort from everyone. Yes, you will have individuals who will have those extraordinary seasons, however, you'll need the rest of the team to chip in and support them; at times even stand up themselves and take the team through at certain points in the tournament. A complete team effort is vital in the IPL. Will it a bit odd to play the IPL in front of empty stands? It will be different for sure, playing the IPL in front of empty stands. It's a tournament that's been propelled to such passion and energy by the fans, so yes it will be a big miss to not have the fans present at the stadiums. However, given the existing situation around the world, it's best for the fans to stay home and enjoy cricket from their living rooms. We all hope that we can get through this soon and have the fans back amongst us and celebrate sport together. You spoke about fighting depression few months back. As someone who have overcome a tough phase in life to become a star of the title-winning KKR team, what advise would you give to athletes who have been hit hard, even financially, by the pandemic? My advice would be to first accept reality as it really is and not live in denial. Especially when it comes to depression. I believe acceptance is the first step to working your way back into life. Once acceptance happens then with the right thoughts and advise, solutions begin to appear. From there it's important to take one day at a time and stay the course.
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