With the job for Mahendra Singh Dhoni's understudy being up for grabs, dashing batsman Robin Uthappa doesn't mind being considered as a 'keeper-batsman in his bid to get back into national reckoning.
"I have been working hard on my 'keeping skills over the last couple of years. And I am really enjoying it which is an important thing. It has also helped my batting. Standing up to the batsmen, you get to see what the ball is doing off the wicket. So it is definitely helping my batting as well," the Karnataka batsman said in an interview on Tuesday.
"I've been 'keeping' for my state in domestic cricket in one day matches and T20 games. I haven't kept in the four-day games as I also open the batting and its a big challenge.
"I have been doing that for a while now. I hope somebody will take notice. It is a big plus for me that I can open the batting as well as keep wickets. An extra bowler or batsman can be drafted in the side," he added.
Amidst reports that many seniors may be rested for the West Indies tours, the 25-year-old batsman, who has represented India in 38 ODIs and 9 T20s, hoped that the tour may mark his comeback into the national squad after he was dropped in mid-2008.
"Well, it would be great if an opportunity comes by. It has been a while. (I) have not played for the country for a long while. I missed out last year due to a shoulder injury sustained during the IPL. I had to go for surgery immediately after the IPL and had to miss the tour of Zimbabwe where Suresh (Raina) was the captain."
"Hopefully this year, I will get to play for the country. My number one priority is to play and win matches for the country and I believe I have the ability to do so. Hopefully, I will get the opportunity to represent the country again," the Coorgi lad added.
Uthappa, who was bought for a whopping USD 2.1 million (9.4 crore approx) by Pune Warriors India during the IPL auctions in January said that he never expected this price.
"Honestly, I did not expect the amount I got. The way I had performed in the last year and the value I bring to the side, I though I would get about 1-1.5 crore. To be honest, I didn't even watch the IPL auction," he added.
Uthappa, who has made the highest score by an Indian batsman on his ODI debut (86 against England) and is also credited with the country's first T20 International fifty, felt his failure to handle success early in his career was the reason behind the drop in performance, which finally resulted in his ouster from the team.
"To be honest, it was the exuberance of youth. It was probably just after the World Cup (T20 in 2007). Having won a World Cup after so long and having been a vital part of that campaign, I lost my way and wasn't training as hard. I took myself for granted. I didn't take take much to realise but by the time I had done that it was already too late."
"But I thought I came back pretty well and was amongst the runs within six months of being dropped from the ODI side. I was the third-highest run-getter in Ranji (Trophy). Uthappa said the exit from the national side has helped him rediscover as a cricketer.
"Now I am a lot surer of myself. I know myself more as a batsman. I have worked on it over the last couple of years. It has definitely helped me. I have understood I am a very instinctive kind of player and I like to dominate the bowling attack. That's the the kind of player I am and that's the way I am going to succeed even if I have a few failures in between," he added.
"I tried being subdued but realised that is the only way I am going to succeed. Skillwise, I have understood myself better. Even though, I may not look to be among the fittest in the field, I don't think I'll give an opportunity to anyone to say that I'm slow on the field. I am still one of the fastest runners in between the wicket," he added.
Uthappa said his role as a finisher did not allow him to score big runs like Manish Pandey and Paul Valthaty, who have become popular following their exploits in the IPL.
"The advantage that Paul and Manish have got is the fact that they open the batting. I am viewed more as a finisher. For me to score many runs, my side has to be in dire straits.
"That is when I would get 12-13 overs to bat. Batting at 4-5 doesn't give an opportunity to you to do that. For me, realistically to think of an Orange Cap, it would be a little harsh on myself."
"The most I could do is I could win 6-7 games for my team. If I set up a few victories for my side, that would be a great job. I think that's the value I add to a side," further stated.
Commenting on the recent transformation of Yuvraj Singh as cricketer, Uthappa said, "Yuvi has really matured as a cricketer. Definitely, the World Cup victory is a testimony of how he has changed. He has gone through hard times and it's helped. He has grown as a cricketer. I think his best years are yet to come."
Optimistic of his team Pune Warriors' performance in the IPL, he said, "We started pretty well. I think we need to build momentum and peak at the right time."