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Khel Today Bureau 

Mumbai: Former Indian cricketer Robin Uthappa recently sat down for an exclusive interaction, where he offered insightful perspectives on the burgeoning landscape of the Indian Street Premier League (ISPL).

The inaugural Indian Street Premier League, a T10 tournament played with tennis balls, commenced with grandeur and spectacle on Wednesday in Thane.Uthappa, reflecting on his initial encounter with the ISPL, highlighted the stark contrasts between street cricket and conventional cricketing formats. Drawing from his childhood experiences of playing gully cricket, he noted the distinct characteristics of ISPL matches, such as the usage of heavier balls and different bat sizes. Despite these disparities, Uthappa emphasized the allure of street cricket, likening it to indoor cricket with its unique set of rules and gameplay dynamics. He expressed optimism about the potential for street cricket to evolve into a mainstream sporting option, offering promising career avenues for young talents. He said “To be honest, this is my first tryst with it. I’ve played gully cricket as a kid, so many things have changed quite a bit but when I played gully cricket the tennis balls used to be really light. I’ve never played with a tape ball but I’ve heard tons of stories about tape ball. The balls we are using are far heavier, the bats are different, they feel very different, they go off the bat better. They are not as big as normal cricket balls, they are slightly smaller, so you learn to develop a feel for bowling, you won’t get it as immediately. So that’s why you saw someone as skilled as a Praveen Kumar struggling to kind of control the ball. Having said that, the bats are kind of different as well. I can’t put my finger on what’s so different about it, it feels different and the ball also feels different on the bat. Obviously when you play a lot you’ll understand why it’s different from a regular bat. But it’s a fun concept, for me, I think it’s a lot like indoor cricket as well. When you play indoor cricket it’s got its own set of rules, this one has got its own set of rules as well, and I think as it becomes more mainstream, I think it will catch on and certainly become a more welcome option for a lot of parents who see their kids playing street cricket. They won’t think of it as a waste of time after all.”

He said “Why for me, I think it’s an incredible achievement being able to do that, being able to provide that opportunity for youngsters. They can seriously consider this as a career option because they are being paid a fair amount of money playing 4-5 tournaments like this throughout the year. It’s a very healthy way to pursue a career.”

Delving deeper into the subject, Uthappa emphasized the significance of fostering collaborations between the Indian film industry and cricket to enhance the profile and reach of tournaments like the ISPL. He lauded the synergy between these two influential spheres of Indian culture, envisioning a future where such partnerships could propel street cricket into the national spotlight. He said “I think this is really nice to see before the IPL, it gets telecasted, it’s nice to see the Indian film industry and cricket coming together. It’s the perfect amalgamation of something that works in our country and I think that needs to be done everywhere where you see potential. You can really add value to the people around, because cricket is not a cheap sport to play, it’s an expensive sport to pursue. So I see this as a second Avenue for someone who is passionate about cricket and to have this support and this amalgamation happening between the Indian film industry and the sport coming together can be the right kind of mix for a tournament like this to go to the next level. Consistency and respect for the players as far as their parents are concerned, spotlight is concerned. You need to have a couple of heroes within this ecosystem for it to popularize the game. So I think a lot of those things, the organisers, the broadcasters, the bigger stakeholders within this pursuit, if they can do the right things in the right direction, it’s a no-brainer that this will become a big thing.”

Shifting focus to the return of Rishabh Pant, Uthappa shared his insights on the talented wicketkeeper-batsman’s journey back to competitive cricket following a period of injury. Expressing solidarity with Pant’s arduous recovery process, Uthappa emphasized the importance of patience and adherence to rehabilitation protocols. He stressed the need for Pant to prioritize long-term health and form over the immediate pressures of performance, urging him to trust the gradual progression towards peak fitness. He said “Well, as far as Rishabh Pant is concerned, it all depends on his fitness, and how he recovers from what has been a really tough year and a half for him. So we all hope that when he recovers he will come back to his best. It’s good to see he’s back in the nets, hitting balls, practicing. I think the true test of how well he has recovered will be when he plays tournaments and matches, and I think he should trust the process. It’s hard to stay out of the game for so long especially when you’re so competitive that you want to play and perform and win matches, but sometimes when you hurry the process you end up doing more damage and then it goes back to being even more frustrating. So I really hope he takes his time in coming back, so that when he comes back, he comes back for good, and not something that is done in a hurry.”

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