Over the last two seasons, Karnataka have dominated the domestic circuit like no other team has before. Under R Vinay Kumar, they won the Ranji Trophy, the Irani Cup and the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy in 2013-14, and replicated that unprecedented hat-trick in the season gone by as well, establishing themselves as a team for all seasons.
That said, there was no more than token representation in the national side. Stuart Binny has been a near permanent member of the squad for a while now, and KL Rahul broke into the Test team for the tour of Australia late last year, but you would have thought a team that has been driven by collective effort for this long would be better represented when it came to international cricket.
With several first-choice players rested for India's limited-overs tour of Zimbabwe next year, Karnataka finally had cause for cheer on Monday (June 29) as India's national selectors recalled Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey to join Binny for the African safari. Additionally, Karun Nair and Shreyas Gopal were both named in the India A squad, alongside Rahul and Abhimanyu Mithun, to play Australia A in two four-day games in Chennai, also next month.
"We have won six trophies in the last two years, we used to have just one or two representing the country," Uthappa told Wisden India from Mumbai, where he has been training for the last eight days under Pravin Amre, his personal coach. "I am really happy that so many of us have made it this time, both to the national team and to the 'A' team. I am certain all of us will look to acquit ourselves well; actually, I am sure all of us will make the most of our chances."
For Uthappa himself, the tour of Zimbabwe which encompasses three One-Day Internationals and two Twenty20 Internationals is an excellent opportunity to remain on the selectors' radar on a more permanent basis. This time last year, the right-hand batsman was called up to the ODI team that toured Bangladesh for a three-match series, making his 50-over comeback after nearly six years. He crowned his return with a half-century in difficult batting conditions but a poor 'A' tour of Australia meant he fell off the radar again.
Uthappa played the last two ODIs at home against Sri Lanka last November, but is grateful to be in the mix right from the start of the series this time around. Ask him if he thinks he is running out of time, and the reply is, "It depends on what kind of opportunities you get. A one-off game really doesn't help you a great deal, but this is a good chance, a full series. I will look to try and cash in on this opening. I have been performing consistently in domestic cricket for a long while. It is a decent opportunity that has come my way and I want to make the most of it. I have understood what works for me as a batsman and as a cricketer, and I want to stay true to that.
"I took a break after the IPL. When I came to Mumbai, I thought I would be rusty, but to my surprise and everyone else's as well, I have been hitting well," added Uthappa, having already hit preparatory mode well before being named in the Indian squad. "It shows that all the work that I have been putting in for the last two-three years with regards to my technique is paying off, it has been committed to muscle memory.
"It is always work in progress. You can never really settle down with growth as far as skill is concerned. You need to be able make fine changes, you have to keep evolving. That is something I have experienced, the growth. Teams the world over are constantly picking cues about your weaknesses and glitches, so you need to stay prepared as well. It is all about giving yourself the best chance to be successful consistently. And it is working for me."
Pandey had been named in the Indian squad for the T20I against West Indies in Cuttack last October, only to endure the disappointment of seeing the West Indians return home midway through the tour after a pay dispute with a cricket board. "Yes, that was very disappointing, to get picked and then the series getting cancelled," admitted Pandey. "But then these things aren't in our control and so it's no good brooding over these issues. Having said that, I don't think I'll be unlucky for the second time.
"I am very happy and it's a very satisfying feeling to get picked for the national side. All the hard work that I have put in isn't going waste. It's a young team and the challenge will be different. You will have to shoulder responsibility and I am excited about being part of this series."