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'I'm looking forward to the Windies ODIs'

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You've been reinstated in the Indian ODI team; you should be feeling good about that?

I am very excited to be considered a part of the Indian team again. I am looking forward to justifying the selectors' confidence in me by performing well in the first two One-Day Internationals against the West Indies if, of course, I am picked in the playing XI. But it is really a great feeling to come back into Team India just before the World Cup.

Your Karnataka team mates must be delighted...

Everyone was very happy and thrilled. All my team mates congratulated me, including our manager Raghuram Bhat and coach Venkatesh Prasad; they told me to turn in solid performances and to make sure I cement my performances this time.

National captain Rahul Dravid was there too, turning out for Karnataka in the Ranji game; what was his response?

He too was delighted. He congratulated me and said, all the best.

After just three ODIs earlier this year, you found yourself dropped. Was that hard to take?

It was a good learning experience. I tried to implement in my cricket at the domestic level whatever positives I had learnt during my stint with Team India and from my little experience of international cricket. I began to see myself differently after coming back from international cricket, as I studied how my body and my mind worked. I think I have improved as a batsman since I last played for India. As a cricketer, I have changed noticeably from what I was just a year ago.

Was the period in the wilderness frustrating at some level?

No, never. As I just said, I took it as an opportunity to learn and improve myself to be a better cricketer and batsman, which I think I am today.

So what is your mindset now? What are your thoughts, about this comeback?

I think I have to make the most of this opportunity. But as I told you, I am looking forward to only the first two ODIs against the West Indies. They are very important for me. I am in good nick. I want to go out there, enjoy myself; I am going to try my best and make my country proud with my performances.

You say you are only thinking of the first two ODIs, but you must surely also be thinking of the World Cup, since you have been named in the probables?

No, that is too far in the future for me just now. I have to use these two ODIs against the West Indies to prove my worth. If I get a chance to play in them, and if I do well, I am sure I will hopefully be automatically picked for the subsequent ODIs against the West Indies and Sri Lanka. Only consistent performance in these matches can pave the way for me to be in the team for the World Cup - so for now, I prefer to concentrate on the games immediately ahead. I must say though that I am very happy to have been already among the 30 probables for the World Cup.

Cricket fans see you as a natural strokeplayer, an exciting batsman. Do you allow things to take their own course out there, or do you plan each innings?

I always play my natural game, whatever the situation. I am an opener and my job is to set the foundation for my team. I always keep this in mind. By playing my natural game, I can set a good platform for my team to build on.

[Image: India coach Greg Chappell gives some batting tips to Uthappa during a practice session at The Keenan Stadium in Jamshedpur on April 11, 2006.]

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