The 1990s was the decade in which the cricket fever completely gripped India and subsequently, cricket went on to become a religion. The golden memories of the “desert storm” in Sharjah, Sahara Cup encounters in Toronto, exhilarating finishes in the Hero Cup and the Independence Cup are still etched in everyone’s mind. Through this series of articles on “The Unforgotten Heroes of 90’s”, we look back on some of our cricketing heroes who lit up the 1990’s. The first on this glittering list is Robin Singh.
Robin Singh, born as Robindra Ramnarine Singh in Trinidad, belonged to those rare species of cricketers who could bat, ball and field. Under-appreciated over the years, he was the workhorse on whom the Indian team relied upon in pressure situations. As they say, Robin Singh was “the first man you take to war”. Although not exceptional with either the bat or the ball, he could do a “job”, which at present, most captains around the cricketing world are looking for. In the field, he was a livewire. Along with Ajay Jadeja, he kept a tight leash on the batsmen, not allowing easy singles in the cover-point region. Robin belonged to an era where fitness was considered an added bonus, an era in which the “yo-yo” tests were unheard of. Still, he gave utmost importance to fitness.
Having made his international debut in 1989 against West Indies in an ODI, he failed to do much of note and was subsequently left out of the team for the coming tours. After toiling hard in the domestic circuit for 7 years, he was recalled to the team in 1996 for the Titan Cup. He would then go on to establish himself in the one day side for the next 5 years.
Although left-handers are known for their elegance, Robin Singh was anything but elegant. He was more of a bottom hand player, swiping most of the balls through the leg side. Excellent bat speed helped him tonk balls through the mid-wicket region. In the batting department, he was more of a floater. If the situation demanded he would be sent up the order to provide some impetus to the innings. His only century in international cricket came against Sri Lanka, batting at 3. But mostly, he would bat at no. 6 or 7 and be tasked with providing finishing touches to the innings.
In the bowling department, he was highly effective. Bowling those military medium off-cutters, he would strangle the batsmen in the middle overs. He would not allow the batsmen to get away, bowling tight wicket to wicket line. His economy rate of 4.7 is a testament to this fact. Although not that prolific in the wickets department, he would do the holding job for the captain, not leaking easy runs. He still managed to pick two 5-wicket hauls in his career.
Fielding was one department in which he stood out. In an era where Indian fielding was way below global standards, Robin Singh was an exception. He would guard the point region, saving 10-15 runs in each game and would invariably come up with a direct hit or a brilliant catch, to fetch a wicket. That crucial catch of Ricky Ponting in the Quarterfinal of Champions Trophy in 2000 is one such example. His running between the wickets was exceptional. Robin Singh and Ajay Jadeja were the “Kohli-Dhoni” of those times in terms of running those 2s and 3s. This is a testament to how fit he was even in his 30’s.
Robin’s last international match came against Australia in the year 2001. He was subsequently ignored in favor of a younger Yuvraj Singh. Robin announced his retirement from international cricket in the year 2004, bringing an end to a career spanning over 3 decades but just 137 international caps!
In the following years, Robin would go on to perform the coaching role with great distinction. He was appointed as the coach of Hong Kong cricket team and helped them qualify for the 2004 Asia Cup. He was the fielding coach of the young Indian side that went on to win the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007. Robin also helped the Mumbai Indians in winning the Indian Premier League in 2013, 2015 and 2017. He also had a successful stint with the Barbados Tridents in the Caribbean Premier League.
It would have been interesting to see how a young Robin Singh would have fared in today’s T20 cricketing world as his game was most suited to it. He would certainly have been included in those “marquee players” list, fetching a hefty sum of money. Robin was not so much gifted in terms of cricketing skills but he made the most of his abilities. For the moment, Robin can just sit back and rejoice in giving so much joy to the Indian fans in the 1990’s, the last of the awesome generation.