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Monday, December 09, 2013
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Robin Singh from Princes Town to Mumbai, Bridgetown
Robin Singh was recently back in his native land of Trinidad as a coach in the inaugural cricket T20 Caribbean Premier League (CPL). Born in Princes Town, he has been the coach of the Mumbai Indians in the hugely popular IPL (Indian Premier League) cricket and was here as one of the coaches of the Bridgetown/Barbados based franchises in the CPL. T&T’s cricketing superstar Kieron Pollard was a member of both the Mumbai and Barbados squads which Singh coaches. Trinidadian players Riyard Emrit and Shannon Gabriel were also in the ‘Barbados’ team. The Sunday Guardian sat down for an exclusive interview with the 49-year-old globetrotting coach at the downtown hotel where he and his team were staying. His nationality reads Trinidadian, an interesting story of a young man from Princes Town who departed our shores bound for India but ended up staying there and making a name for himself in the cricketing world, representing that country at the highest level both as a player and coach.
That he represented and captained Trinidad and Tobago at the under-19 level and played a couple of games for the senior T&T team before heading off is the stuff that dreams are made of.
In his playing heyday he was an all-rounder, a left handed batsman, right handed bowler and exciting fieldsman. Following his T&T playing days he went on to represent India in 136 One Day International matches scoring over 2,000 runs with one century and nine half centuries, captured 69 wickets with a best of five for 22 and held 33 catches. His international career spanned from 1989 to 2001 following which he retired to take up coaching.
Wisden described him as an athletic allrounder who has tenacity and commitment as his greatest allies. In his second coming at the age of 33—seven years after he made his international debut in his birthplace, Trinidad—sharp, gutsy pressure-play earned him a regular place in India’s one-day team. A master of the quick single and a powerful, flat hitter over the leg side, he is a valuable batsman at the death and occasionally, in pursuit of big totals, up at number three. His military-medium offcutters can be useful in the middle overs, but his bigger contribution in the field is manning the cover-point region, where he stops certain boundaries and holds improbable catches. Readers can catch a glimpse of him in action at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMcOxVVrXOE
Q: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
A: Princes Town, Trinidad.
What schools/institutions did you attend?
Lengua Islamia (primary school), Cowen Hamilton (high school) and the University of Madras, India (Masters in Economics).
Who are the people who influenced and inspired you the most, in your career and in life in general? And tell us a bit more about your local cricket playing days before you left our shores.
My family for sure, my uncles all of whom were involved in the formation of the Valley Boys cricket club in our village in Princes Town which produced many top class cricketers. Then I went on to play at the highest local league level with the Oxford cricket club at the age of 16 or 17. I then captained the T&T under-19 team before I made it to the senior team where I played a couple of games. I played with the likes of Gus Logie, Larry Gomes, Phil Simmons, David Williams, Ganesh Mahabir, names that come to mind.
What prompted you to head to India?
There was a team visiting Trinidad from India called the Hyderabad Blues and after doing very well against them they invited me to come and play with them during the off season here. I was just 18 so after a successful stint I had to combine my studies with cricket and that I did for five years at the University of Madras, during which time I qualified to play for India.
What was it like to be back in Trinidad in your capacity as the assistant coach of the Kieron Pollard-led Barbados Tridents in the current inaugural CPL league? What is it like to have someone like him in your teams?
It’s really exciting as I also get time to visit my folks here, my mom and siblings who are still here. Kieron Pollard is really an excellent cricketer with an astute cricket brain and a serious competitor who is capable of winning games singlehandedly. There aren’t many such players around who can do this in the middle order. But he needs to be given the opportunity to play in the longer version of the game as I strongly believe that he possesses the skills and attributes to be a success for the West Indies at the Test level. As I always say, as cricketers we all learn and develop our skills in the longer version of the game.
What do you rate as extremely special in your cricketing career?
It was very special getting back into the India team in 1996 after a seven-and-a-half year gap following just one game at the Queen’s Park Oval, actually versus the West Indies in 1989. I was driven by the desire to prove a point and get back into the national team. I did and went on to play 135 One Day International games for India.
How many games did you play against the West Indies? Any against Brian Lara and if so, did you ever get him out?
I played about ten games including a couple against Lara, and yes I got him out once!
Of all the cricketing venues you have played at, which would you rank as your favourites?
I really enjoyed Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia where I performed well and Mohali in India which had a nice wicket, wonderful ambience and a beautiful ground.
What are your thoughts about the CPL?
Pretty good actually. I have been involved with many T20 tournaments and the CPL ranks high given that it’s in its first year
Who were your cricketing heroes growing up, and who were the best players you played against?
Well, there were the likes of Garry Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Viv Richards and Malcolm Marshall…all great cricketers. Sachin Tendulkar was the best batsman and Wasim Akram and Muralitharan were the best bowlers I have played against. In India Kapil Dev, Mohammed Azhruddin and Sachin Tendulkar were very influential and helpful to me.
What makes you such a successful coach, first with the India under 19s, India senior team, in Bangladesh, in Sri Lanka, in the USA, for Mumbai Indians and now for the Kieron Pollard-led Barbados Tridents, among other stints?
Well, I must tell you that I was asked by the Indian authorities at the tail end of my career to coach the under 19s so they must have seen something in me to do the job. That said though, I strongly believe that a successful cricket coach must understand himself first, understand international cricket, understand the psyche, psychology and capabilities of individuals and people in the prevailing conditions which I have learned over the years, even while I was a player. If you have achieved this then you’re on your way and half the battle is won.
Describe yourself in two words, one beginning with R the other with S, your initials.
Hmmm…let’s see. I’d say resilient and silent.
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