January 24, 2004

Robin Singh calls it a day

Robin Singh was as sharp as anyone on the field
© Getty Images

Robin Singh, the former Tamil Nadu and India allrounder, has announced his retirement from first-class and international cricket. His decision does not come as a surprise, as he has not played a competitive game for almost two years now. Speaking to Wisden Cricinfo from Chennai, Robin said, "I've been thinking about retirement for a while now. It's not a sudden decision or anything."

Robin last played for India in April 2001, against Australia. He went for 37 runs from six overs and scored 16 as India slid to a massive defeat in pursuit of 339. But, there were many other days that Robin can look back fondly on. "There are many games that are special to me. There was the time we beat Pakistan, in Pakistan, for the first time, then beating Pakistan in Dhaka, and of course the tied match against Zimbabwe. The World Cup match against Australia was a big one too, though, we didn't win." But, the highest point of Robin's career was not any of these games.

After first being selected to play for India against West Indies at Port-of-Spain, 1989, Robin was left out in the cricketing wilderness for seven years. Mohammad Azharuddin, the Indian captain for much of that period, was an outspoken supporter of Robin, but the selectors did not come round till the Titan Cup in 1996-97. "Making a comeback after all those years was the high point of my career, no doubt about that," said Robin. But, by that stage, he had lost the pace that made him a feared quick when he first arrived in Tamil Nadu from Trinidad. He was 33 years old, and yet in fine physical condition. Among the quickest between the wickets and a sharp fielder who pulled off stunning catches and saves in the cover-point region, Robin went on to play 136 one-day internationals.

As a cricketer, Robin was a curious one, for the sum of the parts was much less than the whole. As a purveyor of military medium-pace, or as a cheeky, aggressive batsman, alone, he could never have made it. His fielding, and a never-say-die attitude, were the glue that bound his various facets together and made him a useful man to have in the one-day side.

He executed the hoick over midwicket with great effectiveness
© Getty Images

In a recent interview, Robin suggested that it was wrong to brand cricketers as Test or one-day specialists. "I think slotting players is a foolish concept. We all learned cricket playing fourand five-day games, so if a player does well in that, obviously he has the temperament to succeed in the longer form of the game as well." Yet, on retirement, he betrayed no bitterness about not playing more than the solitary Test against Zimbabwe. "Frankly, it's not a regret that I didn't play more Test cricket. It just happened that I didn't get the opportunity to play more than one Test," he said, matter of factly.

Robin certainly enjoyed success in the longer version of the game, and although his reserved nature was sometimes misconstrued, he is a popular man in Tamil Nadu. "I always enjoyed playing for Tamil Nadu. We won the Ranji trophy once, came to the finals twice, and were often in the semi-finals. We should have done better as a team, but I still always enjoyed myself," he said. He played 137 first-class matches, and racked up three short of 7000 runs at an average of over 46, and picked up 172 wickets at just under 36.

Some cricketers find it extremely hard to adjust to life after cricket, but Robin seems to have planned things carefully. "Coaching is one of the things for the future. I've also started a company, called Robin Associates, that is into property development and housing for the general public. That keeps me really busy. And there's always coaching, so my hands are full. Actually, I'm more busy now than ever," he said, laughing. And there will be a bit of travelling too, as Robin visits the West Indies off and on to meet his parents. But, he has no plans of moving back permanently. That will be well received in Tamil Nadu, for Robin was always one of Chennai's favourite - if adopted - cricketing sons.