The utility man is the unsung hero of one day cricket. The spotlight is on the batsmen who score at a dazzling rate or the bowlers who runs through the opposition. Amidst all this, the cricketer who scores 30 or 40 quick runs in the slog overs, picks up a vital wicket or two and latches on to a couple of catches is not given his due. And in Indian cricket, no one symbolizes this more graphically than Robin Singh.
The latest courageous episode in Robin Singh's career was enacted at Gwalior on Thursday. Coming in when the innings was floundering at 142 for five in the 39th over, it was left to the experienced left hander from Tamil Nadu to show how to deal with the bowling. Picking up the cue, Ganguly who was batting elegantly now turned on the heat and the two proceeded to wrest the initiative from New Zealand in the most thrilling manner imaginable. After all, it does not happen in every ODI that a team hits 114 runs without losing a wicket in the last ten overs, the run ending in the crescendo of 76 from the last five and 55 from the last three overs. In retrospect, it was at this stage that New Zealand lost not just the grip but also the match.
A capital knock of 45 not out from 34 balls with three sixes and a four out of an unbroken sixth wicket partnership of 119 runs was very much a typical Robin Singh contribution. If he does not give his all with the bat, he makes a signal contribution with the ball. Who can forget his 5 for 22 which hastened Sri Lanka's defeat in the World Cup match at Taunton this year? In fact he proved his class in unmistakable terms in the World Cup, his best being the 75 he hit against Australia in a losing cause. As far as his fielding is concerned, there is hardly anything new that can be said. Even at 36, he still ranks as amongst two or three best fielders in the side.
For long now, Robin has been established in the one day side, having played over 100 matches in a three year period since his comeback to the Indian side. His consistent performances make his non selection in the long period from 1989 to 1996 all the more unforgivable. How priceless he would have been to the team, especially in the 1992 and 1996 World Cup competitions! His absence was a loss for this big hearted cricketer but it was also a loss for Indian cricket. In the last three years, one has indeed lost count of the number of times Robin has won matches for India, or at least made sure that the team would not go down without a fight.
The remarkable thing about Robin is that he has come off with the bat not just in the middle order but also at No 3 when sent in as a pinch hitter. His only ODI hundred has been scored in that position, as also his other great triumph, the 82 he hit against Pakistan at Dhaka in January 1998 when he shared a big partnership with Ganguly which went a long way towards India chasing a 300 plus target successfully. With the ball he is skilful in the middle overs. Accurate and always making the ball do something, he is difficult to hit even in the slog overs. And as a bowler who has broken troublesome partnerships Robin has few peers. It is high time this selfless cricketer was given his due share of the spotlight.