The under-rated utility man
The utility man is the unsung hero of one day cricket
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.