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April 17, 1999


The Rediff Interview / Robin Singh

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'You have to perform to survive'

Shobha Warrier

 Robin Singh
In a team of stars, Rabindra Ramnarayan 'Robin' Singh could well be the unexpected key to India's World Cup fortunes.

He occupies that most crucial of slots for English conditions -- that of the all-rounder who is expected to score quick runs at the death, then come back and bowl 10 tight, controlled overs in the middle stages of the opposition innings. If he succeeds in this double role, team composition automatically falls into place. And if he fails, the Indian team will struggle to put up a viable, balanced lineup.

Shobha Warrier met the Indian all rounder just before he joined the Indian team for the third ODI in the recent Pepsi Cup triseries at home. Excerpts:

India finds itself in the stronger of the two groups in the coming World Cup...

I think both the groups are quite strong, because most players from almost all the countries have played in England at some time or the other. For us, the plus is most of our batsmen are technically strong. Again, as most of our bowlers are swing bowlers, rather than pure pace bowlers, our cricket suits the English conditions. Since we are going to get to England early, we also have the chance to get accustomed to the weather conditions by the time the tournament starts.

How do you assess the other teams in the group?

South Africa is, overall, a strong team. England is a bit weak in bowling and fielding, but their batsmen are used to the conditions and should do well. Sri Lanka are struggling with their bowling and fielding, but batting is always the mainstay of their cricket. Similarly, Zimbabwe is an improved team, you can't take them for granted.

Slower bowlers like Mohinder Amarnath, Roger Binny etc were very successful in England when the Cup was played there last. Do you think that this time, too, it will be the slower bowlers who will strike gold?

Judging from the past, the English conditions have helped almost everyone depending only on how quick you adjust. But yes, it helps the swing bowlers and those who bowl a little slower more. When you bowl slow, and keep it on a full length, the ball tends to move more. But I feel that more than bowling fast or slow or swing, the important thing will be accuracy. A bowler may swing the ball, but he may be bowling all over the place, in which case it won't do him any good. So, accuracy is the keyword. The most important thing is, we have to get used to the cold conditions fast.

If you were to pick one bowler who you think will be the star of the coming World Cup, who would it be?

It is very difficult to say which fellow is going to do well. You might have a fast bowler getting wickets, but a spinner might also do well, you can't say X will do well or Y will do well. You have to remember that all countries have picked bowlers precisely because they are expected to do well in those conditions.

You have played in England, have you not?

I played for a minor county, yes. That's why I said earlier that almost everyone, players from India, South Africa, Pakistan, wherever, might have played there at some point of the other.

For those conditions, what is a good team composition to have?

At least five top batsmen, and the rest could be all rounders. A wicket-keeper who can keep well and bat a bit, and bowlers who can score a few with the bat, would be ideal for the bottom half of the lineup. The more all-rounders, the better. I think the presence of all-rounders is very important in every team; not one, but three or four of them should be in each lineup. All rounders are people who can do everything, you will contribute through your bowling. And if you notice, most all rounders are very good fielders. Basically, you need people who can do everything. It is a disadvantage to have just four or five specialists in batting or bowling, because they can't do anything else other than what they specialise in. I don't mean that they can't do anything. What I mean is, if a specialist batsman fails, his contribution to the match ends right there. Whereas the all-rounder, if he fails with the bat he will still make up with the ball, and that is why they have an advantage.

There is a point of view that spinners won't do too well in England...

 Anil Kumble
You are talking hypothetically. Cricket is not like that. You cannot say, in cricket, X will not do well or Y will do well. You people always say that spinners may not do well in England, but you never know. Nobody can predict these things, I don't think you can dismiss a spinner in England as useless. No one really knows what kind of bowler, or what kind of bowling combination, will click -- that kind of thing can be thought of only after a team gets there, gets a feel for the conditions and sees how its bowlers go. We all expect and hope that Kumble will do well. He was the highest wicket-taker of the season when he played in the county circuit, but the last tour the Indian team took to England, he was a failure. So you never can tell, really.

Do you expect to see Ramesh bowling in England?

 Sadagopan Ramesh
No, no. He never even bowls for Tamil Nadu. Then where is he going to bowl in international cricket?

How is the preparation phase going for the Indian team, do you think?

I think you need at least a couple of months' preparation. But we have been playing so many games and from now on, we are going to be together. The team is going to England three weeks earlier, I think. So, everybody will get enough match practice. The preparation phase seems to be quite okay, really.

You now have a physical trainer -- when you guys are not playing cricket, does he stay in touch with you, or do you keep contact with him, to fine tune your fitness?

Every player in the side has been playing at this level for a long time, and when you are playing at this level, you have to be fit. You don't need a physio to tell you that you have to be fit to play, or that you can't play if you are not fit -- a cricketer is expected to stay fit all the time, period. He can only fine-tune you, nothing else. Bottomline is it is your responsibility and duty to the country to play only when you are fit.

And Simpson? How much has the consultant coach's presence helped the side?

 Bobby Simpson
He has definitely helped a lot, in terms of diet, aspects of training and techniques.

Care to elaborate?

No, he has helped us a lot, and that's it.

It is said that the Indian team lacks the killer instinct, that it cracks under pressure...

I don't think that is true, that the team lacks the killer instinct. And I think every team cracks under pressure. You take South Africa, you take the West Indies, you take Australia, they have all cracked under pressure at some point of time.

But it is against Pakistan that India always seems to crack...

I think they just love to talk like that, here in India, I don't think that is true.

Coming here from the West Indies, trying to make a second home, how difficult was it?

It was not easy. In India, it is very difficult to adjust because everything is different. The food is different, people's reaction to you, as a foreigner, is not pleasant at times. You have to get used to the language and the people, the playing conditions, all these present problems when you are trying to make a career.

How did you tackle those problems?

Self confidence helps. You have to perform to survive. Unless you perform, you cannot get anything. I'll say, not just perform, you have to perform better in an alien condition, you have to be three, four times more generous too. It doesn't matter whether you get the credit or not. It is for people to see what you are and how good you are. That was not a problem for me. India is a part of me now. Once you take the decision to become a citizen of India, you have accepted everything. Then, why think of anything else?

So from where does the motivation come?

Well, I don't like to do badly, and I don't like people doing better than me. You can't do better than everybody every day. But if you have the mentality to perform better than the others, you will do well most of the time.

Having excelled in soccer and athletics as well, what made you choose cricket?

 Robin Singh
I didn't choose cricket as my career. I came here to study. But I ended up playing cricket. Here everybody plays cricket and in the West Indies, I played cricket too. So, I just continued playing.

Your family is still there, do you miss them?

It is but natural. I used to miss them a lot. But you get used to it. Once you choose something, you try to adjust yourself. It is like going to America. If you ask anyone whether they miss India, they will say, yes. It is natural. You miss your family, you miss the music there...

You lead TN, which players in your side would you pick as bright prospects for the future?

Madanagopal, Simon Ganesh, Rubin Paul are bright prospects. Ramesh has already shown how good he is. Among the bowlers, Kumaran and Mahesh have done well.

You are 35 now, any plans to start a coaching academy, things like that?

I have no plans to start any of those things. I have lot of other things to do, personally. So, I will think about all those things later. As long as I am doing well, I will play. Just because I am 35, why should I stop playing?

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