Robin Singh: Bumrah reminds me of Balaji

Robin Singh said Jasprit Bumrah has come back strong after suffering an ankle injury last year. The former all-rounder also spoke on all-rounders in India, the U-19 World Cup, World T20, and much more.

All-rounder Robin Singh has played over 100 ODIs for India and is now coaching Hong Kong.   -  K. V. Srinivasan

Robin Singh’s cricketing ken stands to be penned. What, with a life of play and make play, the Hong Kong, India, USA women’s cricket teams, not to mention a fair few from the global T20 leagues. But does he intend to? “I’ve given it a fair bit of thought. If I do, I promise it would be different from the other books on cricket.”

He, at the MoneyGram ‘Bowling Challenge’ here, agreed for a brief chat with Sportstar.

Excerpts:

How do you think India will fare in the upcoming World T20? Is it one of the favourites?

India is one of the favourites without a doubt. From my personal experience, I’ve sensed that the other teams find it difficult to adjust to the conditions here. Most of the countries actually fear playing in India, especially playing India in India.

How do you see India’s performance in T20s after its title triumph in 2007?

I think T20 cricket is something that we’ve probably played better than any other team. It’s more skill-based. It’s that kind of a format in which you just don’t turn up and play the game. You need to have the required skill-set and be able to execute them. India has always had the skills.

What are your thoughts on the current set of Indian fast bowlers and the pre-dominantly spin-friendly wickets on offer here?

I think we have good bowlers. It just has to be made sure that they are used for the right formats. We’ve had bowlers like Kapil Dev, Srinath and Zaheer Khan. The current lot is decent. What’s important is to keep producing more fast bowlers. There’s always demand for fast bowlers in this part of the world. The wickets in India have traditionally been conducive to spin. But what needs to be done, is to prepare wickets that encourage the fast bowlers and improve the quality of batsmen against fast bowling.

Do you think India’s been relatively struggling in Tests?

We are not struggling but there’s room for improvement.

What about Dhoni’s captaincy which has come under increased criticism of late…

Relentless criticism has to stop and Dhoni needs to be given credit for what he has done. He has taken Indian cricket to another level.

Your views on Jasprit Bumrah… He seems to have developed quite well…

He was an unknown entity when we picked him (for Mumbai Indians). He suffered an ankle injury last year but has come back really strong. He’s a very skilful bowler. He reminds me a lot of Lakshmipathy Balaji. Balaji was skilful yet picked up injuries often. Bumrah has to focus more on keeping himself fit.

How would you rate the fielding of the current Indian team if calibrated with that of an Australia or a South Africa which have traditionally been known as good fielding sides?

I think we are right up there with most of the top fielding teams today. What is important, and also something that I would like to see, is for the players to try and hit the stumps more often. That’s one area we miss out a lot on especially in close games. It proved crucial even in the most recent one-day series in Australia.

Why is it that India’s been unable to keep coming with a Kapil Dev-like all-rounder?

To be an all-rounder is very difficult. One needs to work hard and be more focused than the others. We’ve had players perform in phases and in specific conditions. I think the players quickly make a choice and compromise on an aspect to survive. It’s a time-consuming process; doesn’t happen overnight.

What do you make of the India U-19 team that finished runner-up in the recent World Cup in Bangladesh?

It’s a good side. It needs to be understood that it’s not always about winning. It is also about identifying talented players for the future. I think we’ve got quite a few. Off-note, it was heartening to see the West Indies U-19 team perform well.

As a coach, how different and challenging is it to guide a fringe team like Hong Kong?

Coaching smaller teams is more difficult and challenging. It’s more of man-management with the big teams since they are already quite well-set. Whereas, the smaller teams need to be skilled and instilled with confidence. And when such a team is elevated to play at a more competitive level, it stands to gain more out of that exposure. I prefer to coach younger and smaller sides since the results are definitive.

Talking about fringe teams, what’s your take on the ICC’s deliberation over reducing the number of teams to participate in the next World Cup?

It’s disappointing. When we talk about developing or globalising the sport, it’s about having more teams. Look at football, for instance. We want quality teams, agreed. But you can’t be discouraging the fringe teams. What is the future of those cricketing nations if they don’t get an opportunity to play in the World Cup?

Lastly, a word on Chennai that’s been deprived of World T20 and IPL action…

Chennai has always been like home for me. I’m disappointed. It’s very sad considering that Chennai is one place where cricket following is wide and religious. It’s also unfortunate that there’s no CSK in the IPL. Also, I was disappointed that Tamil Nadu did not advance to the next stage in the Ranji Trophy this season.