13 Questions with Robin Singh

Robin Singh is no stranger to international cricket and coaching. For those who just woke up from a 15-year hibernation, Singh is the Trinidad & Tobago-born man who migrated to India at age 18 to study Economics. He is now a former India cricketer and world-famous coach for his works with India and Mumbai Indians, alongside the great Sachin Tendulkar, amongst many other international stars.

As a player for India, Singh was known mainly for his superb fielding, aggressive batting, very capable of bringing home many India matches, and solid leadership.

Singh’s international coaching career began with the Hong Kong national team in 2004, followed by India A in 2006 before being named the fielding coach in 2007 for the India national team. Since then, he has coached the Deccan Chargers in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and most notably, he led the Mumbai Indians team to the coveted Champions League T20 2011 championship title.

He made his USA coaching debut with the U-19 boys earlier this year in the Division I ICC Americas championship. The U-19 team qualified for the World Cup Qualifier in Ireland, but failed to seal a spot in the World Cup. Notwithstanding, he was given his second coaching assignment in the USA with the women’s team headed for the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier in Bangladesh. Singh met the women for the first time in Bangladesh, seven days before the start of the tournament. USA women finished 8th out of 10 teams with 1 win against Zimbabwe and missed the opportunity to earn ODI-status by victory in one game against hosts, Bangladesh. This was Singh’s first assignment with women’s cricket in his nine-year coaching history.

See what the Mumbai Indian’s head coach had to say in this exclusive interview with USAWomensCricket.com.

Pic (Right): USA Women’s coach Robin Singh 

What are your overall impressions of USA’s performance in the recently concluded ICC World Cup Qualifier?

The performance of the team was better than what is seen on paper. There are lots of positives going forward. The potential and passion is very evident among the players. To win against a test-playing nation and last the distances against the opposition was very commendable.

What improvement, if any, did you see in the team over the 3-week period?

The team started coming to terms with the standard of cricket that was required to play against the better opposition. The feeling of being over-awed was gone. Self-belief was more evident and players felt that they could challenge the best. The team started working together more and was more supportive to its fellow players. The “work ethics” became better; assessing the opposition and planning better as a team also improved. Understanding the styles of the coaches and working with us coaches greatly improved. Over time, players honestly felt that there was a  realistic chance of qualifying for ODI status at the least. Players started enjoying the the game and the overall experience at the highest level of competition.

How did you feel about meeting the team for the first time one week before the tournament on your maiden coaching job with women?

Meeting the players was a cool experience. I did some background work on all players. I had to observe people first-hand and then make an assessment based on my knowledge and experiences. Most people did not know what to expect. I knew it was going to be a challenging assignment but I was up for it. I enjoy challenges and under the circumstances and build-up to this tour, the coaching staff had a tough task ahead.

What were your thoughts on women’s cricket before and after this tournament?

I always felt that women’s cricket needed more prominence in order to encourage more women to take up the sport. At the tournament, I’ve seen the enthusiasm and interest by the women and think that there needs to be more exciting events happening for women’s cricket to help them raise the standard of play and attract more people. Lots of my friends’ daughters play the sport in school. Exposure at the school level is very important and of course, learning the game at a young age helps.

Since USA has a long cricket background, it is critical to use it to its advantage. Teams like Holland lack that history and yet they’ve managed to build their resources. The use of experienced women cricketers to promote the sport with home grown talent should be one of the priorities, along with encouraging the youths with a cricket background to continue playing the game.

The number of dot balls for USA batswomen were astronomical throughout the tournament. Why do you think this happened?

Dot balls are the norm in this format of the game. Many players in the world of cricket are unable to change that for several reasons:

  • Lack of good competition (at home).
  • Playing on small grounds, players hit fours and singles become non-existent. The modern day format of twenty-twenty encourages big-hitting and players forget the importance of singles.
  • Field settings are very crowded in the inner ring and getting ones are a problem.
  • Skill levels do not allow one to maneuver the ball around so the game remains one-dimensional.
  • Playing under pressure causes players to freeze and lose their natural game.
  • Lack of planning against the bowlers.
  • Lack of power to hit over the top and open more gaps on the field. The list goes on.

 ICC Post-Tournament Interview with Robin Singh

What did the team do differently against Zimbabwe to come away with a W?

Against Zimbabwe the team peaked. There was more self belief and two good partnerships in Shebani and Nadia, and Ana and Sara in the end. Triholder bowled really well and got three wickets; the fielding was better; and the field-setting was better. Most importantly, USA never gave up till the game ended.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on tour while working with the ladies?

The biggest challenge was getting the field-setting right on the ground. Half the battle is won with smart field-setting at this level. Also, making players believe that they could stand up to the opposition, instilling self-belief, and getting players to improve and adapt to cricket in the Asian conditions.

If you could have a “do-over” of this experience, what would you do differently?

Definitely I would have done some things differently if it was possible. I would have had a longer camp; more practice matches against good teams; probably an overseas tour in similar conditions, preferably on the Asian continent so players will know what to expect; and special training programs designed for each player. It would have been a learning experience for all.

What pointers do you have for women cricketers in the United States?

Set your own goals and standards; dream big. Do not wait for something to happen. Help yourself, improve your own game, and work on your fitness. Stop making excuses, pick up the pieces and keep moving forward. Play more matches against better teams. Re-assess your success and failures so you can stay in the zone. Plan your time better and have quality practice.

Will you be willing to continue working in women’s cricket?

If given the opportunity, I will love to help USA Women’s Cricket get to the top.
What coaching certifications do you have?
Level III. I topped my class in India but importantly, it is only a guideline. There is a lot more to coaching than holding a certificate. You have to have all-round exposure apart from cricket. Playing other sports and interacting with other sports helps while coaching. Player management is key to succeed.
How many years have you been coaching?

I have been coaching for nine years at the international, national, zonal, state, and club levels.

Which teams have you coached?
I have coached at the National Cricket Academy (in India), national zonal teams, India U-19, India A, India, Hong Kong for three years, USA U-19, and USA Women. I am also the director of MAC Spin Foundation where we develop young spinners for the state and country, run by the former president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Dr. Ashwin C Muthaia. I’ve also done numerous camps for schools and universities.
Thank you coach Singh. We look forward to speaking with you in the future!

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