Robin Singh Jr. played a solitary Test, in which he took three wickets, but was never recalled © Getty Images
Robin Singh Junior © Getty Images

Robin Singh Junior, born January 1, 1970, was a fast-medium bowler who could generate decent pace and movement off the surface. He played a solitary Test, in which he took three wickets, but was never recalled. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at a career that faded out amidst stiff competition.

Though the more famous Robin Singh’s full name was Ravindra Ramnarayan Singh, he was invariably referred to by his nickname. This meant that Robin Singh (who was officially called Robin Singh), that Delhi new-ball bowler for Delhi, had to carry along the suffix Junior throughout his career. Interestingly, both Robin Singh and Robin Singh Jr played exactly one Test apiece, and won consecutive Test caps for India (217 and 218, respectively), thus making the name Robin Singh a quizmaster’s delight.

Robin Singh Jr was a probing Delhi seamer, and was often considered a probable for an India slot. However, while Venkatesh Prasad, Ajit Agarkar, Abey Kuruvilla, Dodda Ganesh, and Debasis Mohanty were all tried out, Robin Singh Jr did not get his Test cap till he was 29.

Robin played for only seven seasons, but his numbers were impressive: he had 149 wickets (with 12 five-fors) from 45 matches at 26.55.Starting as a first-change bowler, Robin became Atul Wassan’s new-ball partner once Manoj Prabhakar quit, and continued to spearhead the Delhi attack even after the arrival of Ashish Nehra(a man he mentored) and Amit Bhandari.

Route to the Test cap

Robin’s debut came in the Ranji Trophy quarter-final of 1994-95, against Bengal. He took a mere 2 wickets, but sent down 33 overs in Bengal’s only innings. In his next match, against Haryana the following season, Robin took 7 for 53 and 2 for 38. In the season after that, he got 6 for 80 against Punjab and 5 for 52 against Haryana.

Delhi reached the final that season, but were duly beaten by Mumbai.Robin was drafted in for Challenger Trophy 1997-98, and took consecutive six-wicket hauls in Ranji Trophy that winter. With Javagal Srinath ruled out of action with a rotator calf injury, at least one seamer’s slot in the national side was up for grabs.

The advent of Agarkar spoiled Robin’s chances more than anything else. However, he clung to his task. A spectacular display came for India A on their Netherlands tour of 1997-98, where he claimed 7 for 23 and 5 for 23. Netherlands A folded for 56 and 95.

In between all this, Robin’s colleague Raman Lamba passed away following an on-field injury in Bangladesh. The incident affected Robin significantly. A student of Robin, Sushant Sharma wrote in Sportskeeda: “After Raman passed away, he was motivated to play more and give his absolute best on the field, which is why he slowly started getting recognised in India.”

Robin peaked in 1998-99 with 3 consecutive five-wicket hauls. This included 5 for 61 and 5 for 26 against Services, his only ten-for. He made it to India A, and claimed 4 for 83 when West Indies A toured India. That winter he was picked for India’s tour of New Zealand, mostly as backup for a rejuvenated Srinath, and Prasad and Mohanty.

Going places

The first match against Central Districts was an indifferent one, but Robin did a good job against Wellington, taking 4 for 75 in the match. Trailing by 49, the tourists bowled out the hosts for 124, and won comfortably.

The Dunedin Test had been washed off without a ball being bowled, and Simon Doull’s first-innings haul of 7 for 65 had given New Zealand a 1-0 lead at Wellington, where India had opted for both Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. In the third Test at Hamilton, India replaced Harbhajan with Robin.

The Test began in dramatic fashion, with Srinath removing Matthew Bell and Stephen Fleming in the first over. The score read 0 for 2, but Roger Twose (86) held fort while Craig McMillan (92) counterattacked; and though Prasad chipped in with two wickets, New Zealand piled up the runs.

Robin removed Chris Cairns and Paul Wiseman, and finished with 2 for 74. They finished with 366. India were reduced to 211 for 7, but Rahul Dravid (190) then added 144 with Srinath (76) and Prasad (30*).Dravid was ninth out, which brought Robin to the crease. It took Cairns 2 balls to remove him for a duck.

New Zealand went flat out in search of runs. Once again McMillan went berserk before being caught-behind off Robin for 84. With Cairns scoring 126, New Zealand set India 415. India finished on 249 for 2 with Dravid scoring 103* — his second hundred of the Test — and Sourav Ganguly, 101*.

Later years

That year’s Ranji Trophy fetched Robin 23 wickets at 17.08. His numbers across the last three seasons read 74 wickets at 22.73, but then — out of nowhere — he quit First-Class cricket. He finished as vice-captain of Delhi.

He never played another Test.With Srinath going strong and Prasad, Mohanty, and Agarkar all in the side or thereabouts, he did not really stand a chance. With young Nehra coming good and Zaheer Khan arriving on the scenario, Robin was forgotten for good.

He later told Sportskeeda: “Main 28 saal ka ho gaya tha.Mera us time par career banana mushkil tha; aur tujhe bhi pata hoga politics chalte hain.” (I was already 28. It was very difficult for me to build a career after that age; you are also aware of the politics involved in all this.)

Following retirement, Robin became a coach, and earned a reputation for being a strict disciplinarian. He also became a commentator for All India Radio, and worked as tax inspector for Income Tax Department, New Delhi.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry and CricLife. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)