IPL 2020: Robin Singh returns to UAE duties after understated role in Mumbai Indians' title triumph

National team head coach has experienced an odd tenure to date, caused by Covid-related restrictions and postponements

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If the UAE’s leading cricketers ever had any lingering doubts as to the credentials of their head coach, they will have wanted to have had their TVs on the cricket channel on Tuesday night.

As the gilded stars of Mumbai Indians started the party after their fifth IPL title in eight seasons, one of the few permanent fixtures of their setup strolled around contentedly in the background.

In the aftermath of the five-wicket win over Delhi Capitals, the TV crew did manage to cadge Robin Singh, Mumbai’s batting coach, for an interview.

Hands in his pockets, and attempting to deflect to his co-interviewee, Kieron Pollard, as often as possible, he did not seem overly willing to chat.

His answers were softly spoken, his demeanour understated. So much so that Ian Bishop and Simon Doull in the commentary box had to ask Pollard instead whether they expected to get much party out of him.

Off camera, Hardik Pandya chimed in with an answer. “He celebrates and then goes to the gym at 6am,” Pandya, the flamboyant Mumbai allrounder, said.

Pollard elaborated. “As West Indians, we tend to want to celebrate in front of everybody, but he is a different West Indian now,” Pollard said of Singh, who played 137 times for India, but was born in Trinidad.

“He has been out of the Caribbean for a very long time. He keeps it pretty subtle, but when he goes in the dressing room, we do celebrate. Then he gets back to the gym in the morning.”

When everyone else heads back to India, or to the other various points around the world they jetted in from, Singh will stay exactly where he is.

Mumbai’s title was sealed at Dubai International Stadium, which is just down the road from where he has an office, as the head coach of the UAE national team.

Saurabh Tiwary of Mumbai Indians Anukul Roy of Mumbai Indians during the final match of season 13 of the Dream 11 Indian Premier League (IPL) between the Mumbai Indians and the Delhi Capitals at the Dubai International stadium, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on the 10th November 2020.  Photo by: Rahul Goyal  / Sportzpics for BCCI
Robin Singh, right, watches the IPL 2020 final unfold in his role as Mumbai Indians' batting coach. Sportzpics for BCCI

Before the IPL season started, he had been overseeing a low-key, 10-over competition for domestic cricketers at this same ground. The number of people in attendance was about the same, although the global TV audience was slightly different.

Even then, he preferred to be in the background, sat on a step trying to stay away from idle conversation, so he could focus on the cricket instead.

It has been nine months now since he was appointed as Dougie Brown's successor for the UAE.

Fair to say, it has been an odd tenure to date, with much of it spent monitoring his new charges remotely, having initially been stuck in India due to Covid-enforced travel restrictions, then, for the past two months, because of his IPL commitments.

Now he will set about preparing the UAE for whatever challenges come next. How the competitions calendar will look remains unclear because of Covid.

It does seem probable the next assignment for the national team will be a limited-overs triangular series against Scotland and Ireland in Abu Dhabi next month.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: Paul Radley. Sport. Cricket. UAE coach Robin Singh before the game between ECB Blues and Fujairah in the final of the Emirates D10. Friday, August 7th, 2020. Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
UAE coach Robin Singh before the game between ECB Blues and Fujairah in the final of the Emirates D10. Chris Whiteoak / The National

That will be a tough test against sides who have each taken wins off world champions England in the recent past.

Singh, though, will be up for the challenge. He has recent form for inverting expectations. Two of the outstanding players in Mumbai’s title winning campaign were, after all, the unheralded and uncapped Indians Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav – which is a tick in the box for their batting coach.

“It is always nice to be behind the scenes and contribute what you can to someone’s success,” Singh said on his TV interview.

“It feels really good when you see young guys actually stepping up to play. This year they took on most of the responsibility in the middle, as well as Polly and Hardik.”