In a major announcement made on Wednesday, the Emirates Cricket Board presented Robin Singh as the ‘new face’ of UAE cricket.
The former India all-rounder will take up the dual responsibilities of the head coach of the men’s team, while also serving as the new director of cricket for all age groups in the UAE. With Singh coming in, it signals the end of Dougie Brown’s tenure as head coach of the UAE with the Scotsman being let go after a three-year spell.
Singh brings with him extensive coaching experience, the former India man having previously coached the national teams of Hong Kong and United States. He has also had stints as head coach of India Under-19s and India A, along with fielding coach duties with the senior India men’s team.
The 56-year-old has held several coaching jobs at the franchise cricket level and worked in the Indian Premier League, Caribbean Premier League, Bangladesh Premier League and the Abu Dhabi T10 among others. More recently, he led the Northern Warriors to the Abu Dhabi T10 and had achieved the same result with Kerala Kings in the previous edition (2018).
Despite taking on his latest challenge with the UAE, Singh will continue to perform his current role with Mumbai Indians in the IPL.
“I have given up most of the other commitments that I had. The only commitment I still have is the IPL, which I have already spoken about with the board before my appointment,” Singh told reporters at ICC Academy.
“We think that is actually beneficial for UAE cricket. My whole idea about doing that is to see how we can engage UAE cricket and integrate them with the IPL team I am involved with.
“I have already had this conversation with them, let us wait and see if we can do something together.”
Singh inherits an UAE team which narrowly missed out on qualification for the 2020 T20I World Cup in Australia and is currently involved in the World Cricket League Two. The World Cricket League Two fixtures serve as the pathway to qualification for the 2023 World Cup in India in a series tri-nation fixtures leading up to January 2022.
The top three teams in the league will advance to the final Qualifier for the 2023 World Cup. So far, the UAE have won three of their seven matches in the league and sit in fifth spot in the table.
Their next engagement comes in April in Florida, where they will take on hosts USA and Scotland in the tri-nation series.
“I think there are a few challenges that I have seen when I was trying to do a bit of research on the team and where it is at the moment,” Singh said.
“We seem to be lacking in going beyond 200-220 kind of totals – that is one of the things that I have seen. Maybe look at the wicketkeeper since we have a very young wicketkeeper (Vriitya Aravind) with not too much experience currently.
“So that is one space we probably need to fill.
“I think they (UAE) have a good bowling attack, probably need to pick up on the fielding and see how we can qualify in the top two teams going forward. Once we sit down with the team, the management, we can look at strategies.
“I already have a strategy in mind, but it needs to be synchronised with the players in the team. Once we do that, we can look at the 2023 World Cup.”
UAE skipper Ahmed Raza has welcomed Singh’s appointment, believing the recent emergence of youngsters make for exciting times for the team.
“He is a guy who has a lot of titles under his belt, and he has played for India, which is no small feat. I think his knack of picking up titles will work very much in our favour,” Raza stated.
“I think it is a great place to be in, to be honest. I used to be the youngest player in the squad for a number of years and now we have guys who are probably half of my age. I think these are exciting times, one of the best times for UAE cricket.
“He has been a part of the CPL and the IPL. That is obviously going to be very beneficial for us as players. He could actually work as a scout also for us, maybe he could pick a few players to go to the CPL and that would be a great experience. We could then come back and help UAE cricket.”
The 31-year-old all-rounder also had high praise for outgoing head coach Dougie Brown.
“It has been a great journey with Dougie,” said Raza.
“He was with us for about three years or so and we had some great results. We have beaten a Test playing nation in ODIs (Zimbabwe) and we have beaten a Test playing nation in T20s (Ireland). With all the ups and downs we have had in this three-year journey, he has been brilliant.”
Singh, meanwhile, emphasised the need to instil a winning culture in the UAE team, while spelling out his priorities as the new director of cricket.
“I think it is important that we have continuity, not just from a coaching perspective, but also from the players’ perspective,” he explained.
“It is important that we have the young people stay on here. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges.
“The ones who are here, we have to find a way and a mechanism to keep them here.
“Obviously, this is a very expensive country to live, a lot of people come here to work.
“That is a reality of the place and we need to understand that before we go into any other issues. It is up to be to provide the balance and comfort level for the guys who are playing the sport here, to remain over here.
“We need to provide them with a platform so that they go on playing the game for a long time.
“One of the things that I want to emphasize here, that it is very difficult to play for any country. A lot of the people playing here, they aspire to play for India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, England, Australia and so on.
“I think it is very important to embrace the fact that we are playing for the UAE.
“Once you are here, the opportunity is here, it is not in India or Pakistan or any other place. I think it is very important to get the factor into people’s head, that it is the opportunity of a lifetime for play for a country.
“Also, with a lot of emphasis on franchise cricket, it is a pathway for guys to play the next level of cricket, which is the dream for most people.”
“Of course, everyone dreams of representing their respective country, where they were born at. I think you need to embrace the fact that you play for the UAE,” the Trinidad and Tobago-born man continued.
“I want to bring a winning culture here. I don’t believe that in the sport of cricket, we should be satisfied to lose or to compete.
“That is not my forte because there is no second best in playing a sport. Nobody gives you accolades for being second best.
“At the end of the day, the culture is to think and respect the fact that you are living in this country. You need to think that this is your country.
“If we can get that into our mindsets, I think a lot of things will change.”
The expectations from the seasoned coach are many, and the UAE will hope that the India man can deliver on his promise as he embarks on the latest journey of his cricketing story.
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