It is significant that Indian cricket gets set to welcome a medium-paced all-rounder in an important role in the lead-up to the 2022 T20 World Cup.
Only, in this case, the all-rounder will be in a non-playing capacity rather than a starring role on the field. Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid would have much rather welcomed this all-rounder on the field in Australia, because they desperately need such a player.
However, Roger Binny’s appointment as the new BCCI president is a significant move in Indian cricket because it comes at a time when there was a need for a stable face at the top of the order. Binny provides that stability with his calm demeanour and his quiet no frills approach.
Over the past three years the presence of Sourav Ganguly as BCCI president meant that there was always speculation about the way he dealt with former captain Virat Kohli. Two alpha males in significant positions meant that there was always conjecture. It did lead to some drama as well towards the end of 2021, but not anymore.
Binny is a complete antithesis to Ganguly in the way he deals with matters. He maintains a low profile, prefers to smile without ever losing his temper and above all, is considered to be an above-board personality.
He has never got into a scrap with anyone through his four decade plus long association with Indian cricket. Never have we ever heard that Binny has managed to get into a controversy of any kind.
Binny, a Lethal Weapon Overseas
Since his Test debut in 1979-80 against Pakistan at his home ground of Bangalore, Binny has been the quiet operator who always floated under the radar. But somehow Binny remained a key part of India’s golden phase in ODI cricket in the mid 1980s.
India’s first anglo-Indian cricketer to play for the country, Binny was a typical English-styled cricketer. He bowled medium pace and batted adequately. His bowling was ideal for English conditions, in that he could move the ball appreciably and get wickets at will there. Hence when he was picked for the 1983 World Cup, it was a huge hit.
Binny emerged as the highest wicket-taker at the 1983 World Cup and with his bat too could contribute at times. He played a significant part in India winning the 1983 World Cup as finished with 18 scalps.
In fact in the early part of his career, Binny could even open the batting at times. He in fact held a long-standing opening record for Karnataka. His batting coupled with his seam bowling meant that he was a significant member of India’s champion ODI sides from 1983-1987. It was his all-round ability alongside that of the likes of Madan Lal which complemented the extraordinary abilities of the incomparable Kapil Dev.
Later, in 1985 during the World Championship of Cricket in Australia, Binny played a significant part yet again with his bowling. He struck early blows throughout the tournament and played a significant part in India remaining unbeaten in the tournament. On the morning of the final, Binny was down with a flu and hence was replaced by Chetan Sharma, the current chairman of selectors.
Later in 1985-86, when India made a full trip to Australia, Binny played a significant role yet again. He teamed up well with the then skipper Kapil Dev and Chetan Sharma to form a terrific new ball pairing. Even in England in 1986 when India won a Test series there after 15 years, Binny’s bowling played a terrific hand as he struck early blows against a deflated and divided English home side.
Trouble on Home Turf
As cricket started moving homewards, Binny’s effectiveness started reducing significantly. He was half the bowler that he was away from home. This also reflected in India’s performances away from home in ODI cricket, in comparison to those at home
Also in Test cricket, his performances at home was nothing to write home about. His spell of six for 56 against Pakistan in the Kolkata Test of 1986-87 lit up an otherwise dull, drab series. In the fifth and final Test of that series at his beloved Bangalore, Binny tried to revive the chase after Sunil Gavaskar’s masterpiece in his final hurrah. But it was too little too late. Binny’s dismissal as the last man sent Imran Khan and his men to raptures thereby summing up just how deep India batted in those days. That turned out to be Binny’s last-ever Test, he ended as he started at his beloved M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore.
Later in 1987 during the World Cup at home, Binny was part of the squad as the host hoped to rekindle the spirit of 1983. But Binny did not play beyond the opening game against Australia at Chennai, which India lost by a mere run. Throughout the World Cup, he was part of the squad but never came close to being picked. Once the World Cup ended in disaster, Kapil was sacked as captain, Binny was dropped and the direction of Indian cricket changed significantly.
He did come close to making a comeback when he was picked as one of the 23 probable players to tour the West Indies in March 1989. He was even called to a camp, but once he was not picked Binny left it mid-way, leading to probably the only controversy in his long career!
Later he gave a tell-all interview to Sportsworld in a March 1989 issue, where he basically took on all his former teammates. It was a significant interview, but it did not leave Binny with any repercussions.
He did carry on playing for Karnataka till 1991-92, but it was without much of a splash.
Second Innings in Cricket
Thereon, the former World Cup star faded into oblivion post that, only to emerge as India Under-19 coach. Under his stewardship India won the 2000 U-19 World Cup under Mohammed Kaif where the likes of Yuvraj Singh emerged. Binny later also did work as India A coach. He did some work at Bengal as their coach as well in later years.
Finally, in his last stint, Binny became a national selector in 2012. It was interesting that Binny’s rise as national selector coincided with his son, Stuart, staking claim at the highest level. However, whenever Stuart’s name came up for discussion, the senior Binny would recuse himself for purposes of probity.
Now a decade later, Binny is back in Indian cricket’s discussions but for a much bigger role than before. Over the next three years, if Binny will manage to have the same impact in white ball formats that he had during his playing days, Indian cricket would emerge as a champion side that we have longed for over the past nine years.
Binny likes to take off into the forest whenever he is free to be away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. If he achieves even half of what he did during his playing days, as BCCI president, Indian cricket fans would gladly back his holidays in the wild for a quiet getaway!
(Chandresh Narayanan is a former cricket writer with The Times of India, The Indian Express, ex-Media Officer for ICC, and the Delhi Daredevils. He is also the author of World Cup Heroes, Cricket Editorial consultant, a professor and cricket TV commentator.)