Cricketer, gentleman, and “Ajaatshatru”—that’s Roger Binny.
If the BCCI had created an annual award for a “Gentleman Cricketer” in the 1980s, Roger Michael Humphrey Binny may have been a frontrunner every year. One word sums up the 36th president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI): “Ajaatshatru.”
While his immediate predecessor Sourav Ganguly would have a far longer list of pure cricketing triumphs to his name, the shy man from Bengaluru isn’t short on lineage and can be quietly forceful when he wants to be. Binny, who will forever be remembered as one of the most dedicated and ethical cricketers in Indian history, was the best possible option to lead the BCCI’s player administration.
Binny has been playing cricket for about 45 years, and in that time he has made nothing but friends. He played for the state team Karnataka with legends like as Gundappa Viswanath, Erapalli Prasanna, Syed Kirmani, Brijesh Patel, and AV Jayaprakash. He and Madan Lal were two of the most beloved members of the Indian squad throughout the 1980s, when they provided backing for Kapil Dev’s strike bowling act. For the Indian team, he had his moments in the spotlight, and the 1983 World Cup was just as much a triumph for him as it was for Kapil Dev, Sandeep Patil, or Yashpal Sharma.
Binny’s grace, though, may have been his understatement, unlike other of his 83 batch-mates who, despite far less successes than him, wear the celebrity on their sleeves like there’s no tomorrow. His weaknesses lie in the area of imposing his will on others, while his strengths lie in the area of getting things done. It is possible to get a sense of just how beloved Binny was by reading a story that his colleague from the year 1983, Sunil Valson, told to PTI. Roger was injured at the 1983 World Cup, and I was called upon to fill in for him in one of the games. A fitness test was held the morning of the game, and based on the way Roger ran, I knew he would play. “Although I felt bad for myself, you couldn’t feel bad for Roger, who was the sweetest human being you would come across,” said Valson, who, despite being a mean left-arm fast medium, missed out on India. A powerful six-footer who started the batting for Karnataka and bowled nasty swing, he was a welcome addition to the team. His massive midsection and powerful lower half earned him the nickname “Jack Fruit” from his adoring public of the era.
He was a tricky bowler in the air for England and, as usual, played a supporting role with seven wickets in the 1986 Test match at Headingley, which is more known for one of the best Test hundreds by Dilip Vengsarkar. For quite some time, his 451-run opening stand with Sanjay Desai against Kerala in 1977-78 stood as a first-class cricket record. The likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Anshuman Gaikwad, Dilip Vengsarkar, Mohinder Amarnath, Kapil Dev, and Ravi Shastri made it tough to crack the top six in Test matches, where he was required to bat as low as number eight or nine as a specialist opener. Binny’s Test career never got off despite the fact that he was a competent swing bowler. His paltry 27 Tests and 47 wickets never did justice to his true talent. Perhaps the absence of speed and India settling for draws on barren grounds ultimately doomed Binny, with the exception of one evening in 1987 when the legendary evening River Hooghly breeze sweeping over Eden Gardens helped him wreak havoc against Imran Khan’s Pakistan bowling from the High Court End.
It was in his final series that he posted his greatest Test cricket stats, a 6/56.
Fewer yet are aware that Binny also played his final long-format game for India on the same day as Sunil Gavaskar’s final Test match. Just that Gavaskar had declared his retirement and Binny had been dropped after bowling only three overs in an entire Test for Kapil Dev. Gavaskar’s 96, which became a part of cricketing mythology and a tutorial in how to play on wickets that can be best characterised as snake pits, occurred on the worst ever pitch at Chinnaswamy, so he couldn’t help. By the end of 1987, Binny’s international career had come to an end as he was beaten badly by youthful players Geoff Marsh and David Boon in the opening game of the World Cup.
He kept playing Ranji Trophy for a while, and as a seasoned skipper he oversaw a side that included future Indian cricket greats like Rahul Dravid, Javagal Srinath, and Venkatesh Prasad. Once upon a time, Dravid and Binny had met, and Binny had given Dravid an India jersey from one of his trips, which Dravid remembered as having done wonders for his self-esteem at the time. In 2000, at the tender age of 45, he was selected coach of the India Under-19 team and quickly became a trusted advisor to players such as Mohammed Kaif, Reetinder Singh Sodhi, and Yuvraj Singh.
Binny, ever the humbler person, chose to stay out of the spotlight and let the Yuvrajs and Kaifs experience fame for the first time without him. He took over as Bengal’s Ranji coach just as the team’s senior leadership was beginning to thin out. It’s likely that, due to his kind character, he would be unable to implement tough disciplinary measures on the team’s players. While he preferred that they warm up with a game of touch Rugby, the group instead opted to play football. He was appointed national selector in 2012, but resigned in his third year due to the ambiguity surrounding the ‘Conflict of Interest’ rule established by the Lodha Committee. Because his son Stuart, an adequate performer in all areas, is vying for a spot on the national team. In one of his pieces, Sunil Gavaskar reported that he had asked Roger about Stuart and been informed that he always stepped off from the conversation. Even though he wasn’t necessarily doing anything wrong, he had to leave because of how people would see him.
According to those familiar with the situation, as president of the KSCA, he had previously left secretary Santosh Menon handle most of the day-to-day operations, but he has recently been more actively involved in administrative concerns. He had just three years remaining in his administrative career when his old buddy Brijesh Patel and the strongman of Tamil Nadu, N Srinivasan, arranged his rise to the top office.