The 36th president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) can be called ‘Ajaatshatru’ in one word — a person without any enemies.
While in terms of pure cricketing achievements, he would be miles ahead of his immediate predecessor Sourav Ganguly, but viewed in isolation, the reserved man from Bengaluru has no shortage of pedigree and can be quietly assertive as and when he wants to .
The BCCI could not have had a better choice as player administrator at the helm than Binny, who will easily go down in the history of Indian cricket as one of the hardest working, most honest cricketers to grace the game.
In his nearly four-and-a-half-decade association with the sport, Binny earned only friends – as a state-level player in a star-studded Karnataka team that had stars like Gundappa Viswanath, Erapalli Prasanna, Syed KirmaniBrijesh Patel, AV Jayaprakash in its ranks.
He was a hugely popular member of the 1980s Indian team where he and Madan Lal did play a supporting role to Kapil Dev’s batting action for a good seven to eight years.
He had his moments under the sun for the Indian team and the 1983 World Cup was as much his crowning glory as it was for Kapil Dev, Sandeep Patil and Yashpal Sharma.
But perhaps, like some of his 83 teammates, who despite far fewer achievements compared to him, wear the star on their sleeves like there’s no tomorrow, Binny’s grace was his subtlety.
Imposition has never been his forte, but getting the job done has indeed been his forte.
How revered and loved Binny was can be gauged from one story his ’83 teammate Sunil Valson once told PTI.
“Roger had an injury during the 83 World Cup and I was supposed to play one of the games. On the morning of the game there was a fitness test and the way Roger was sprinting I knew he would play .
“Although I felt bad for myself, you couldn’t feel bad for Roger, who was the nicest person you’d meet,” said Valson, who despite being a mean left-arm fast medium, missed out on India .
He came in as a heavily built six-footer, who was a mean swing bowler but also opened the batting for Karnataka at the same time. Due to his large girth and imposing lower body, fans used to jokingly call him “Jack Fruit”.
Ravi Shastri on Roger Binny as BCCI President
In England he was deceptive with his movement in the air and as always was a supporting hero with seven wickets in the 1986 Test match at Headingley, more remembered for one of the greatest Test centuries by Dilip Vengsarkar.
His opening partnership of 451 with Sanjay Desai against Kerala in the 1977-78 was a world record for the longest in first-class cricket.
He was a specialist opener, who had to come in at No.8 or sometimes even No.9 in Test matches as it was difficult to sneak into the top six, which players like Sunil GavaskarAnshuman Gaikwad, Dilip Vengsarkar, Mohinder Amarnath, Kapil Dev and Ravi Shastri.
Despite being an effective swing bowler, Binny’s Test career never took off. Just 47 wickets from 27 Tests never depicted his true quality.
Perhaps the lack of pace and India playing for draws on bare pitches proved to be Binny’s undoing, except for one night in 1987 when the famous evening River Hooghly breeze blowing across Eden Gardens saw him wreak havoc against Imran Khan’s Pakistan bowling from the Supreme Court.
Those 6/56 were his best ever figures in Test cricket and incidentally came in his last series.
Very few people know that Sunil Gavaskar’s last Test match was also Binny’s last in the long format game for India. The only difference was that Gavaskar announced his retirement and Binny was dropped after being given a total of three overs to bowl in an entire Test by captain Kapil Dev.
He couldn’t help it because it was Chinnaswamy’s worst ever track on which Gavaskar’s 96 became part of cricketing folklore and a masterclass in how to play on tracks that could best be described as snake pits.
By the end of that year, Binny’s international career was over after the first match of the 1987 World Cup where he was literally hammered by a young pair of Geoff Marsh and David Boon.
He went on to play Ranji Trophy for a few more years and as a seasoned captain he led a team that had some of the brightest future stars of Indian cricket – Rahul Dravid, Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad to name a few mention.
In an old interaction, Dravid recalled Binny giving him an India shirt from one of his tours, something that boosted a young man’s confidence immensely.
When he was named the coach of the Indian U-19 team in 2000, he was only 45 years old and more like a friend and confidant to the likes of Mohammed Kaif, Reetinder Singh Sodhi, Yuvraj Singh, all of whom were part of that first ever championship team.
Typically in an understated manner, Binny stayed away from the limelight and let the Yuvrajs and Kaifs enjoy their first brush with stardom.
He became Bengal’s Ranji coach at a time when it was going through a transitional phase with many seniors on the decline.
Because of his gentle nature, he could probably never impose strict disciplinary measures on players. He wanted them to play touch rugby, but they insisted on playing soccer as a warm-up routine.
He became national selector in 2012 but had to give up his position in his third year after Lodha Committee’s ‘conflict of interest’ clause created confusion.
The reason for this is that his son Stuart, himself a decent all-rounder, is in national contention.
Sunil Gavaskar wrote in one of his columns that he asked Roger and was told that he always recused himself whenever Stuart’s name came up for discussion. But he had to quit more because of perception than propriety.
As KSCA president, insiders say he largely let secretary Santosh Menon run the show, but in the last 6-8 months, he involved himself more in administrative matters.
Call it destiny, it is his old friend Brijesh Patel and Tamil Nadu strongman N Srinivasan, who engineered his rise to the top job with only three years of his administrative career left.