It is perhaps an indisputable truth that certain players are born to excel in a particular sport but are destined to be overshadowed by a fellow contemporary. Take Mane Garrincha for instance- An exuberant artist on the field who could compel you to swoon over his game. In fact, Brazil never lost a game when Garrincha and Pele featured in the same line-up.Garrincha’s astonishing dribbling skills coupled with Pele’s keen eye for goal made Brazil one of the stoutest forces to reckon with through the 1960s and the early 1970s. Many critics even hailGarrincha as a superior player than Pele for the former’s ability to set up goals for the Brazilian No. 10, a stimulus without which the latter could have scored fewer goals than his 77 in the ‘yellow and green’ outfit the sixties decade. Statistics however do not miss a single occasion to play ‘spoilsport’. Pele’s charisma and superior figures always tend to outshine and outdo Garrincha’s mediocre ‘goal scoring prowess’ albeit the latter’s competence in assisting on goals. It seems as though Garrincha was fated to perennially struggle in a quest for vindicating his countenance in the realms of football across generations.
The dominance of the West Indies cricket team in the 1970s confronts us with a scenario which is akin to the example cited above. In a match where a certain gentleman named Vivian Richards looked fragile and brittle against the terrifying spin trio of Bedi, Prasanna and Chandrasekhar in Bangalore in 1974, his fellow countryman Cuthbert Gordon Greenidge scored 93 and 107 in the first and second innings respectively, which gave an impression that the cricket fraternity had discovered and developed a gold mine of an exalted file batsmanship which would rule the cricketing world with firmness and resolve in the years to come. However, when Richards decided to call it a day in international cricket in 1991, he was labelled as a King who went into exile whereas his compatriot Greenidgde who ended his career a few months before Richards did, couldn’t command the adulation he truly deserved.Richards’ on-field persona was visibly heftier than any of his contemporaries and it had its direct bearing on Greenidge’s career.
Yet, as long as the supremacy of the West Indies is safe from vying with the threats of a potential annihilation, Gordon’s Greenidge’s name will be mentioned in the same breath as Sir Richards, Sir Clive and Malcolm Marshall. On the occasion of the maestro’s 65th birthday, we present to you a list which encompasses fifty one riveting facts about the dignified Caribbean legend.
- Gordon Greenidge(born as Cuthbert Gordon Lavine) was born on 1st May, 1951 in the St. Peter parish of Barbados.
- In his teenage, Greenidge wondered over to Reading in England, a town where his mother had already settled in. After his mother married his stepfather, Gordon Lavine changed his surname to Greenidge.
3. Greenidge attended the Alfred Stutton School at Reading. It was here that he is believed to have learnt his basics in cricket. Later in his autobiography, ‘Man in the Middle’, Greenidge recollects his Alfred Stutton School days by reminiscing, ’I don’t remember ever making more than a very ordinary contribution. My achievements were minor and there was nothing about me to suggest that I would be anything other than a reasonable weekend club player’’.
Despite his apparent patchiness at the school level in the germinal stages of his career, he made the cut for the Berkshire School side.
3. His first bat was a massive one, made by Stuart Sturridge. In an interview with ESPN cricinfo, Greenidge recounted, ‘’I would soak it (the bat) in licensed oil for years and it was very heavy. I wasn’t the biggest as a young lad and when I went out to bat I could hardly lift the bloody thing’’.
4. His childhood idol was renowned sports journalist and cricket commentator John Arlott, who later on convinced him to sign for Hampshire.
5. He studied Book-keeping and accountancy prior to being selected by Hampshire.
6. A nondescript trial saw him make it to the Hampshire staff for the start of the 1968 English cricket season. Yet he was unable to get going straightaway; something which was inundated by poor fielding, and lack of concentration on the part of the then 17-year old. It was partly a reflection of the kind of struggle he had been putting in with a view to amalgamate with the British culture which was a sheer contrast to his jovial and fun-loving Caribbean self. He nearly lost his place in the county staff in 1969 but was granted another chance to prove his mettle. The 1970 season witnessed a metamorphosed Greenidge who was selected for the first team as a reward for the relentless graft he had put in behind his fitness and concentration.
7. Before earning a place in Hampshire’s senior side, he donned the Hampshire shirt for the first time against Warwickshire in a second team game on 21st August, 1967.
8. His First Class debut for Hampshire’s first team came against Sussex which turned out to be a mediocre outing for him as he couldn’t score much. That said; his brief stay at the crease invited many critics to take notice of him as is evident from one of Wisden’s articles which reported of that game, ‘’He (Greenidge) played a most promising innings on debut. A hook for six high into a nearby garden hedge was a memorable shot and it took five minutes for the ball to be found’’. Interestingly, he took on English fast bowler John Snow, with great panache in that game who had already established himself in Mike Smith’s English Test team and went on to represent England in 49 Tests in which he claimed 202 wickets.
9. His formative years in England were marked by a sense of melancholy. It was not easy for an immigrant to settle down in the UK at that time in the light of bigoted and cultural indifferences. The travails that a young Greenidge faced in his boyhood days helped him become a tougher character, both mentally and physically later in his career.
10. In the magnificent Hampshire sideof the early 1970s, Greenidge regularly opened the batting with South African legend Barry Richards which lent a certain solidity and rigour to the English county side back then. Their games complemented each other which made it a cumbersome task for opposition bowlers to make a breakthrough. While Richards typified tranquillity at the top of the order with his precision and composure, Greenidge was a more flamboyant player as he put the bowlers to the sword on most occasions by exhibiting sheer hostility with the bat.
11. It was in Barry Richards’ company, that Greenidge comprehended the true essence of batsmanship & blossomedinto a confident and buoyant opening batsman. Later in an interview, Richards said about his erstwhile Hampshire opening partner, ‘’Batting had always been our strength at Hampshire, with Gordon (Greenidge) making a huge stride forward from a cavalier but careless cricketer into a world-class opener’’. Together, Richards and Greenidge formed a resilient slip-fielding pair too.
12. In 1974, he was confronted with a dilemma of deciding which country he would represent in the international circuit between England and West Indies. Although England made an attractive bid to secure his signing, the West Indies rejected him in favour of Ron Headley who was drafted into the Test team as a replacement for the injured Steve Comacho. To eveybody’s surprise, Greenidge decided to wait for an offer from the West Indies rather than joining the English team.
13. In a bid to make himself available for selection by the West Indies, Greenidge made his way to Barbados to play the Shell Shield. His initial stint with Barbados was turbulent as he was looked upon as analien by his fellow teammates. He responded to all such censures in the most emphatic fashion by notching up a run-a-minute 273* for Derrick Robin’s XI against a visiting Pakistani side at Eastbourne.
14. His outstanding double hundred in the Shell Shield caught the eyes of the selectors and he earned a call-up into the West Indies side which toured India in1974.
15. He made his Test debut for the West Indies in the first Test of their away series against India in Bangalore on 22nd November, 1974. He was the 150th player to represent West Indies in Test cricket and shared his debut with Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards as it commenced the epoch of West Indies’ unprecedented dominance at the international level. Richards made a total of 7 runs in the match and capitulated to the fearsome trio of Indian spinners. On the flipside, Greenidge made a strong statement in his first international game by bringing up his maiden Test ton on debut (103; studded with 14 fours and 2 sixes) in the second innings. He was unfortunate to get run out in the first innings for a score of no less than 93.
16. Greenidge is the 42nd cricketer to register a century on Test debut.
17. The following year, Greenidge hit a shoddy patch as he was unable to score anything significant in West Indies’ tour of Australia in 1975. The visitors from the Caribbean islands lost the 6 match Test series 5-1.
18. Greenidge’s run of poor form reached a conclusion duringWest Indies’ tour of England in 1976, where he along with Vivian Richards piloted West Indies to a famous 3-0 series win. The visitors were supposedly incited by Tony Greig’sill-reputed ‘grovel’ remark about the West Indies team which rubbed off on all the players. In total, Greenidge hit 592 runs in the 5 match series at an astounding average 65.77 with 3 centuries and 2 fifties (his highest score of 134 came at Manchester).
19. He replicated a similar streak of formagainst the Mustaq Mohammad led Pakistani team which visited the Caribbean islands in 1976/77 as he plundered 536 runs in 5 matches series at an average of 53.60 with one century and 4 half centuries. West Indies drubbed the Pakistanis 2-1 in that series.
20. Greenidge made his ODI debut against Pakistan on 11th June, 1975. He was the 16th player to represent West Indies in ODIs. It was a Prudential Cup fixture between the two sides in Birmingham and Greenidge managed just 4 runs on his ODI debut.
21. Greenidge established himself as one of the mainstays in the West Indies batting line-up alongside Sir Vivian Richards and Sir Clive Lloyd and Desmond Haynes, amassing through the late seventies and the early eighties; courtesy of his effusive form with the bat. Between 1976 and 1984, Greenidge amassed 4140 runs from 54 Tests at an average of 53.07 with 10 hundreds and 23 fifties.
22. Greenidge and Desmond Haynes formed a formidable opening pair for the West Indies in both formats of the game as the duo accounted for 6,482 Test runs while batting together in partnerships, which happens to be the highest total irrespective of any wicket stitched together by a pair in Test history. In an interview given to ESPN cricinfo, he recalled, ‘’When he (Haynes) first came into the team, he was a young man who liked to lash out at everything. I remember on his West Indies debut, he got to 50 very quickly and I was impressed when I saw him there’’.
23. Gordon Greenidge was known to be an impulsive shorter format player as is evident from his career statistics. He is the 4th fastest batsman to reach 1000 runs in ODIs, having taken just 23 innings to reach the landmark. He is also the fourth fastest batsman to reach the 5000-run mark in ODIs; a milestone he accomplished in his 121st ODI outing. Sir Vivian Richards tops the list in both criteria.
24. He scored his maiden ODI ton against India in a Prudential Cup fixture at the Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham. He remained unbeaten on 106 runs which helped his side win that game.
25. Greenidge has two World Cup centuries to his name; the first being his maiden ODI ton against India in Birmingham and the second coming against Zimbabwe in the 1983 Prudential Cup at Worcestershire. He got together with Larry Gomes and put on a 195-run stand for the third wicket after the West Indies were reeling at 23/2 at one juncture. The partnership between Gomes and Greenidge was the highest partnership recorded by any pair in the 1983 edition of the World Cup.
26. He played 15 World Cup games in all, scoring 591 runs at a striking average of 45.56 with 2 centuries and twice the number of fifties.
27. He was a member of the West Indies teams which lifted the World Cup; (erstwhile Prudential Cup) twice in a row (in 1975 and 1979). He was also a member of the West Indies side which finished second to India in the 1983 World Cup final and in which he was deceived by a Balwinder Singh Sandhu in-swinger which pegged back his off-stump. The delivery has attained a cult status today.
28. Overall, Greenidge accumulated 5134 runs from 128 ODIs at an enviable average of 45.03 with 11 centuries and 31 half centuries. An average of forty five of that era is analogous with an average of 55 of this generation; given the advancements in cricketing equipment that have tilted the scales in the batsmen’s favour.
29. He picked up the ‘Man of the Match’ award 20 times in ODIs- which accounts for 5.4 matches per ‘Man of the Match’ award received. In Tests, he clinched the award on 6 occasions (twice against England, twice against Australia, and one apiece against India and New Zealand). In terms of the frequency of winning ‘Man of the Match’ accolades, Greenidge stands at No. 4 in the list behind Vivian Richards, ViratKohli and Sachin Tendulkar. In a total of 236 international matches, Greenidge clinched the ‘MoM’ award 26 times; hence, he has a Match/MoM ratio of 9.1.
30. Gordon Greenidge was the fifth highest run scorer in World Series Cricket; a brainchild of the late Australian business tycoon, Kerry Pecker which involved four sets of Super Tests that were played between 1977 and 1979. He plundered 754 runs in 13 matches (23 innings) at an average of 35.90 with a lone century and 4 fifties. He was preceded by Greg Chappell, his compatriot Vivian Richards, Ian Chappell and David Hookes. His highest score of 140 was the 10 highest individual score of that series.
31. He demonstrated pulverising form in the 1984 tour of India which was labelled as the ‘revenge series’ for the West Indies. Without any tinge of doubt it can be inferred that his performance in that series is one of the highlights of his career as he amassed 411 runs in 6 Tests at an average of 57.37 with a century and a half century. His top score in that series was an effervescent 194 which came in Kanpur.
32. During the course of the same tour, he struck three back to back scores of fifty or more in consecutive ODIs (scores of 63, 96 and 115 respectively). He even put on a 221-run partnership with Sir Vivian Richards in the final ODI in Jamshedpur.
33. Greenidge has 7758 Test runs from 108 matches under his belt at an average of 44.72 with 19 hundreds and 34 fifties.
34. A break up of his personal milestones in Tests is listed as under.
35. His Test match stats against different opponents are stated as under.
|5. New Zealand||10||882||55.12||5||2||213|
36. His Test stats in different conditions are specified below.
|Country Played In||Tests||Runs||Average||50s||100s||HS|
|5. New Zealand||6||618||56.18||4||1||213|
|6. West Indies||46||3209||48.62||15||8||226|
37. In 400 List-A games, Greenidge scored 15,349 runs at an average of 40.56 with 33 tons and 94 fifties.
38. He is placed 29th in the list of batsmen who have scored the most number of First Class centuries; the leader of the pack being Jack Hobbs with 199 First Class tons- 107 more than Greenidge.
39. In 523 First Class games, Greenidge amassed 37,354 runs at an average of 45.88 with 92 hundreds and 183 fifties (HS 273*). He also had a brief stint with Scotland in the closing stages of his career.
40. Greenidge had nabbed a total of 96 catches in Test matches and 45 catches in ODIs.
41. Greenidge was dismissed the most number of times by Imran Khan in Tests (9 times) and KapilDev in ODIs (6 times).
42. Of his 11 ODI centuries, 9 have resulted in wins for the West Indies. On the other hand, all his 19 Test centuries went for winning causes.
43. Greenidge holds the record for most centuries scored at Old Trafford, Manchester, England with 2 such centuries in Tests.
44. The Caribbean opener was a part time bowler who could bowl both off-spin and medium pace. Amusingly, he bowled just 10 overs in his decade long career and claimed his maiden international wicket by dismissing England’s David Lloyd.
45. The period post Kerry Pecker’s rebel ‘World Series Cricket’ wasn’t quite productive for Greenidge as the right handed batsman failed with the willow in both England and Australia in the later part of the 1980s. He looked a bit vulnerable against the rising ball on pitches down under and struck his only Test century in Australia in what was his last Test in that country. Even though he averaged 44.11 in that series, it wasn’t difficult to make out that his impeccability was withering away in the twilight zone of his career.
46. Greenidge holds the record for Hampshire’s highest 60 overs individual score which came against Glamorgan at Southampton in 1985. Batting first, the opening pair of Barry Richards and Greenidge put up 210 runs on the board for the first wicket. Richards made a well compiled 129 before departing but all the limelight was hogged by Greenidge who illustrated an extensive range of strokes en route to his 177 which remains Hampshire’s highest limited overs individual knock to date. Riding on the back of centuries by its two openers, Hampshire finished at 371/4 which is also their record limited-overs total. Eventually, Hampshire won the game by 164 runs.
47. Greenidge also happens to be the possessor of Hampshire’s record 40-overs individual innings for his 172 which came against Surrey at Southampton in 1987.
48. Interestingly, Greenidge is the only player to be adjudged retired not out in international cricket. While he was batting against India in a Test match at Antigua in 1983, he was informed that his 2-year old daughter was ailing with kidney infection back home. Naturally, he rushed home only to tee off her daughter forever as the toddler took her last breath in a Barbados hospital a couple of days later. Owing to the personal tragedy it was unanimously decided that he should be made retired not out.
49. Gordon Greenidge is the only batsman in the history of the game to score century in both his hundredth Test and hundredth ODI.
50. His son, Carl (a right handed pace bowling all-rounder)who was also a cricketer in the county circuit, represented teams like Gloucestershire, Surrey and Northamptonshire in the past. He is currently working as a coach at Bancroft’s School. Senior Greenidgetoo had a reasonable coaching career as he guided an upbeat Bangladeshi side to the ICC Trophy triumph in 1997.
51. Greenidge has been endowed with several accolades. The Wisden Cricketer of the Year award and the Wisden Lawrence Trophy were conferred on him in 1977 and 1978 respectively. He was also honoured with the ‘Hampshire Cricket Society Player of the Year’ award in 1986. He was inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame in 2009; which recognises the feats of legendary cricketers who have imparted unparalleled grace to the game over the years.
Throughout his career, Greenidge had to combat the demons of repudiation, racial disparagements and personal despair.His biography thereby, would serve as an excellent specimen of case study for trainee psychologists. But none of these has hindered him from etching his name on the pillars of cricketing nobility..