Desmond Haynes, born February 15, 1956, was one of the finest openers during the ’80s and the first-half of the ’90s. Alongside Gordon Greenidge, he massacred bowling line-ups and was involved in several match-winning partnerships that made the West Indies batting department a force to be reckoned with. Karthik Parimal looks back at the career of one of West Indies’ finest batting talents.
In the February of 1978, Australia and West Indies squared off for a One-Day International (ODI) match at Antigua. The game featured 14 debutants — nine from Australia and five from West Indies. Inexperience at the top of the order contributed to the hosts slumping to 78 for four, but one of the newcomers had dropped anchor at the other end. Opening the innings, Desmond Haynes blazed his way to 148 off just 136 deliveries. The 22-year-old nonchalantly stole the limelight in his first outing on the big stage against an Australian bowling line-up, with the exception of Jeff Thomson, which was by no means formidable back then.
West Indies amassed 313 in that game and deservingly went on to win. But in the process, they unearthed one of their finest openers who would serve the side for a long time to come.
Alongside Gordon Greenidge, Haynes flourished, and the duo formed one of the most formidable pairs, setting new records, few of which haven’t been conquered till date. In an interview to ESPN Cricinfo, Greenidge recalled his first impression of Haynes: “When he first came into the team, he was a young man who liked to attack everything. He went out there and played his shots and looked like he wanted to hit every ball out the park. I remember on his West Indies debut he got to 50 very quickly and I was impressed when I saw him there. After that he learned to calm it down, he was a dream to bat with. We didn’t do too badly together after all, did we?”
Haynes was without doubt an attacking player, but when batting alongside Greenidge, he often left the task of plundering the bowlers to the latter. Haynes was meticulous. Like in ODIs, his Test career too got off to an exquisite start. He scored three fifties in his first three Test innings and soon became a force to be reckoned with. During his first three years on the international stage, he reached an average of 40, collecting centuries against New Zealand and England. Thereafter, seldom did that average drop.
From early ’80s to mid ’90s, Haynes and Greenidge were a thorn in the flesh of the opposition. They put together 16 century partnerships, four of which were converted into 200-run stands, with a highest of 290 coming against England in the April of 1990 at Antigua. In the first Test of the Frank Worrell Trophy in 1984 against Australia, held at Guyana, the duo was involved in an unbeaten 250-run partnership, that was scripted while chasing a target of 323 in the fourth innings. It’s unfortunate that time played a major factor in that Test to deny West Indies a famous victory.
Perhaps one of Haynes’ most crucial innings was against England in the first Test of the Wisden Trophy in 1980. His 62 proved to be decisive in the end, as West Indies scraped home with just two wickets to spare. After England put up a first innings total of 263 in that game, the visitors replied with 308. Owing to Geoffrey Boycott’s 75, the English scored 252 the next time around to set West Indies a target of 208 to win in just over eight hours. As wickets tumbled at the other end, Haynes stayed put to score 62 in over five hours. But an excellent direct hit from Peter Willey ensured that Haynes was sent back, and it was this moment that reflected the immense pride and love he possessed for his side. “Des (Haynes) left the field in tears, afraid he had cost the West Indies the game he had worked so long and hard to try and win for them,” wrote Ian Botham in his autobiography Head On.
Haynes was also an integral part of the Middlesex county side. In 1990, he scored over 2000 First-Class runs and was adjudged the Cricketer of the Year in 1991. “It culminated in Middlesex winning the County Championship and his being named both the Britannic Assurance and Nixdorf Middlesex Player of the Year,” states Wisden.
He also captained the West Indies side for a brief period, and in the absence of Sir Vivian Richards led the side to Pakistan, for which he received rich accolades. However, he is also remembered for his cut-throat tactic on his captaincy debut, during which he denied England a victory by indulging in time-wasting tactics.
Nevertheless, in a career that spanned over 15 years, Haynes will always be remembered for his magnificent batting than a few forgettable moments. Wasim Akram, arguably the best seam bowler to grace the sport, rated Haynes as one of the toughest batsmen he ever bowled to. “He would never repeat a mistake, which is one of the trademarks of world-class batsmen,” Akram said.
Haynes played 116 Tests and 238 ODIs for West Indies, amassing 7487 and 8648 runs, at an average of 42.29 and 41.37, respectively.
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/