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Robin Bynoe: Right batsman, wrong era for West Indies

Robin Bynoe. Photo Courtesy: Cricket Legends of Barbados
Robin Bynoe. Photo Courtesy: Cricket Legends of Barbados

The majestic Robin Bynoe was born on February 23, 1941. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at a career truncated due to stiff competition in the West Indies side.

It is difficult to believe that a batsman as graceful yet impeccable as Michael Robin Bynoe had played only four Tests for West Indies. Picked as a teenage prodigy in the late 1950s, his career amounted to only four Tests over a span of eight years despite his talent.

It was not that Bynoe was an ordinary batsman by any standards. He was good enough to make it to the Barbados team that — armed with the Ws (Clyde Walcott, Frank Worrell and Everton Weekes), Garry Sobers and Conrad Hunte — could have given most Test sides a run for their money. He also bowled sporadic left-arm mixed-bag and was a fine fielder.

His First-Class career (that spanned 15 years) involved only 56 matches, which demonstrates lack of organisation of West Indian cricket of the era. He scored 3,572 runs at 41.05 with six hundreds and held 45 catches; from four Tests he scored 111 at 18.50 with a highest score of 48.

Early days

Born in Alleynedale, Black Rock, St Michael, Bynoe took to cricket at a very early age. He was the grandson of Henry Austin, a Barbadian batsman who played at the turn of the 20th century. Bynoe’s cousin Michael Frederick had played a Test against England at Sabina Park in 1953-54.

Bynoe showed sufficient promise as a teenage batsman to be picked for Barbados against a strong touring Pakistani side at an age of 16. Opening the batting with Hunte against a bowling attack consisting of Fazal Mahmood, Abdul Hafeez Kardar, and Nasim-ul-Ghani, Bynoe impressed with 47 in the first innings, helping add 123 for the opening stand. In the second innings, when Barbados went for quick runs for a declaration, he lost Hunte and Sobers but still top-scored with 29.

The lack of First-Class matches at the time kept Bynoe from playing First-Class cricket, but he scored 52 in his next appearance — this time against Jamaica at Sabina Park. Then, after two matches, he was picked for the twin tours of India and Pakistan.

Test debut

All of Bynoe struggled against the Indian spinners. A shade less than 18, he never had an exposure to tracks or spinners of that quality. After scoring 48, 64 not out and 76 in consecutive innings towards the beginning of the tour, Bynoe lost form and finished the tour with 259 runs at 25.90.

He started the second leg of the tour on a high, scoring 41 and 70  against Central Zone at Bahawalpur, 40 and 40 not out against Commander-in-Chief’s XI at Rawalpindi and 33 and 31 not out against President’s XI at Peshawar in his first six innings. With Pakistan having defeated West Indies in the series with a 2-0 lead, Bynoe was included for the third Test at Lahore.

At 18 years 31 days he became, and remains, the third-youngest Test debutant for West Indies (after Derek Sealy and Sobers). He was also the fourth-youngest [and is sixth now] among all non-Asians, the others being Ian Craig, Hamilton Masakadza, and Daniel Vettori. Incidentally, the Test also marked the debut of Mushtaq Mohammad, then the youngest cricketer to do so.

Opening batting with Gerry Alexander, Bynoe struggled against Fazal and Mahmood Hussain, scoring a single run before falling to the former. However, Rohan Kanhai walked out, added 162 with Sobers in 138 minutes, and eventually went on to score a glorious 217. West Indies amassed 469; Wes Hall bowled out Pakistan for 209; and then, when they followed on, Eric Atkinson, Sonny Ramadhin, and Lance Gibbs combined to skittle them out for 104.

Despite the failure the second leg of the tour turned out to be more fruitful for Bynoe as he finished with 256 runs at 51.20. Despite the fact that he was yet to score a hundred, he had had reasonable international exposure behind him as a teenager. However, on his return, Bynoe was packed off to First-Class cricket for several seasons.

Finding a way back

Bynoe kept on playing the sporadic First-Class matches the schedule allowed him. Opening batting with Hunte against British Guiana at Kensington Oval Bynoe scored 81 and then top-scored with 65; the next match against Jamaica, also at home, was a special one for him: trying to capitalise on a 123-run lead Bynoe dominated an opening partnership of 201 with Hunte, scoring 120 — his maiden Test hundred.

Two matches later, Bynoe scored 110 at the same venue against Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie’s International Cavaliers against an attack that consisted of Fred Trueman, ‘Butch’ White, Jim Laker, and Trevor Bailey. Two more consecutive innings in the Shell Shield — 104 against Trinidad and Tobago and 71 against Jamaica at Kingston — earned him a place on the tour to India and Ceylon.

Back to Test cricket

Bynoe started the tour on a high, scoring a dazzling 94 not out against Indian Universities at Hyderabad: the attack comprised of Subrata Guha and Bishan Singh Bedi. This time he was selected for all three Tests.

It was déjà vu for Bynoe at Bombay: the opening “bowlers” — ML Jaisimha and Ajit Wadekar — shared three overs between them, and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar was too mysterious for Bynoe to handle. He fell for two, and when West Indies were set to chase 192 he fell for five (once again to Chandrasekhar). West Indies, however, chased the target down after being 90 for four.

Despite having scored one, two and five in his three Test innings, Bynoe was retained for the next Test at Calcutta. He kept the trend of scoring more than the previous innings going and scored 19 before being run out, adding a respectable 43 with Hunte. Gibbs then wore India down and the hosts sealed the series with an innings victory in a Test punctuated by a horrific riot.

It was in the third Test at Madras that Bynoe finally came good. After India scored 404 (where Bynoe clean bowled Erapalli Prasanna to pick up his only Test wicket) Hunte and Bynoe put up 99 in 124 minutes for the opening stand before Hunte was claimed by Chandrasekhar; Bynoe was also trapped leg-before by Chandrasekhar before scoring a 150-minute 48 studded with nine boundaries.

West Indies managed a slender two-run lead, and after being set them a target of 322 in about four-and-a-half hours, they initially went for it. Hunte and Bynoe added 63 in 65 minutes before Hunte got out, and six runs later Bynoe fell to Bedi for 34 with six fours. The spinners got the tourists in trouble, reducing them to 193 for seven — but Sobers and Charlie Griffith batted out an-hour-and-a-half to save the Test.

Bynoe never played another Test. He scored 43 against Ceylon on his way back at Colombo, but was never recalled despite doing decently at domestic level.

Back to domestic cricket

Bynoe slammed 114 in one a classic Barbados-Jamaica Shell Shield encounter at Kensington Oval soon afterwards: Barbados went in after trailing by 211 and were facing defeat when they were reduced to 17 for two; Bynoe added 210 with Rawle Brancker, Barbados reached 397, and chasing 187 Jamaica finished on 51 for four in 41 overs on a treacherous surface against Vanburn Holder.

Bynoe toured England with a Barbados side in 1969, scoring 13, 43, 43, and 75 in the four innings. He scored 124 and 69 against Jamaica at Sabina Park again, and started his final season with a career-best 190 against Trinidad and Tobago at Kensington Oval. He finished the season with 350 runs at 70.00, before bowing out with 19 against Jamaica at home. Jamaica remained his favourite opponent.

Opposition M I NO R Ave 100s
Jamaica

7

13

1

631

52.58

3

Others

49

84

9

2,941

39.21

3

Total

56

97

10

3,572

41.06

6

He quit from all cricket following that season.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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