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Roger and Stuart Binny: like father, like son

Roger Binny (left) and his son Stuart © AFP and Getty Images
Roger Binny (left) and his son Stuart © AFP and Getty Images

Stuart Binny pulled off an astonishing spell of six for four to demolish Bangladesh at Dhaka. Abhishek Mukherjee goes down memory lane to a lazy afternoon in Eden Gardens where he had witnessed a superlative spell from Binny Sr.

The first Test at Chepauk had ended in a drab draw. Sunil Gavaskar, having been barracked and booed at Eden Gardens (quite rightfully, too as he had refused to declare till the fourth afternoon against England in 1984-85 as India had crawled at a run rate of 2.18) had opted out of the next Test at the same ground. Arun Lal, the local hero, had been drafted in.

Arun Lal scored a gritty 52, while Mohammad Azharuddin, one of Calcutta’s favourite adopted sons, carved out 141. Kapil Dev (66) and Roger Binny (52 not out) both helped Azhar put up century stands, and India finished on 403 despite Wasim Akram’s five for 96. Pakistan were comfortably placed at 136 for one on the third morning with Rameez Raja and Rizwan-uz-Zaman piling up the runs.

There was a brief distraction when Rameez was claimed by Ravi Shastri, but that was it. Javed Miandad strode out, and it did not seem that the Indians were likely to earn wickets on the docile pitch. Then Kapil Dev brought back Binny, who had replaced Shivlal Yadav from the squad for the first Test.

This columnist, all of nine years, was seated in one of those uncovered stands at Eden Gardens. They used to have concrete seats in those days, and though the days were often excruciating, the evening breeze that blew from the Hooghly brought back life to the great coliseum. It was no different that day. There was, however, an additional bit: it also brought Roger Binny back to life as well.

Getting a set Miandad out was never an easy ask, but Binny produced a peach. The nine-year old in me could not understand the concept of a straight seam, but I still remember jumping in elation when the ball took the edge and went to Kiran More; and then, I outdid myself later that over, when he trapped Saleem Malik leg-before.

Kapil brought himself back as well and bowled through Rizwan’s defence, but it was clearly Binny who stole the show. Imran Khan looked woefully out of place, playing and missing, before Binny ended his misery by having him caught. Then came Wasim’s turn: he was beaten by the swing (by this time Binny was moving the ball both ways, going past both edges of Wasim’s bat).

One of these came back, and Wasim was bowled. From 178 for two Pakistan were suddenly 207 for seven. The match was not being played in the gloom of Manchester or Birmingham: there was a gentle breeze, and Binny made the Pakistanis look helpless on a rank flat track. It was as good a demonstration a nine-year old present at the ground can have. He took two more wickets the next morning (I was there; I had to be there) as Pakistan crashed to 229.

Close to three decades later, when I witnessed the son take out six wickets (I agree, against Bangladesh, but then, in the subcontinent, and more importantly, defending a target of 106), fleeting memories came back: the father, too, on his day, had an upright seam that never wobbled; he, too, could make the ball talk at the slightest indication of a breeze; and he, too, could make sides look feeble, even foolish, when on song.

Thank you, Stuart Binny, for taking me back to those carefree days. It seems there is such a thing as genes, after all.

(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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