BENGALURU: If you want a peek into the simple life Roger Michael Humphrey Binny leads, all you have to do is take a mid-afternoon metro ride on the purple line to MG Road in Bengaluru. Until last week, it was a common sight to find the 67-year-old among passengers who got off at the Cubbon Park metro station.
From there, it used to be a short walk to the M Chinnaswamy stadium, from where he discharged his duties as the president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association.
Asked once about using public transport, the newly appointed president of the BCCI had remarked, “It is not a question of luxury or status, but a matter of convenience for me.”
That’s Binny in a nutshell – practical, affable and unassuming. A domestic warhorse who plied his wares for Karnataka and later Goa for almost 16 seasons in a career spanning 136 First-Class and 113 List A matches, he is better known as the 1983 World Cup hero, finishing as the highest wicket-taker (18 wickets). But there is more to the all-rounder than just his exploits on the field.
He’s a player, coach, mentor, selector and seasoned administrator, who has often flown under the radar. Decorated but not celebrated.
Born in an Anglo-Indian family with six brothers, Binny grew up in the cantonment area of Benson Town, also known as the champion town for being home to many sporting stalwarts of the city. A champion athlete specialising in javelin throw, discus throw, high jump and long jump, Binny took to competitive cricket in September 1973 and in January the following year, he represented South Zone Schools against North Zone Schools in the Cooch Behar Trophy.
He made his Ranji Trophy debut for Karnataka against Kerala in the 1975-76 season and was the architect of many a victory with both bat and ball. His consistent performances earned him the Indian Test cap in 1979, when he made his debut against Pakistan on his home ground. After 27 Test matches and 72 One-Day Internationals, he bid adieu to international cricket after the 1987 World Cup.
Binny, only the third person in ODI history to open the batting and the bowling after Frasat Ali (East Africa) and Majid Khan (Pakistan), continued to play domestic cricket for Karnataka and then marshalled Goa in the 1989-90 season. A couple of years later, he returned to his home state as the manager of the senior team.
Outlining his leadership qualities, former India speed merchant Javagal Srinath, who made his debut in the 1989-90 season under Binny, said, “Anil (Kumble) and I were blessed to play under Roger. He was a very non-interfering captain, who would just put his hand on your shoulder and say, ‘Do your best.’ As a captain, his expectations of us were reasonable and that helped us build our careers. His best quality as a leader was that he was reasonably ambitious and did not put pressure on the players. He made it easy for all of us to shape our careers and that is one of the prime reasons why so many of us excelled under his captaincy.”
Binny’s moment of glory as a coach came in 2000, when India won their first-ever Under-19 World Cup. The tournament saw the emergence of players like Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif and Reetinder Sodhi.
Binny also served as a national selector for three years and was known to recuse himself when his son Stuart’s name came up for discussion.
The first Anglo-Indian player to earn the India cap, Binny had a brief tryst with politics when he was the Anglo-Indian nominated member of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly.
Ravi Shastri on Roger Binny as BCCI President
Binny’s foray into administration was in 1997, when he was elected the vice-president of KSCA, and then again in 2010. He gave up the position in 2012 when he was named a national selector. He returned in 2019, winning the presidential elections by a handsome margin. He came into power at the height of the Karnataka Premier League match-fixing scandal and handled the situation with maturity, allowing the law to take its course.
Srinath, who was the secretary of KSCA with Binny as the vice-president, pointed out, “He was hands-on as an administrator. He was instrumental in shaping the KSCA Academy. He spent a lot of time with young talent. The one characteristic as an administrator which is key is that he has the interest of cricket at heart. He thinks clean and his decisions are measured and thoroughly thought over.”
Off the cricketing radar, Binny is a wildlife enthusiast and an animal lover. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city life, Binny loves spending time amidst nature at his farmhouse in Bandipur with his dogs Tinkerbell, Elf, Marbles and Angel.