Only men of steel can do what West Indian opener Gordon Greenidge 30 years ago in the Antigua Test. India toured West Indies for a five-Test series in 1983. There were no surprises when the hosts had thrashed Kapil Dev’s side and took an inevitable lead of 2-0 with a win in the fourth Test. The West Indians so far had outplayed India in all the departments. Greenidge was among the likes of Sir Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshell, Sir Viv Richards and Clive Lloyd who stepped up at a particular instance for the West Indies during the series. But there was a difference between the opener and the other star performers; Greenidge scored three fifties earlier in the series despite having the stress about his daughter who was battling for life in Barbados.
When Kapil Dev and Clive Lloyd walked in for the toss for the dead-rubber, fifth Test, at Antigua Recreation Ground, the weather was adverse as the rain clouds threatened to affect the match. The light was bad and rain caused the loss of two hours before the Indian openers took the field to bat first. Dilip Vengsarkar’s aggressive 94 did well for India’s toss-win. At the end of day 1, India were 188 for 4 with Ravi Shastri and Kapil Dev at the crease.
The duo of Shastri and Kapil put on a stand of 156 runs for the fifth wicket before the former was stumped off Larry Gomes’ bowling. The Indian skipper, Kapil Dev, was just unlucky to get trapped leg before wicket when he was just two runs short of a brilliant Test century. By the end of the second day, India had a mammoth total of 457 runs all out.
In reply, the Windies openers, Greenidge and Desmond Haynes produced a top-class batting display that negated India’s first-innings total. While Haynes played his usual game with no stress, the side was unaware of Greenidge’s state of mind. Not one player was informed about Greendige’s daughter, Ria’s heath issues. Winston David, who made his Test debut in that match, later said, “Gordon was a very quiet man. It was a difficult time for him, but he didn’t bring this up.”
Although Greenidge displayed tremendous courage and strength when he played on day 2 of the fifth Test, his “struggle” was not completely hidden. The fact that he chose to be a committed to his country and put his family behind it spoke volumes about his character and integrity. Former Indian batsman, Anshuman Gaekwad, who was a part of the India’s playing XI of the Antigua Test, remembered, “It was a tremendous act of courage. Gordon didn’t show any emotion, but you could see in his eyes that he was struggling. And despite that, he scored a hundred. He’s a sweet guy and a very understanding, caring bloke once he gets to know you.”
Despite the misery in his life, owing to his daughter, Ria’s health, he shared a 296-run partnership with Haynes which was then an all-new Test record for the opening wicket. While Greenidge scored his first century in Tests since 1977 and it was Haynes’s his first since 1980. After a stretch of a poor run in Tests, when finally Greenidge seemed to had revived his Test image in the ongoing home series against India, he had to rush back home to his ailing two-year-old daughter. The worse was followed as his daughter passed away two days after the Test ended.
Greenidge left the ground when he was unbeaten on 154. An exception was made for the West Indian who was later adjudged 154 retired not out -it was the only such instance in international cricket.
The next time he represented West Indies in a Test was later that year and it was yet again against the same opponents. The Test was played at Kanpur and Greendige recorded his then highest Test score of 194. After the terrific knock that lasted for 554 minutes, he said, “Maybe, Ria was trying to tell me something. When you reach a situation like that, you either labour over it or try and pick up the pieces as soon as possible. If you don’t do the latter, the situation will get the better of you.”
Cuthbert Gordon Greenidge surely was one of a kind!