At the recent World Travel Market event in London, Kreol seized the opportunity for a chat with Gordon Greenidge, the famous batsman who is now working as a sporting ambassador for Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI), helping to promote activity holidays on the Caribbean island.
In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, the West Indies ruled the cricketing world. During these peak years, the Windies produced the most intimidating line up of fast-bowlers and some of the best batsmen the world had ever seen. At the top of that order for many – and literally so- as the opening batsman – was Gordon Greenidge. He formed a formidable partnership with fellow opener Desmond Hayes.
Greenidge’s 108 Test match career began in 1974, in India and ended against Australia, in 1991. During that time, he amassed 37,000 runs in senior cricket, including 7,558 Test match runs, with 19 centuries and a batting average of 44.72. Later in his career he played for Scotland, before coaching Bangladesh to the ICC trophy in 1997 and their first Cricket World Cup appearance in 1999.
At the BTMI stand in London, Greenidge was helping to persuade visitors that Barbados is a great sporting destination, and was clearly enjoying his role as ambassador. He explains, “Barbados has always been a big sporting destination and that works well with tourism.” However, any visitors hoping to catch sight of Greenidge at the crease in Barbados are likely to be disappointed. That said, he does admit that despite retiring a long time ago, he occasionally does, “a foolish thing and get out there to bat – and it hurts badly!”
Playing with Dinosaurs in his formative years!
Born in St Peter, Barbados, in 1951, Greenidge started playing cricket a long time ago or, as he puts it, “When the dinosaurs still ruled the Earth.”
“Like most Caribbean youngsters, you would find a way into some team that would have been organised among yourselves and played your own little game. Most of the players would have called themselves after one of the present West Indies players at the time. I can remember some players batting for the whole week. You’d finish school and start the game and at the end of the evening, you were still batting. You go to school the next day, come out from school in the evening, and continue the game. If you couldn’t bowl you didn’t get a bat because you had to get the person out to get a bat. So, it was a little tricky at times but it was good competition.”
It was during these seemingly endless matches under the hot Caribbean sun that the young Greenidge, like so many of his classmates, dreamed of a career in cricket.
“Those early days stick with you and will always be there. That’s where the passion started and most of the players had it in their mind to make a career out of it. We all loved the game and looking back on those days you can say that was where the foundation was laid for what was to come in terms of how the West Indies team would perform.”
Greenidge’s cricketing highlights
In a batting career that had many highlights, including two double centuries against England in the infamous 1984 summer Test series that became known as a “blackwash” (West Indies won the series 5-0). He declines to single out any of his teammates for special praise, preferring to talk about the whole team.
Ask any cricket fan to name a few West Indian cricketers and the chances are that Greenidge will be mentioned along with the likes of Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Michael Holding, Desmond Hayes and Joel Garner, as true greats of the game. As Greenidge himself puts it: “I think we had what most would consider a very formidable team. We gravitated towards number one in the world for quite some time and I think that we played an exceptional game of cricket in those times. It was great to be part of that bunch, of course!”
So what about a particular innings, or a victory that tasted especially sweet?
“Oh, it’s difficult. I mean, I can’t mention just one, because, I think I was fortunate, like most of my other colleagues, to be in the team that we had. There is no one moment that I can pick out, out of all those great days, to say that that was my most memorable. I enjoyed them all. It wasn’t always necessary to get a hundred. Some of the lesser innings were special because of the way they were played, the conditions, the whole situation of the game – it gave you a lot of satisfaction. So, it’s not necessarily that pinnacle you reach, which is to score a hundred. Sometimes the lower scores and how they were hard-fought for gave you a lot of pleasure as well.”
During a long Test career and while playing county cricket in England (for Hampshire) for many years, Gordon says he never lost his love for the game, which is something else he attributes to his roots in Barbados. “Like a lot of West Indies’ players, I had that natural passion for cricket. I wanted to play and I enjoyed the game. After I had a better understanding, I wanted to take it further. Even today, there are a lot of different sports played in the Caribbean but cricket is still the first sport, still the number one.”
Test selector, Sporting Ambassador and Charity Fundraiser
His cricketing career may be over, but Gordon Greenidge is still involved at the heart of Windies’ cricket, and is on the selection committee for Test matches, along with former teammate, Viv Richards.
Meanwhile, his trip to England as a sporting Ambassador is also an opportunity for him to organise a function to raise funds for the Gordon Greenidge Primary School. The school, in St Peter, Barbados, was named in his honour and he works closely with the staff and pupils throughout the year. The fundraiser is planned for 7th September 2017, during the West Indies v England Test at Lords.