Ever since his debut in 1974, Gordon Greenidge’s ability to play on for West Indies for years to come was never in question. A 93 and 107 against India on debut at Bengaluru was enough evidence of the sort of talent he possessed. He played in the English County circuit even before he started playing for Barbados and was even eligible to play for England after that. However, he chose to represent West Indies – a decision that proved to be the right one as he would go on to have a glittering career for them.
While there are many wonderful innings across Tests and One-Day Internationals (ODI) that Greenidge has played during his illustrious 17-year career, there will be one particular innings that will be remembered for different reasons. For Greenidge, it was more of an emotional one as he scored a masterful 154 – his 10th Test century - against India in the first Test at St John’s when his daughter was seriously ill in Barbados. For statisticians, it was an innings in which the West Indies opener became the first and till date the only batsman against whose name in the scorecard it read ‘retired not out’.
Before this match, Greenidge had not scored a century for six years. His last ton came against Pakistan in 1977 at Kingston. His partner Desmond Haynes, with whom he had stitched many memorable partnerships had not scored one since 1980. The West Indies had already taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the five-match series. The pitch at St John’s was a batting-friendly wicket and India riding on a century from Ravi Shastri (102) and useful contributions from Mohinder Amarnath (54), Dilip Vengsarkar (94) and skipper Kapil Dev (98) had posted 457.
Windies openers Greenidge and Haynes negotiated the remaining overs successfully. However, the next day was completely dominated by West Indies, thanks to their openers. They put on 296 for the first wicket, with Haynes departing for 136, after batting almost the entire day. Greenidge remained unbeaten on 154 at stumps along with night watchman Winston Davies (7*) – playing his first Test for West Indies.
That was Greenidge’s final contribution to the match as he had to rush to Barbados to be with his two-year-old daughter Ria, who was critically ill. The match however went on without Greenidge as centuries from Clive Lloyd (110) and Jeff Dujon (106) gave the hosts a 93-run lead. The match eventually ended in a high-scoring draw after India declared at 247 for 5 on the final day. Greenidge was adjudged the player of the match, but he wasn’t there to collect it. He was some 500 kilometers away with his daughter, who was diagnosed with a critical kidney infection. Her condition slowly became severe, despite the best efforts from the doctors. Two days after the Test match, on May 5, 1983, Ria passed away. Greenidge describes this phase as the ‘grey area of my career and life’.
While there isn’t many incidents that would be harder to recover from than losing a child, Greenidge, within 20 days of his daughter’s death was seen batting for Hampshire – a match in which he scored 116 in a successful fourth innings run-chase against Worcestershire. In a month, he played the 1983 Prudential World Cup – a tournament in which he scored 250 runs at 41.66, which included a century and a fifty in seven innings as West Indies made it to the final only to be denied by Kapil’s underdogs, India.
Greenidge went on to play for West Indies for eight more years after that and ended his career as the third highest run-getter for his team in Tests and second highest in ODIs. He went on to add 13 Test and 8 more ODI tons to his name to finish with 30 international centuries. No opening pair has put on more runs in Tests than Greenidge and Haynes who in their 148 innings together as openers aggregated 6,482 runs. They also put on 16 century stands and 26 half-century partnerships for the opening wicket – a record yet to be broken.