Only men of steel could do what West Indies opening batsman Gordon Greenidge did in Antigua exactly 30 years ago. On April 30, 1983, Greenidge scored an impact hundred with the thought of his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Ria fighting for dear life back home in Barbados. With opening partner Desmond Haynes (136), Greenidge (154) put on 296 in response to India’s 457 at the Antigua Recreation Ground at St John’s, the home ground of Viv Richards.
Greenidge returned to Barbados at the end of the third day, but daughter Ria succumbed to a kidney infection two days later.
According to ESPN Cricinfo, the ‘retired not out’ mention in the scorecard against Greenidge’s name is unique in Test cricket.
West Indies fast bowler Winston Davis, who now lives in England, made his debut in that Test, but couldn’t recollect Greenidge talking about Ria’s health going into the Test match. “Gordon was a very quiet man. It was a difficult time for him, but he didn’t bring this up,” recalled Davis, who is paralysed neck down due to an accident in 1997.
In a rare interview, Greenidge, in 2011, spoke to this writer about his darkest off-field phase: “She was admitted just before I left for the Test match and things got progressively worse. The outcome was grave. Ria was an old soul. She could carry out a conversation with grown-ups and you wouldn’t believe a two-and-a-half-year-old girl could do that.”
The next time he played a Test against India (at Kanpur later that year), he scored 194. 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.”
Anshuman Gaekwad remembered Greenidge’s anguish in that Antigua Test of 1983. “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,” said Gaekwad. The Baroda-based former India batsman and coach recalled his 72 in the second innings of that Test. “I was not getting big scores before Antigua and I remember Kapil Dev, our captain telling me, ‘Anshu, you’ve got to get some runs.’ I agreed with him, but stressed the point that I was ‘made’ an opening batsman. I am glad I got some runs,” recalled Gaekwad.
The match ended in a draw but West Indies won the series 2-0.