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Feature

A man of many hats, new BCCI president Roger Binny braces for new innings

"He's no-nonsense without being confrontational. If he sees incompetency around him, he will quietly call it out"

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
19-Oct-2022
Roger Binny replaces Sourav Ganguly as BCCI president  •  Getty Images

Roger Binny replaces Sourav Ganguly as BCCI president  •  Getty Images

The new set of BCCI office-bearers was finalised over a week ago. Yet, when Roger Binny was officially announced as the BCCI's 36th president at the Annual General Meeting in Mumbai on Tuesday, there was an unmistakable buzz at the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) in Bengaluru where he had been president for the past three years.
Among those celebrating the rise of one of their own to the highest office in the BCCI was Sanjay Desai, Binny's close friend and a veteran KSCA administrator himself. Desai and Binny were once Karnataka team-mates who starred in an unbroken 451-run opening stand in the Ranji Trophy against Kerala in 1977-78. Desai has had a ringside view of the several roles Binny has donned - as player, coach, selector and administrator.
"He [Binny] will follow the rule book to a tee," Desai says. "He doesn't like the limelight, but that shouldn't be mistaken for him being silent. He will do his job quietly, without much fuss. He's no-nonsense in a way, without being confrontational. If he sees incompetency around him, he will quietly call it out. As a person, his stature has never been a stumbling block when it comes to establishing two-way communication with the players, stakeholders or his own colleagues."
After his retirement as a cricketer, Binny, a 1983 World Cup winner, first forayed into coaching when he was in charge of the India Under-19s. In 2000, he coached the Mohammad Kaif-led team to the Under-19 World Cup win in Sri Lanka. Two years later, he went into the grassroots to coach the Under-16s and played a key role in the emergence of young players such as Ambati Rayudu, Robin Uthappa and Irfan Pathan.
After his first coaching stint, Binny helped established pathways for cricket in South-East Asia and the Middle East as a cricket development officer of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC).
"When I joined the ACC in 2007, Roger was already many years my senior, but not for once did he make it seem that he was a senior and my views didn't matter," says former Bangladesh captain Aminul Islam, who currently heads the ICC's pathway programs in Asia. "It was never 'I am Roger Binny, I'm a World Cup winner, I know what to do'. He would always hear people out. He would gladly accept counterviews. It was never 'my way or the highway'.
"His challenge was to set up administrative pathways and coaching pathways from scratch. For someone to build this across several countries, there are lots of bureaucratic hurdles to pass. You need to have immense patience. Roger's handling of all of this was exemplary. He was an example for us to follow."
"He doesn't like the limelight, but that shouldn't be mistaken for him being silent. He will do his job quietly, without much fuss. He's no-nonsense in a way, without being confrontational. If he sees incompetency around him, he will quietly call it out"
Sanjay Desai
Reetinder Sodhi, the vice-captain of India's U-19 World Cup-winning team in 2000 and currently a BCCI match referee, points to Binny's empowering the players to make decisions and be accountable for them made them better cricketers when they graduated to the senior levels.
"He was a chilled-out coach, you would never see him angry or flustered," Sodhi says. "In situations where one could lose their mind, he would resonate calmness. Unless absolutely necessary, he wouldn't interfere with on-field decisions. For us at the U-19 level, that was massive because until then, we were always under the coach's eyes and ears. Roger wasn't the one to spoon-feed you as kids, he treated us like mature individuals for whom he was always around whenever required."
Others point to Binny being polite, yet assertive. "If Roger said no, no one would really go back and ask him to reconsider, because he isn't an impulsive person. If he says no to something, you know he would've spent considerable time thinking about it before arriving at a decision," says a KSCA administrator.
Sodhi too cites an instance from that U-19 World Cup campaign to highlight this. "Before our group game against Sri Lanka, I was very unwell. I turned up sick on the morning of the match and didn't know how to inform Roger that I won't be in a position to take the field. I hadn't slept the whole night and woke up with a high temperature.
"I walked down the stairs to the ground and told him that I was feeling weak. Roger smiled, took one hard look at me and in the gentlest manner and said, 'Sodhi, you're playing. Please take rest now and be ready five minutes before the game.' I made 74 and got two wickets and was named Player of the Match. If he hadn't fired me up to play, I may have been on the sickbed probably for even two or three days after the match."
Binny's expert handling of disputes as an administrator is perhaps another underrated facet to his man-management skills. In 2010, he was named vice president under Anil Kumble's administration at the KSCA at a time when two different factions were at loggerheads, resulting in an acrimonious election.
In the aftermath, Binny is believed to have been among the key mediators in ensuring things didn't take an ugly turn. Later, Binny would also find support from the rival Brijesh Patel camp. Incidentally, Patel has held a stranglehold over KSCA for a long time, and his backing was one of the catalysts in Binny's elevation to the top job in the BCCI.
Outside of administration, Binny was also a national selector between 2012 and 2016. In 2014, he had a conflict-of-interest cloud hovering over him when his son Stuart Binny was spoken of as a potential all-round option for the national team. Selectors at the time credit Binny for not making things awkward as he would recuse himself whenever Stuart's name was up for selection.
Binny's most recent administrative tenure was at the KSCA, where among his first tasks was to restore credibility to the state's T20 League, Karnataka Premier League, following arrests of certain players and team owners for match-fixing in 2019. Binny swiftly disbanded the tournament and overhauled the structure. He ensured his administration took over complete control of ownership of teams and player payments. Among cricketing decisions, Binny has increasingly advocated for different teams across different formats for Karnataka, something the selectors appeared to have aligned towards when they picked the squad for the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
Off the field, Binny is a doting grandfather who loves spending family time at his farm in Bandipur, away from the chaos and traffic of Bengaluru. He is passionate about golf and wildlife conservation. Last week, soon after returning to Bengaluru after filling his nomination for the BCCI presidency, he made a dash to his farm to ensure everything was in order for his pets and rescue dogs.
In accepting the top job that could potentially see him away from his farm for a lot longer than he is accustomed to, Binny has signalled the start of the next phase in his administrative career.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo