Unlucky Alfred Binns, 88, dies in Florida

Wed, Jan 3, '18



In cricket, as in life generally, perennial virtues such as talent, determination, hard work etc. may take you so far. Sometimes you need a slice of luck to really make it to the top. "Good" luck, that is.

Alfred Binns, Jamaica's outstanding batsman/wicketkeeper 1950-1957, who has just died in Florida, age 88, didn't have much "good" luck. Indeed, he had a lot of  "bad" luck.

From West Indies entry into Test cricket in 1928 our selectors had invariably insisted that wicketkeepers must also make runs. Our first captain, Karl Nunes of Jamaica, not only led the team and kept wicket but was a good enough batsman to open the batting and make 66 and 92 versus England in 1930. His successors, Trinidadian Errol Hunte (two 50s) and Jamaica's Ivan Barrow (one century) also kept wicket and sometimes opened the batting.

But despite being clearly a better batsman (50 not out v Trinidad, 82 v British Guiana) than Trinidad's Simpson Guillen (top score then of 29) Binns was overlooked as backup to Clyde Walcott for the Australia/New Zealand tour of 1951-52. But after Guillen took over from an injured Walcott during the tour, Binns had his first slice of "good" luck. Guillen decided to emigrate to New Zealand right after the tour ended. He subsequently played a major role in his new country's first Test win, topscoring with 41 in the second innings of the fourth Test of 1956 before he was stumped by -- guess who -- Binns, of course.

Guillen's departure,  plus 100 not out v Barbados, 82 and 157 v British Guiana paved the way for Binns to  finally make his belated Test debut versus India in the first Test of 1953. But he had a horrible case of first day nerves, making four bad blunders before India had reached 100. It was also his bad luck that the match was in Trinidad. His challenger for the spot behind the stumps was the legendary Ralph Legall, who represented Trinidad in football, cricket, tennis and table tennis and (subsequently the West Indies in cricket and tennis). Despite outstanding keeping in the second innings, the Trini crowd was merciless. It didn't help that, batting at number 8, he was run out for 2, trying to help another debutant, Bruce Pairaudeau, reach his century. The man who effected the runout, Indian allrounder Vinoo Mankad, said it was a one-in-a-million event. There would be no second chance for Binns in that series.He was replaced by Legall. Nor in the following year versus England. He was injured in the first "colony" match and replaced by Jackie Hendriks for the second match.

Batting at number 7, it took a monumental innings of 151 for Jamaica against the mighty Australians in 1955 when he and Collie Smith (169) defied Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller,Bill Johnston, Ian Johnson,Alan Davidson, Richie Benaud  at Melbourne Park to catch the eye of selectors again.They had helped Jamaica from a pceraious 81-5 to secure first innings lead over Australia's 453. They were hailed as heroes.Both were picked for the first Test.Now, surely, finally, Binns, on a high, had made it to the top.

Little did Binns know that he would be led by a new and inexperienced captain, Denis Atkinson,who was catapulted into leadership when skipper Jeff Stollmeyer was injured at fielding practice the very day before the Test started at Sabina Park.

Binns began with a bang, smartly stumping opener Colin McDonald off Alfred Valentine but Australia went on to smash 515-9 declared. Our usual No. 3 batsman, Frank Worrell, injured himself while the other two members of the famous  Ws, Everton Weekes and Clyde Walcott, had been battered in the Lindwall/Miller bumper barrage of 1951-52. For reasons unexplained but obvious to Jamaicans, Binns was thereupon "promoted" from his usual No.7-8 spot to No. 3, a sacrificial lamb thrown into Australian fire at 27-1.

That was "bad" luck enough. He was out for a duck, caught off an illegal seventh ball of Ron Archer's over, after one of our most experienced umpires, Tom Ewart of Jamaica, miscounted."Demoted" to his usual No. 7 in the second innings, he was lbw to Miller for yet another duck.From the mountain top of Melbourne Park one week to the pits of Sabina Park the next. Seldom had a cricketer had such a roller-coaster ride. Even if the selectors had wanted to give him another chance in that series, the next Test was in Trinidad, the scene of his botched debut against India in 1953.

Later that year Binns had a slice of "good" luck when he was chosen as one of two batsmen/wicketkeepers (Claremonte DePeiaza the other) to tour New Zealand under Denis Atkinson.But despite the selection of two specialist openers, Binns was again given a "promotion". This time to open the batting in the first Test ! Something he had not previously done at the first class or Test level. Not surprisingly he failed.

He did nothing of note with the bat in New Zealand, finishing his five-Test career with a poor average of 9.14 (h.s 27), in sharp contrast to his average for Jamaica (46.85, four centuries). But later in 1956 he showed his class,hitting another 151, this time against British Guiana. That's before he was controversially given out "hit ball twice", even today a rare mode of dismissal.His career ended in 1957 on a low note, bowled for a duck by Australian George Tribe playing for the Duke of Norfolk X1.

ERROL TOWNSHEND, a veteran sports journalist,lawyer and cricket administrator, has been selecting, managing and coaching teams over almost 60 years and saw Binns in action. He writes from Toronto, Canada