Former West Indies opener Desmond Haynes — who formed a formidable opening combination with the explosive Gordon Greenidge back in the day — shared his thoughts on the Windies side in World Cup 2019.
The 63-year-old is in India as an expert on digital sports news channel PowerSportz .
How good is this West Indian team compared to the teams of that great era when you were a member?
Well, it’s always difficult to compare, but I personally think that the team that had played in 1975 and the team I was involved with in 1979 under Clive Lloyd was the best team that the world has ever seen.
Realistically, how do you look at the chances of West Indies in 2019 World Cup?
Well, I personally would like West Indies to win. Ah, my doubts are just about the bowling. The best part is this West Indies team is not thinking in terms of containing but taking wickets in the early part of the game. And, they can chase big totals with the kind of batting line-up they have from No.1 to No. 10.
On Chris Gayle...
I think Gayle has made a big difference in our side and he is in good form. I know he is probably coming to the end of his career but he has been very very good to the players, I believe that you probably would be having the dressing room in good spirit as well. …. And, a lot more guys make sure that they just give Gayle the ‘going away package’ [by performing well] in the World Cup.
On 500-plus scores being a possibility in today's cricket...
The only problem is that the 500 might be off our bowling. I hope not! But, I think we’ve got the batsmen to do it. I think only about three or four teams in this World Cup [is capabale] of doing that - India, West Indies, England and Australia.
If you are asked to pick three top contenders for this World Cup, who could they be and why?
Well, England is a very good side with a strong batting line-up in home conditions. Aussies are always going to be in contention. Ah, India, again a very strong team. I think both England and India are the two favourites with dark horses being New Zealand and Pakistan, who are so unpredictable.
When you look back how do you sum up your experience opening with someone like Gordon Greenidge?
I thought it was a great help. He was older to me and helped me along the way and so did Viv, who is Sir Viv now (with a big smile) and Clive Lloyd. There was no money in the game then but we enjoyed playing for West Indies. We’ve had a lot of good friendship. I don’t envy the guys now who are playing for money because this is what is happening.
On the T20 format...
I am a big fan of T20 cricket. A lot of my colleagues might not be a big fan of T20 cricket but I like to see it because that’s what has brought people to watch the games.
Which has been your most memorable World Cup?
Most memorable one would be the first one in 1979, which we won.
The most disappointing one?
I think my second one, which would be 1983. When we were chasing 183 runs against India and we lost. Since then, you know, every person I know from India have never let me forget that.
How do you see the evolution of World Cup itself from the inaugural 1975 edition?
We played a lot of 60-over games as well. The whole format changed and you are playing nine games in all now to make it to the knockout phase. I like this format and hope they would continue to keep it this way.
Do you believe that the game still is batsman-friendly with bowlers at the receiving end?
I think so. I didn’t get the opportunity to play T20 cricket, but I think T20 cricket is batting-friendly. In a 50-over game, sometimes, you find surfaces that, you know bring in the spinners into play. In places like England where the ball is gonna do a little bit , I think it’s a bit fair.
How do you look at cricket back home in West Indies? Do you think it is on the road to regain the pristine glory of the past?
Yeah, I believe that we’ve got the talent, the only problem is that, we don’t own our T-20 tournament. The CPL is owned by a company and it is very difficult when you know, okay, we might be getting the grants from the owners of the CPL but to have your own T20 tournament, it means that you then could start going to like, how India have done it. You know when they first started IPL, where they were involved in making sure that all the past players get a pension and then you know looking at people who are playing domestic cricket are getting pension.
West Indies, we are not a very rich board, and we need all sorts of ways of how we can generate funds in order for us to have development programmes, how we can make sure that the past grades play big important role in mentoring some of our young players and to see that you know the players are very much on board. Another thing that which I would like to see is that you know the WICB gets to a stage where they can even start looking at running the Board as a business and giving the players who have made a lot of money from the game a chance to buy shares in the company and everybody would feel a part and parcel of the whole development. And to get in all the people, in authority to understand that West Indies cricket you know, there is a concern, a few Board members are, need to make sure you embrace all the stake holders.
Do you believe that the openers' mindset needed a huge change because of the prevalent playing conditions?
Well, yeah, I believe that the ball is going to do a little bit more in England than it would be in places like India, West indies, Pakistan. So, you must have a mindset, I think the other thing too that you have to be very watchful. So it is how they go about the situation and I believe that the best way to play cricket in England is to give yourself some time and play some balls and get yourself in and in and as soon as you get in, it’s a lot easier to score.
What sort of role you still envisage with regard to the future of West Indies cricket?
Well, I’ve always put myself in a position to do whatever I can to help West Indies cricket. I know I get frustrated sometimes because I realise that we are not getting the type of recognition that we should. The past players I’m talking about and they are you know, every time there is a new administration, everybody comes in, say they’re going to include the past greats, gonna get them involved with the whole cricket culture and getting them in dressing rooms and mentoring the young players and then 5-6 years go, we still are at the same place.
So, I just would like the majority of the administrators to understand that, you know, we are guys who made a significant contribution and we still have a lot to play in the development of West Indies cricket. You get us involved instead of all the talking, I think it’ll be a lot better for us because we are not getting any younger and people need to be able to associate with us.
You’ve got a lot young West Indians who are playing cricket for West Indies that don’t even know the past greats. And, look, every Indian knows Gavaskar, know Dev (Kapil), know all of the past.
Our culture in the Caribbean, we need to develop that a little bit more, there are always gonna be times when the old guys, the past greats are gonna be set in their ways, they might not really associate with T20. They might not like the format, they might say things that you as a present player don’t like but the whole idea is identifying with us, making sure that we are part and parcel of the whole planning, look at having changes in our cricket development like for instance if India playing against West India in a tour, name it as Gavaskar-Viv Richards Trophy. So, when the young players are playing, they recognise, that look, we are recognising our past greats and also the West Indies recognize their past great. When we are playing against England, the Wisden Trophy… lets have the Clive Lloyd-Ian Botham competition that we’re playing for. By doing that, what we’re doing is letting the young players know that these are the guys who have made a significant contribution and that’s how we are rewarding them.
What have been your fondest memories as a player?
I believe that my fondest memories were playing my first Test match in Trinidad against Australia. I mean as a youngster all I wanted to do was play Test cricket. And, to be quite honest with you, I was told that I got a cheque for 1100 TT Dollars, and I can’t remember where that went to. I believe that I probably wasn’t even paid but that was my love for the game, that’s what I always wanted to do. When I was going to high school, I was always saying to the people in the school that you know one day you guys are going to pay to watch me play cricket and I was very determined that I made cricket a living.
Is there any dream which remained unfulfilled as a player or as an individual away from the sport?
No, I don’t like to look back at what should have happened. So, I think I had a very good run. I think was very fortunate to play a career for over 16-17 years for West Indies before getting any major injury and right now, I’m involved in giving back a bit. Been a member of the WICB, of the Barbados Cricket Association, I was in government in Barbados for a couple of years. I fulfilled a lot of my dreams, and I would to continue to give back a little bit more.
I have got a charity, by the name of Desmond Haynes Foundation through which I raise money every year to give to young cricketers to go to University, Barbadian cricketers (male or female). So, that is something which I live for now but also, what I do back home.
I am the chairman and executive chair of the cricket legends of Barbados which is an organisation that started in 2007, when we had our first World Cup in West Indies, there was a brainchild of Barbados Cricket Association with some past greats who decided, look, we have to choose so many fantastic cricketers from such a small island. Let us highlight the players who have made us proud and the government was on board, and it became an act in parliament which both houses and both political parties embrace 100% and now what I do is that we have a store at the airport where we sell memorabilia, cricket memorabilia, cricket gears as well. We have a museum as well where all of the past greats, all Barbadians who went on to play cricket for the West Indies.
They decided to give all of their memorabilia that they had at home I personally thought it was good for me to give it to the museum because then I didn’t have to clean them, so a lot of people what they’ve done is that they donate a lot of their memorabilia. It’s a lovely thing so anyone coming to Barbados , they always visit cricket legends of Barbados museum and they are very very impressed.
What is your opinion on Indian cricket and how do you rate this team compared to those against whom you played?
Well, I think this team is a very strong team. But, I would still think that, there might be like a better team to me when you look at the overall performance and what IPL has done for the confidence of the Indian team, but you know we always used to look and have a lot of respect for a lot of Indian cricketers, people like, Sunny Gavaskar, even Sachin Tendulkar, Kapil Dev, Mohinder Amarnath, I and I can go along with the list Bishan Bedi you know, but they were always good players in the Indian side. Right now I think this team looks a very good team, I believe that came from the whole inception of the T20 cricket and the guys know are playing with such freedom. Not much to worry about. They’re being looked after by the BCCI and all they have to do is go and win tournaments. This reminds me of someone like Tiger Woods you are just playing golf and all you are looking for is a win.
How do you feel being part of Power Sportz for the World Cup?
Well, I’ve been very impressed how we started, like yesterday; they had a really long day. I’m really impressed with the way this channel works! I’ve been very well looked after here. I’ve never done this before, so this is also something I’m looking at doing I believe that you know I’ve never had the opportunity to do a lot of commentary so this to me itself is also another good thing to try to see if I can be good at it as well.
Since, it is a digital channel and can be viewed globally, is your family watching you live in Barbados?
Yes, my wife told me she downloaded the app, she watched it. And I was saying to her, this thing, for instance, that this is being watched by five million viewers so at least what it is doing as well, it is also boosting your image world-wide, so I think this is a win-win situation.
Your favourite player and why?
It’s very difficult to pick one player. But there are quite a few like Jason Holder, Sharma (Rohit), Dhoni and Kohli. Then there was Sachin and I remember when I was here with the West Indies team a couple of years ago, I got a bat from him and Dravid and Sehwag also and they are still there at home.
I’ve always been very close with the Indians when I was playing as well because back in the days when you had people like Kirmani who used to give us a lot of stick behind the stumps. Dev was very good ,you had Jimmy Amarnath who was very good. I was always very well received here.
Your favourite pastime?
Golf, I love golf with a passion. I don’t play everyday, but in Barbados, I would hit golf balls everyday. I will leave the office go at 2 or 3 o' clock and hit some balls on the range. But I’m hoping that if Kapil is around in Delhi, he can get me on the golf course when I get some spare time, I’d go to hit a few balls I would really appreciate that, but that’s what I love.