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EXCLUSIVE: The Story of How Laxman Sivaramakrishnan Forged Life-Long Friendship With Legendary Desmond Haynes

By: G Krishnan

Last Updated: June 17, 2021, 11:25 IST

EXCLUSIVE: The Story of How Laxman Sivaramakrishnan Forged Life-Long Friendship With Legendary Desmond Haynes

In an Exclusive with Cricketnext, former India leg break bowler, Laxman Sivaramakrishnan spoke about his deep friendship with West Indian batting legend Desmond Haynes who was recently inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame.

When the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced its latest inductions into its Hall of Fame a couple of days ago, one former Indian cricketer was extremely thrilled to see his close friend featuring in the list.

Former India leg-spinner and now television commentator, Laxman Sivaramakrishnan was elated to see his close friend from the West Indies, Desmond Haynes, among the 10 inductees into the Hall of Fame.

“I’m very delighted for Desi being inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame, one of the great players who graced the game and also a dear friend of mine,” Siva told news18.com while talking exclusively about his long friendship with the 65-year-old Barbados legend.

Along with the late Malcolm Marshall and Haynes, Siva formed a little group that used to hang out in the evenings after a day’s game. Siva toured the West Indies first as an Indian schoolboy cricketer in 1982 and then with the Test team the following year, where he made his debut in the fifth and final Test in Antigua at the age of 17 years and 118 days, then the youngest to debut for the country.

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It was during the tour in 1983 that Siva forged a life-long friendship with Haynes, who formed one-half of the most successful opening pairs in Test history, the other half being Gordon Greenidge.

Siva, who went on to play nine Tests and 16 ODIs, recalled: “In 1982, I toured Trinidad and Tobago with the Indian schoolboys team. We played one match in Barbados, a three-day game, and Desi dropped in one day to watch the match. I did not know about his visit.

“The following year, when Maninder Singh and I, who were part of the Indian schoolboys team the previous year, travelled with the Indian Test team, Haynes told me, ‘Hey, I saw you last year playing for the schoolboys team and you are already in the Test team!’”

On that tour, the matches were scheduled in such a manner that the team went to one island, played a tour game, a Test and an ODI before moving to the next island.

Siva recalled: “Jamaica was first up and when we met there, Desi said, ‘I saw you last year when I came to watch the game for a day’. I played in all the side games. In that Jamaica tour match, I got injured in my right hand index finger while fielding. As I was ruled out for a couple of weeks and the hand was in plaster, I could not even bowl. Desi would always take me out after each day’s play.

“These guys were so strong mentally and physically on the field and off the field, they lived their life. They would go around town for a few beers and make sure they get back to bed by 10 O’clock. Since I was injured and sitting out, Desi invited me quite a few times. He showed me all the places in the West Indies,” the 55-year-old Siva said.

Haynes, who appeared in 116 Tests between 1978 and 1994, amassed 7,487 runs at 42.29 with 18 hundreds and 39 fifties. In 238 ODIs, Haynes smashed 8,648 runs at 41.37 with 17 hundreds and 57 fifties.

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Haynes was not only popular for his batting exploits but also for the gold chain around his neck with the words ‘Live, Love, Laugh’. Siva said: “Live, Love, Laugh – that’s how he wanted to live his life, and that is how he has lived so far.”

Recalling some anecdotes, Siva said how Haynes teased him all the way to the boundary line and how the roles were reversed in less than 24 hours during a tour game in Barbados.

Siva said: “There was an air of expectancy that I might make my debut in the fourth Test in Barbados because Maninder did not take too many wickets in the first three. Barbados being the fastest track in the West Indies at the time, the team decided to play all the fast bowlers and S Venkataraghavan as the spinner.

“Before the Barbados Test, we played a three-day game against that island. When I went to bat, one leg-spinner called George Linton bowled to me, and Desi was fielding at slips. As he was bowling lollipops, I stepped out to hit him out of the ground, got an outside edge and was caught in the slips. Desi started laughing and he walked all the way with me to the boundary line and said, ‘a leg-spinning Indian can’t play our leg-spinner, trying to slog and getting out to a catch in the slips’ and he kept laughing. I said, ‘Desi, wait till you bat tomorrow, let’s see what happens.’

“India got all out, and it was Barbados’ turn to bat. Desi was batting on 25 when I came on to bowl, and with the first ball, I got him bowled. Desi was walking back to the pavilion and I was running beside him all the way. Just like the way he pulled my leg, I did the same.”

That’s not all. Siva said that the evening after he got out to Linton, Haynes took him out for dinner and had a good laugh about the way he got out. “The evening that I got out to Linton, we went out to a place called Haynesville. Desi said he owned the entire place. It is only now that I see he is from a small town called St James in Barbados. The area was called Haynesville and took me to one of the restaurants. All the waiters were his friends. He was very well-known in Barbados. He made fun of me, calling the waiters and said, ‘Hey maan, this little kid from India, a leg-spinner, can’t play our man Linton.’ He had fun the full evening.”

“The next day, I got him out the first ball I bowled to him, he played for the turn and it went straight. I ran with him as he walked back and said, ‘Let’s go to the same restaurant, I wanted to talk to your friends about what just happened’. He laughingly said, ‘I am not going to take you out ever again. If at all I take you out, it will be to my house. You will never meet another person in Barbados’. But we did go to the same restaurant the next day and I pulled his leg.”

Siva received his maiden cap in the fifth Test at the Antigua Recreation Ground in which Haynes and Greenidge made merry, the former 136 and the latter 154 in a 296-run opening stand.

Siva remembered: “At that point of time, I was very excited (about my debut) but, now looking at the venue, it’s the worst venue anyone could ever get to make his debut. St John’s, Antigua was a flat track with nothing really happening. Even I batted for an hour-and-a-half against the bowling of Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Marshall, to make 17. You can imagine how the surface was. I bowled 25 overs, two-three chances went down. That tour was quite memorable, making my debut but all the more reason for making a couple of real good friends in Marshall and Desi.”

They again met later that year when the West Indies toured India, who by then emerged the winners of the 1983 World Cup. Siva did not play in the Tests at home but figured in the tour game for Board President’s XI in Nagpur.

Desmond Haynes batting for West Indies during a tour match between CH Lloyd’s XI and the West Indians at Uxbridge Cricket Club Ground, Uxbridge, 5th May 1988. (Photo by Patrick Eagar/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Siva reminisced: “We were playing a side game in Nagpur. BP XI were 103/5 when I went in to join Navjot Sidhu, who was batting on 32. Wayne Daniel was bowling to me and I hit for three fours in an over. Their captain Clive Lloyd immediately referred to Andy Roberts and said, ‘Andy, you will be bowling next over from that end’.

“The first ball Roberts bowled to me, it was more of a loosener and on the shorter side. I pulled to mid-wicket. The next ball, Roberts ran in much slower and bowled a lightning quick delivery. I ducked and fended at the same time, and got hit on the glove. I miraculously escaped getting hit on the head. Desi came running in from the slips and said, ‘Hey maan, don’t you ever hook Andy maan. If you hook, he’ll hit you, don’t hook Andy, maan. Take a single and go to the other end’.”

That was Haynes and his chirpy side. Siva said that the West Indies played hard and tough on the field but were jolly good fellows off it.

“As opponents, the Windies were very tough on the field. Lloyd was very quiet. Richards and Desi were chirping all the time at slips, Greenidge was quiet at gully. If someone was batting for long, Desi would shout, ‘Hey maan, it’s time not to attack the stumps but to attack the body’. At the same time, if you got your fifty or a hundred, Desi and Viv would be the first to congratulate you. They played cricket really hard, went out, be back to bed by 10pm, and trained hard the next morning.”

Haynes took a liking to Siva that he even gave the then teenager two of his bats. Siva recalled: “I got to play in the side games on that 1983 tour. India would be in trouble with the bat because the main batsmen wanted to take a break. Very often, we were 70/5, 80/6, and Ravi Shastri and I, or Shastri and Kiran More used to bail the team out to a decent score close to 200. Since I had a few partnerships with Ravi, Desi gave me a couple of bats.”

Siva said he used those “really good bats, until they developed cracks and had to give them away”.

Haynes formed a formidable pair with Greenidge, and the two still hold the record for the most runs scored by an opening pair in Tests – 6,482 runs in 148 innings at 47.31 with 16 century and 26 fifty stands.

Siva said they were like chalk and cheese. “Greenidge and Desi made a fantastic pair. Both of them were from Barbados. Gordon was a very quiet person while Desi was full of life. It was the other way around when they batted. Gordon used to be very aggressive and Desmond would be the quieter person with the bat. Completely different personalities off the field. Desi was a fun-loving guy.”

What made Haynes and Greenidge so successful?

Siva said: “Even though Greenidge did not speak too much on and off the field, these two from Barbados had a great understanding. They would not call for a run. They played in the gaps and made eye contact. They formed a fantastic combination, probably the best ever.”

Contrary to old beliefs that the two did not see eye to eye off the field, Siva said. “It is not that they did not like each other. Their personalities were such that Greenidge did not talk much while Haynes liked to. They got along really well as an opening pair. They all played in English county cricket and knew how to handle their lives.”

Siva’s friendship with Haynes blossomed in Australia in 1984-85 during the B&H World Championship of Cricket that India won. “Even during the BH WCC in Australia, we would often meet each other. This time, it was Ravi, Desi, Marshall and myself. Though the Windies were in the other group, every time were in the same venue, we went out. Desi was a great character, very cheerful person, a gritty batsman and all the more a very good human.”

And later when Haynes toured India as a batting coach of the West Indies ‘A’ team, Siva did take him around in an auto rickshaw. “We took a rickshaw and went shopping. He wanted to go by rickshaw and experience the ride. Desi was a real star, enjoyed his life, enjoyed his cricket, and is now rewarded for his Live, Love, Laugh motto. Am happy from the bottom of my heart.”

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first published:June 17, 2021, 10:38 IST
last updated:June 17, 2021, 11:25 IST