Gordon Greenidge The Man in The Middle
Author: Gordon Greenidge with Patrick Symes
Publisher: David & Charles
Rating: 3 stars
By Archie Mac
27 Feb 2008
I must admit I am not a big fan of reading biographies of players who have not finished playing, or at the very least are almost at the end of their careers. One of the reasons for this, is that players step very lightly so as not to upset team-mates, selectors or in the case of batsman, opposition fast bowlers. There are any number of these sort of ghosted biographies.
So with this autobiography of Gordon Greenidge being written in 1980, approximately only one fifth through his career, it has been sitting on my book shelves gathering dust, and would have remained there, except for the recommendation of another cricket book fan. I always try and peruse cricket books recommended by others, I have rarely been let down by fellow cricket book tragics.
In 1980 I was 14, but I have no doubt I could have performed a far superior job of editing this publication. Typos and factual errors abound, seemingly on every other page.
So as a piece of literature this book is not going to challenge the efforts of Cardus, Mason, Thomson or Haigh just to name a few; but still I enjoyed it immensely.
Unlike most cricketers who have penned a book mid-career, Greenidge does not hold back, lambasting just about everyone who he comes into contact with, from Australian umpires to his Captain Clive Lloyd to the West Indies selectors and almost all of his team-mates, even Kerry Packer cops a serve "a hard an arrogant man in my estimation".
I only really remember Greenidge as a great opening batsman, with perhaps the fiercest cut shot it has been my pleasure to watch, it was simply brutal. I also knew that Greenidge had the choice of playing for either England or the West Indies.
I presumed that he was from a wealthy family, and had been sent to England for a good education at a private school. This assumption was a long way off, his single mum had been forced to move to England for employment opportunities, the young Gordon had been left in Barbados to be raised by his less than wealthy grandmother, finally moving to England when his mother married, this necessitated at the age of 12 a change in name from Lavine to Greenidge.
The young Greenidge found it hard in England often being bullied for his skin colour and strong accent. He left school young, unqualified and moved into the YMCA, where he kept to himself, and dreamed of a life as a professional cricketer.
His poor fielding and general diffidence almost cost him a contract with Hampshire, but a change of attitude saw him embark on a fitness regime and a greater commitment to practice elevated him to a fine slipper.
Greenidge comes out of the book as a bit of a maverick who believed that almost everyone is against him. This paranoia seems to bring out the best in Greenidge and he often lifts his performance to prove himself to his detractors real and imagined. Terry Alderman once said "we use to fear if Greenidge was limping; he almost always scored a hundred".
He admits that he bats for himself first, and the West Indies second, and is happy to disparage the captaincy and man management skills of Clive Lloyd.
He blames the West Indies 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Australians in 1976, because Ian Chappell refused to walk after clearly edging the ball. He felt that this demoralised the Windies to such a huge degree that they simply lost heart. He also credits this incident as being the reason he changed from a walker to standing his ground when he knew that he had edged the ball.
Not a great literacy work, but certainly entertaining, I can strongly recommend it to anyone who likes their cricket biographies 'warts and all'.