It must not be easy being Stuart Binny.
His father, Roger Michael Humphrey, was a member of the 1983 World Cup winning squad. He claimed 18 wickets at the Prudential Cup in England, arguably Team India’s greatest overseas triumph, and 17 at the epochal World Series Championship in 1985. He played 27 Tests accumulating five 50s and bagging 47 wickets.
He was the first Anglo-Indian to play for the country. He is now a national selector.
Stuart’s wife, Mayanti Langer, is a TV sports journalist with Star. The daughter of an army-man, Lt. General Sanjiv Langer, she is a BA (Hons) graduate from Hindu College, University of Delhi.
So who is Stuart Binny?
Roger Binny’s son?
Mayanti Langer’s spouse?
Take your pick.
If you know your cricketing onions, you would have guessed that Stuart is purportedly the answer to every Indian fan’s dreams of a seaming all-rounder in the mould of Kapil Dev or Manoj Prabhakar.
Team India has always been on the lookout for a pacer who can bat as well as he can bowl.
Irfan Pathan was supposed to be the next big thing. But he turned out to be an enigma breaking down more often than playing.
Pathan overshadowed Zaheer Khan in the squad when he turned out in Indian colours. His Test statistics read one ton, nine fifties with a round 100 wickets with seven instances of five wickets or more in an innings and 10 wickets in a match on two occasions. All this in 29 games.
He is described as one of the lost boys of Indian cricket by Shashi Tharoor in an article for Cricinfo.
“Of contemporary cricketers, at least two seem in danger of adding their names to this tragically distinguished list. No one who saw Irfan Pathan swinging India to victory in the one-day series in Pakistan in 2003-04, or taking a hat-trick against the same team two years later, or scoring a century against them the year after that, or winning the Man of the Match in a Test in Australia and in the final of the inaugural World Twenty20 tournament in South Africa, would imagine that he could be washed up at 25. And yet he is deemed to have lost his mojo to the point where he is not even in the frame for selection for the 2011 World Cup.”
Bhuvaneshwar Kumar with his gentle medium-pace swing and combative batting promised to be the all-rounder Indian cricket deserves. But he, too, has been plagued by injuries and finds himself waging a comeback battle against the odds.
Binny, however, leads a charmed life.
Selected to be a member of the 2015 ODI World Cup, whence his father famously recused himself when his name came up for discussion, Binny was one of the rebels who joined the Indian Cricket League (ICL) in 2007. He returned to the BCCI fold after two seasons and is now with the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL. He surprisingly has the best figures for an Indian in ODI cricket—6-4 against Bangladesh.
Binny did not feature in a single game in the World Cup and was distinctly lucky to be recalled for India’s recent tour of Sri Lanka. India sealed the Test series 2-1 winning the last two matches. Binny did not play the first game but was swapped in for Harbhajan Singh in the latter two.
Roger and Stuart are only the fourth father-son pair to represent their country in World Cup cricket. The other three are Lance and Chris Cairns (New Zealand), Don and Derek Pringle and Chris and Stuart Broad (England).
Binny has a chance to make sure of his spot as a bowling all-rounder in the upcoming series against South Africa. He is a part of both the ODI and T20 squads.
The 31-year-old believes that he can only improve with more international outings.
“As Virat (Kohli) said, if I get more opportunities, I would get better – that’s very much true. It is not only more opportunities one gets, but also off-field preparations, that helps. International cricket is a lot of mental pressure. It is about dealing with situations which you have faced in Ranji Trophy, but it is on a much larger and bigger scale, so you have to go out and do the same in international cricket as well. I haven’t made too many changes when it comes to skill work, but I have made lot of changes when it comes to my game in my head.”
Binny’s romance with Mayanti Langer has been compared to the Iker Casillas-Sara Carbonero pairing. The Spanish TV journalist followed her beau during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Langer ,too, was around during this year’s ODI World Cup in New Zealand and Australia. Langer, however, was much too busy with her role to have time for her husband.
“Anchoring is now my career and I am ready to give my hundred percent for the job. Stuart is a pro while I am a professional presenter, too. Our jobs do not overlap. He is doing his job for the team while I am doing mine. There is no time even to think of doing something else, the job is so intriguing.I have a specific job to present shows. I am a member of the broadcasting company and thinking about the job assigned to me only. He is doing the same for his team, I know. It’s a huge event back in India, the ICC World Cup. I have to be ready always.”
Langer added that live anchoring is a tough job and one has to think on one’s feet.
“You are doing the job as an anchor and commenting on a particular match, but you need to know what is going around the tournament, too. You may try to be as well prepared as well before the match, but unless you know what’s happening round the corner, you cannot excel. Neither you can win hearts of the viewers then.”
Mayanti began her career as a football correspondent. She was a soccer player while in school.
She believes that she’s an original. Ask her about ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ and she’s quick to retort that she began much before that.
Is Mayanti Stuart’s lucky charm? They married in 2012 and Stuart’s career post the honeymoon has been on the upswing.
But it’s for Stuart to change the perception that he’s not just Roger’s son and Mayanti’s husband.
Will there come a time when they will be Stuart’s pater and better half respectively instead?
The forthcoming series against South Africa at home just might settle the issue.