West Indies dominated cricket in the 1970s and 80s. They enjoyed a golden run and were virtually unbeatable during that period. They had the likes of Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes in the batting department while with the ball, they had Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding. And they had arguably the best captain of all time, Clive Lloyd, who led from the front.
Apart from the legends mentioned above, there was one elegant left-hander who was part of the West Indies team that won the World Cup in 1975 and 1979. He burst onto the international scene by scoring back-to-back hundreds and was named the Wisden Player of the Year in 1983. He even went on to captain West Indies when Lloyd resigned. He is none other than Alvin Isaac Kallicharran.
Kallicharran scored 4399 runs in Tests, including 12 centuries at an average of 44.43. In first class cricket, he amassed over 32500 runs with 87 hundreds and 160 fifties.
He was the leading run-scorer for the West Indies in the 1975 World Cup, scoring 197 runs at an excellent average of 49.25.
Let us revisit one of his most fluent innings in the World Cup, which came against Australia in a group match.
1975 World Cup: Australia vs. West Indies, Group Stage
West Indies won the toss and elected to field first. The bowlers responded well, dismissing Australia for 196.
In reply, West Indies lost Greenidge early and Kallicharran walked in. The devastating Aussie pairing of Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee were operating with the ball.
Lillee, in particular, was in an ominous mood. He made things difficult for the Windies batsmen, but Kallicharran was in no mood to be bullied. In the last ten balls Lillee bowled to him, Kallicharran scored 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 1, 4, 6, 0 and 4. That is 35 runs in just 10 balls, during a period when batsmen were considered good if they had a strike rate over 60.
He hit 14 fours and a six during his knock of 82 from 78 balls. Thanks to his heroics, West Indies won the match by seven wickets, and Kallicharran was rightly adjudged the Man of the Match.
Off the field, Kallicharran was one of the most jovial people out there. One incident that he narrated later will give you an idea of how cheerful he was. The incident is as follows:
In 1976, Windies were up against England in England. They were struggling at 20/2 when the southpaw joined Vivian Richards at the crease. He told Richards while pointing to the stands, “Viv, when I walked out to bat, I saw a beautiful woman out there. She is awesome.” Between overs, they discussed the person in question and Richards began hitting sixes in that particular direction. Suddenly, the West Indies scoreboard read 320/2!
Life ban at 32
Kallicharran continued to pile on the runs in the international and domestic circuit and was all set to become one of the greatest batsmen in the world, however, things didn't go according to plan. His decision to lead the side in their rebel South African tour sparked controversy and a life ban was placed on him by the West Indies board at the age of 32.
He scored heavily in the English county circuit though for three years, amassing more runs than Greenidge and Richards. This forced the board to rethink their stance on Kallicharran and he was told that the ban would be lifted he was willing to apologise for his actions. However, he refused and remained of the belief that he had done nothing wrong.
Victim of racial profiling
Kallicharran was of Indo-Guyana origin and that played a part in his career. Back then the West Indies board wanted only local players in their side and that’s why no Indian origin players featured until Shivnarine Chanderpaul rose through the ranks.
When a debate about the greats of cricket does the rounds, Richards and Lloyd are among the first names that are heard, but Kallicharran often fails to even find a mention. A feature film, ‘Fire in Babylon‘, that came with a headline of West Indian dominance, made no mention of Kallicharran.
The man who had done everything for cricket and given his all for his nation didn't get the plaudits he deserved. The Windies board overlooked Kallicharran’s talent and achievements, but as cricket fans, it is our responsibility not to do the same.Published 12 Dec 2017, 21:11 IST