West Indies Cricket December 26, 2008

Little Kalli

From Basab Majumdar, India For a person following cricket closely now for a good twenty years, one would think it would be challenging to zero in on a favourite cricketer

From Basab Majumdar, India
For a person following cricket closely now for a good twenty years, one would think it would be challenging to zero in on a favourite cricketer. Strangely it isn't and I can say with some certainty that my affection and admiration for no other cricketer reached the extent to which I admired Alvin Kallicharran.

Little Kalli, left handed, elegant and compact, came into my life in the winter of 1974. I was just a tad over 6 and this was the first cricket series I remembered following with some intent and interest - in fact, I manufactured my first cricket scrap book where Kallicharran and his latest statistcs adorned pride of place. At that age it was obviously not some rational choice but the newspapers were writing a lot about him in the run up to the tour as a batsman to watch out for. His career was still at a fledgling stage but he had acquired a reputation with centuries in his first two tests a couple of years ago ,and then the monumental 158 against England at home (with the infamous run out incident involving Tony Grieg).

In India through that winter he did enough and more to enhance his reputation. In the first Test (where a certain pair by the name of Gordon Greenidge and IVA Richards made their debut), Kalli scored a fine 124 against the best of Indian spinners on a dust bowl in Bangalore and followed that up with fine knocks in Calcutta, Madras and Mumbai. I followed his career closely and apart from some fine hundreds, he had the dubious distinction of getting out in the 90's 7 times.

His career ended in controversy. Bitter at being ignored for the captaincy after leading West Indies during the Packer regime, he lost some form and it seemed interest. He decided to take part in the rebel tour of South Africa and ended up being suspended from all internationals. He finished his career with some excellent seasons with Warwickshire but at 4500 odd runs and 14 hundreds, the figures do not do justice for one of Windies and indeed cricket's all-time great batsmen.

Kallicharran was a complete player and had every stroke in the book. He played spin and pace with equal poise and alacrity and accumulated runs against Indian spinners and Aussie pacers alike, at their pomp. He was also a big-match player with a penchant for playing crucial knocks at critical times. Of the many gems he played, my favourite is of course the much remembered assault on Lillee in the World Cup group game in 1978. Australia scored 190 odd which the West Indies were chasing. Kallicharran got his eye in and then launched himself into the Aussie pace attack, particularly Lillee. One incredible sequence of hooking and pulling produced 30 odd runs of just 10 Lillee deliveries.

Not since Sobers splattered him all over MCG enroute to the 254 for the World XI a few summers ago had Lillee been so severely dealt with. Kalli's 78 in that game and the subsequent 71 in the semifinal against New Zealand made him the player of the series and one of my pleasant memories of childhood is recalling Tony Cozier over the radio brilliantly describing Kalli's assault that memorable afternoon so long ago.