June 6, 2013

Remembering Kallicharran's West Indies

A depleted West Indies lost the series in India in 1978-79 but went home with their heads held high
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India won at Chepauk, Viswanath's 124 sealing the deal © Getty Images

The Packer years saw two depleted sides tour India: the Australians led by Kim Hughes, in the 1979-80 season, and West Indians, led by Alvin Kallicharran, the previous year.

Like most Indian fans that winter, I was disappointed to read the West Indian line-up. I did not recognise most of the names in Kallicharran's party. The captain, Vanburn Holder, and Raphick Jumadeen were certainly familiar enough, but who were Norbert Phillip, David Murray, Sylvester Clarke, Malcolm Marshall, Larry Gomes et al? There was a Greenidge in there too, but he wasn't the right one. Still, Tests were Tests, and paying attention to Test cricket in the winter was the only sensible thing to do. There were no live telecasts that year, except from Delhi, so radio commentary would have to do.

The West Indians set the template for the Australians, who would follow a year later. Like them the West Indians proved to be no pushovers; they lost 0-1 in a six-Test series, one admittedly affected by poor weather and the usual slow Indian pitches (and in one case, in Bangalore, political unrest!). Interestingly enough, the only result of the series came at the fastest pitch in India then, at Chepauk.

The West Indian pace attack proved to be in capable hands, even if they were neutered for most of the time by the surfaces they bowled on. The first Test was a captain's game. India put on 424 in their first innings, a total reliant on Sunil Gavaskar's 205; this was countered by the West Indies' 493, which in turn was built on the back of Kallicharran's 187. Too much playing time, though, had been lost for any possibility of a result.

In the second Test West Indies again put on a 400-plus score, and this time squeezed out a 66-run lead. The Indian innings saw a stunning dismissal: Gavaskar, gone for a duck off the first ball, caught at gully off Clarke. The batsmen who Clarke would later intimidate while playing for Surrey would have been sympathetic: the ball that dismissed Gavaskar climbed on him even as he fended it off to gully. West Indies didn't do so well in the second innings, losing eight wickets for 200 to set up a fascinating final day. But bizarrely, the final day's play was called off: Indira Gandhi had just been arrested, and with strikes and demonstrations called for in the city, the local police took the extraordinary step of "asking" the state association to cancel the cricket. In the annals of abandonment, this ranks right up there.

West Indies stayed on par in the third Test till the Indian second innings; indeed, they took a 27-run lead. But Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar's 344-run partnership for the second wicket took the game away from them; the pair ensured that the Indian second innings moved along at a fair clip, and allowed a declaration late on the fourth day. It is worth noting two facts about this effort: India scored at almost four runs an over, and Gavaskar declared with India 334 runs ahead, setting West Indies an eminently gettable target. West Indies' scores in the series till then had been 493, 437, 200 for 8, and 327, so Gavaskar certainly had reason to respect their batting. Still, his gamble almost worked: the West Indians barely escaped.

Like Kim Hughes' Australians, Kallicharran's outfit was soon disbanded once the world's cricket boards made their peace with Kerry Packer, and many of his tourists returned to relative obscurity

The game ended with the score at 197 for 9 but just as memorable were the circumstances. Light fades early in the Indian east, a feature only to be expected in a country so large with just one time zone. As it did, and as West Indian wickets fell, the appeals for bad light began. Sew Shivnarine approached the umpires perhaps half a dozen times, only to be rebuffed each time. Exasperated, he offered his bat to them, and suggested they try their hand at batting. Persistence pays; the umpires finally accepted his appeal, and the game was over. A riveting finish, even if only heard on the radio.

Ironically West Indies came closest to a win in the one Test they lost, which was played at Chepauk, India's fastest and bounciest pitch. Batsmen on both sides hopped, bruises and blows were handed out, and wickets fell regularly. It was a Test that cemented G Viswanath's reputation as a great player of fast bowling and India's crisis man: his 124 in India's first innings of 255 ensured India took a precious 27-run lead, one whose value became even more apparent when India lost seven wickets chasing 125. Indeed, at one stage they were 84 for 6 before a quick 26 from Kapil Dev took them over the line.

The last two Tests were rather dull draws and the series petered out; even die-hard fans of Test cricket had to admit that six Tests were one too many, especially when played on largely lifeless pitches.

Like Hughes' Australians, Kallicharran's outfit was soon disbanded once the world's cricket boards made their peace with Kerry Packer, and many of his tourists returned to relative obscurity. But some of them made their way into the most fearsome outfit of all time: Clive Lloyd's all-conquering 1980s all-stars.

And none among them would stand out more than Marshall. On his first tour, his action was still not fully developed; he had not hit full pace just yet. Hints of his promise were visible in the tour games, but in the Tests he struggled to make a mark; maturity as a strike bowler would take some time. As he would note in his autobiography, this was a hard and contentious tour for him and he looked forward to taking "revenge" on the Indians. And he did, in ample measure.

West Indies were, like the Australians, just a bit outgunned. But like them, they went home with their heads held high. They were inexperienced and in unfamiliar conditions, and had held their own. Indian fans might have been disappointed that a star outfit did not show up, but at least they were not subjected to abject surrender. If only the weather gods and the groundsmen had cooperated.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • harshthakor on June 8, 2013, 5:45 GMT

    Another revelation in this series was Sylvester Clarke,who was arguably the fastest West Indian quickie of all.It was also the launching pad of Malcolm Marshall,who gained experience in mastering the docile sub-continent tracks.The 4th test at Madras was even quicker than Perth,which was a testimony to the genius of Vishy who combined the precision of a surgeon with the imagination of a poet to destroy the opponents attack.Above all his knock won the game for India when Gavaskar and Vengsarkar failed.

    At times Alvin Kalicharan gave streaks of why he was ranked with the top flight of batsman and his batting was a revelation.Infact for pure prowess Kali was in the Graeme Pollock class.

    The series was also the turning point for Kapil Dev and helped Gavasakar consolidate his position for a claim to be the best batsman in the world.I ask myself whetether with the likes of Garner,Croft ,Roberts and Holding bowling would Gavaskar have scored the same 732 runs at 91.50?

  • harshthakor on June 8, 2013, 5:21 GMT

    Morally,West Indies gained the honours.Inspite of coming with a 2nd string team they came within inches of pulling of a dramatic win in the 4th test at Madras,which decided the series.With their superior bowling attack they should have won that game.They were the better team in the 1st test in Mumbai when Kalicharan scored a classic 187 and was wrongly given out.I can never forget Faoud Bacchus's 250 at Kanpur which heroically saved the game for them at Kanpur.

    The most unforgettable moment was Gundappa Vishwanath's 124 out of 255 at Madras.On the fastest of tracks with disconcerting bounce Vishy proved why he was the real little master.He displayed wrists of plywood and manipulated the bowling attack like moving pawns on a chess board.

  • on June 7, 2013, 16:01 GMT

    I remember this series very vividly. The Windies were terribly weakened by the absence of their main players, lost to Packer Series. They were lead by Alvin Kallicharan, the man who had set the World Cup 75 on fire by a blistering batting performance. India on the other hand had just returned from a trip to Pakistan. They had not only lost, the famed quartet of spinners were badly mauled. Sunil Gavaskar was immediately as captain instead of Bedi. Karsan Ghavri was brought back to join Kapil Dev as the opening bowler. India's new thrust was going to be pace. Venkatraghavan, Bedi and Chandrashekhar were still around, but shadow of their self. However India could not force the result in their favour. However there were things going against them too. Tests at Bangalore, Calcutta and Delhi should have all gone India way. India could only win at Madras, thanks to a double effort by Vishy. Kapil established himself as an all rounder. Gavaskar scored more than 700 runs in the series.

  • armchairjohnny on June 7, 2013, 13:59 GMT

    Thanks for drawing attention to this particular series Samir. Alvin will always be my cricketing hero. I had the rare pleasure of meeting Alvin Kallicharran on a number of occasions many years ago when he was playing club cricket in England. It's plain to see that part of the reason for the Windies success in that era was because of mentally tough individuals like Kallicharran. He didn't have the fame and adulation attached to him in the way that other cricketers of his day did, but he was a pivotal part of that great West Indies side.

    I've always looked up to him as a role model in both life and cricket. A wonderfully earnest man, a man of principles with a shrewd cricketing brain who would no doubt have made a great long term captain for any side. He always struck me as being a street fighter (in the mould of Border and Miandad), but one who would never take himself too seriously.

  • muzika_tchaikovskogo on June 9, 2013, 9:57 GMT

    Interesting recollections Samir, could you please do it for more tours? The 70s is a period for which there are no videos on youtube and most of us weren't even born then. For 80s kids like me, your articles are gold dust!

  • henchart on June 8, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    Unfortunately, Sylvester Clarke and Malcolm Marshall are no more.Bacchus fell on the stumps in Kanpur.How much thrill radio commentary used to offer those days.

  • on June 7, 2013, 12:42 GMT

    Not bad for a depleted WI squad. If there best team were there well, it would have been a different story.

  • YorBanra on June 7, 2013, 7:39 GMT

    Kapil Dev matured as a cricketer in this series. He got his first fifty in Calcutta and his first century in Delhi besides playing a crucial role in India's victory in Madras. Palmolive featured him in an ad - the first cricketer after Gavaskar! Faoud Bacchus showed great talent - getting 96 in Bangalore and an astounding 250 in Kanpur. Saad Bin Jung emerged with 57 for India Colts followed up with 113 for South Zone against the visitors. That was the highest point of his career before he fizzled out. Dhiraj Parsana got a chance for India at last but performed poorly. Badi played his last match at Calcutta. Venkataraghavan was impressive. India's strength shifted from spin to pace. Sylvestor Clarke and Norbert Phillip emerged as capable fast bowlers. David Parry emerged as a greatly talented spinner who got wasted as the West Indies could not accomodate him subsequently in their line up. Michael Dalvi who should have played for India got his last significant century in a zonal match.

  • IndiaGoats on June 7, 2013, 5:01 GMT

    In addition to Greenidge, Murray the wicket keeper was also not the right one!

  • on June 7, 2013, 4:42 GMT

    How well I remember the Chepauk test. Vishy tamed the pitch with his square driving and cutting while the rest (Gavaskar included, in fact he scored 4 and 1) failed miserably. And India won when Kirmani and Kapil Dev ran a bye.

  • harshthakor on June 8, 2013, 5:45 GMT

    Another revelation in this series was Sylvester Clarke,who was arguably the fastest West Indian quickie of all.It was also the launching pad of Malcolm Marshall,who gained experience in mastering the docile sub-continent tracks.The 4th test at Madras was even quicker than Perth,which was a testimony to the genius of Vishy who combined the precision of a surgeon with the imagination of a poet to destroy the opponents attack.Above all his knock won the game for India when Gavaskar and Vengsarkar failed.

    At times Alvin Kalicharan gave streaks of why he was ranked with the top flight of batsman and his batting was a revelation.Infact for pure prowess Kali was in the Graeme Pollock class.

    The series was also the turning point for Kapil Dev and helped Gavasakar consolidate his position for a claim to be the best batsman in the world.I ask myself whetether with the likes of Garner,Croft ,Roberts and Holding bowling would Gavaskar have scored the same 732 runs at 91.50?

  • harshthakor on June 8, 2013, 5:21 GMT

    Morally,West Indies gained the honours.Inspite of coming with a 2nd string team they came within inches of pulling of a dramatic win in the 4th test at Madras,which decided the series.With their superior bowling attack they should have won that game.They were the better team in the 1st test in Mumbai when Kalicharan scored a classic 187 and was wrongly given out.I can never forget Faoud Bacchus's 250 at Kanpur which heroically saved the game for them at Kanpur.

    The most unforgettable moment was Gundappa Vishwanath's 124 out of 255 at Madras.On the fastest of tracks with disconcerting bounce Vishy proved why he was the real little master.He displayed wrists of plywood and manipulated the bowling attack like moving pawns on a chess board.

  • on June 7, 2013, 16:01 GMT

    I remember this series very vividly. The Windies were terribly weakened by the absence of their main players, lost to Packer Series. They were lead by Alvin Kallicharan, the man who had set the World Cup 75 on fire by a blistering batting performance. India on the other hand had just returned from a trip to Pakistan. They had not only lost, the famed quartet of spinners were badly mauled. Sunil Gavaskar was immediately as captain instead of Bedi. Karsan Ghavri was brought back to join Kapil Dev as the opening bowler. India's new thrust was going to be pace. Venkatraghavan, Bedi and Chandrashekhar were still around, but shadow of their self. However India could not force the result in their favour. However there were things going against them too. Tests at Bangalore, Calcutta and Delhi should have all gone India way. India could only win at Madras, thanks to a double effort by Vishy. Kapil established himself as an all rounder. Gavaskar scored more than 700 runs in the series.

  • armchairjohnny on June 7, 2013, 13:59 GMT

    Thanks for drawing attention to this particular series Samir. Alvin will always be my cricketing hero. I had the rare pleasure of meeting Alvin Kallicharran on a number of occasions many years ago when he was playing club cricket in England. It's plain to see that part of the reason for the Windies success in that era was because of mentally tough individuals like Kallicharran. He didn't have the fame and adulation attached to him in the way that other cricketers of his day did, but he was a pivotal part of that great West Indies side.

    I've always looked up to him as a role model in both life and cricket. A wonderfully earnest man, a man of principles with a shrewd cricketing brain who would no doubt have made a great long term captain for any side. He always struck me as being a street fighter (in the mould of Border and Miandad), but one who would never take himself too seriously.

  • muzika_tchaikovskogo on June 9, 2013, 9:57 GMT

    Interesting recollections Samir, could you please do it for more tours? The 70s is a period for which there are no videos on youtube and most of us weren't even born then. For 80s kids like me, your articles are gold dust!

  • henchart on June 8, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    Unfortunately, Sylvester Clarke and Malcolm Marshall are no more.Bacchus fell on the stumps in Kanpur.How much thrill radio commentary used to offer those days.

  • on June 7, 2013, 12:42 GMT

    Not bad for a depleted WI squad. If there best team were there well, it would have been a different story.

  • YorBanra on June 7, 2013, 7:39 GMT

    Kapil Dev matured as a cricketer in this series. He got his first fifty in Calcutta and his first century in Delhi besides playing a crucial role in India's victory in Madras. Palmolive featured him in an ad - the first cricketer after Gavaskar! Faoud Bacchus showed great talent - getting 96 in Bangalore and an astounding 250 in Kanpur. Saad Bin Jung emerged with 57 for India Colts followed up with 113 for South Zone against the visitors. That was the highest point of his career before he fizzled out. Dhiraj Parsana got a chance for India at last but performed poorly. Badi played his last match at Calcutta. Venkataraghavan was impressive. India's strength shifted from spin to pace. Sylvestor Clarke and Norbert Phillip emerged as capable fast bowlers. David Parry emerged as a greatly talented spinner who got wasted as the West Indies could not accomodate him subsequently in their line up. Michael Dalvi who should have played for India got his last significant century in a zonal match.

  • IndiaGoats on June 7, 2013, 5:01 GMT

    In addition to Greenidge, Murray the wicket keeper was also not the right one!

  • on June 7, 2013, 4:42 GMT

    How well I remember the Chepauk test. Vishy tamed the pitch with his square driving and cutting while the rest (Gavaskar included, in fact he scored 4 and 1) failed miserably. And India won when Kirmani and Kapil Dev ran a bye.

  • Night-Watchman on June 6, 2013, 19:44 GMT

    One thing I remember vividly was the controversy during the Calcutta test that WI escaped by the skin of their teeth. Both captains had agreed to start play half an hour earlier on the final day to accommodate the mandatory overs due to failing light. WI, however, did not turn up at the agreed time on the last day. When confronted, they promised to play out the mandatory overs come what may. In the closing stages, they reneged on this agreement too by consistantly appealing against bad light. Umpires, who knew these informal agreements, are not to be blamed for allowing play to continue in bad light.

    That incident combined with the, arguably, winning position that India had in the Bangalore test and the fact that WI were on the mat in the fifth test where rain came to their rescue when they had their backs to the wall after following on with a deficit of 394 makes the series a relatively one-sided one in my opinion.

  • Night-Watchman on June 6, 2013, 19:44 GMT

    One thing I remember vividly was the controversy during the Calcutta test that WI escaped by the skin of their teeth. Both captains had agreed to start play half an hour earlier on the final day to accommodate the mandatory overs due to failing light. WI, however, did not turn up at the agreed time on the last day. When confronted, they promised to play out the mandatory overs come what may. In the closing stages, they reneged on this agreement too by consistantly appealing against bad light. Umpires, who knew these informal agreements, are not to be blamed for allowing play to continue in bad light.

    That incident combined with the, arguably, winning position that India had in the Bangalore test and the fact that WI were on the mat in the fifth test where rain came to their rescue when they had their backs to the wall after following on with a deficit of 394 makes the series a relatively one-sided one in my opinion.

  • on June 7, 2013, 4:42 GMT

    How well I remember the Chepauk test. Vishy tamed the pitch with his square driving and cutting while the rest (Gavaskar included, in fact he scored 4 and 1) failed miserably. And India won when Kirmani and Kapil Dev ran a bye.

  • IndiaGoats on June 7, 2013, 5:01 GMT

    In addition to Greenidge, Murray the wicket keeper was also not the right one!

  • YorBanra on June 7, 2013, 7:39 GMT

    Kapil Dev matured as a cricketer in this series. He got his first fifty in Calcutta and his first century in Delhi besides playing a crucial role in India's victory in Madras. Palmolive featured him in an ad - the first cricketer after Gavaskar! Faoud Bacchus showed great talent - getting 96 in Bangalore and an astounding 250 in Kanpur. Saad Bin Jung emerged with 57 for India Colts followed up with 113 for South Zone against the visitors. That was the highest point of his career before he fizzled out. Dhiraj Parsana got a chance for India at last but performed poorly. Badi played his last match at Calcutta. Venkataraghavan was impressive. India's strength shifted from spin to pace. Sylvestor Clarke and Norbert Phillip emerged as capable fast bowlers. David Parry emerged as a greatly talented spinner who got wasted as the West Indies could not accomodate him subsequently in their line up. Michael Dalvi who should have played for India got his last significant century in a zonal match.

  • on June 7, 2013, 12:42 GMT

    Not bad for a depleted WI squad. If there best team were there well, it would have been a different story.

  • henchart on June 8, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    Unfortunately, Sylvester Clarke and Malcolm Marshall are no more.Bacchus fell on the stumps in Kanpur.How much thrill radio commentary used to offer those days.

  • muzika_tchaikovskogo on June 9, 2013, 9:57 GMT

    Interesting recollections Samir, could you please do it for more tours? The 70s is a period for which there are no videos on youtube and most of us weren't even born then. For 80s kids like me, your articles are gold dust!

  • armchairjohnny on June 7, 2013, 13:59 GMT

    Thanks for drawing attention to this particular series Samir. Alvin will always be my cricketing hero. I had the rare pleasure of meeting Alvin Kallicharran on a number of occasions many years ago when he was playing club cricket in England. It's plain to see that part of the reason for the Windies success in that era was because of mentally tough individuals like Kallicharran. He didn't have the fame and adulation attached to him in the way that other cricketers of his day did, but he was a pivotal part of that great West Indies side.

    I've always looked up to him as a role model in both life and cricket. A wonderfully earnest man, a man of principles with a shrewd cricketing brain who would no doubt have made a great long term captain for any side. He always struck me as being a street fighter (in the mould of Border and Miandad), but one who would never take himself too seriously.

  • on June 7, 2013, 16:01 GMT

    I remember this series very vividly. The Windies were terribly weakened by the absence of their main players, lost to Packer Series. They were lead by Alvin Kallicharan, the man who had set the World Cup 75 on fire by a blistering batting performance. India on the other hand had just returned from a trip to Pakistan. They had not only lost, the famed quartet of spinners were badly mauled. Sunil Gavaskar was immediately as captain instead of Bedi. Karsan Ghavri was brought back to join Kapil Dev as the opening bowler. India's new thrust was going to be pace. Venkatraghavan, Bedi and Chandrashekhar were still around, but shadow of their self. However India could not force the result in their favour. However there were things going against them too. Tests at Bangalore, Calcutta and Delhi should have all gone India way. India could only win at Madras, thanks to a double effort by Vishy. Kapil established himself as an all rounder. Gavaskar scored more than 700 runs in the series.

  • harshthakor on June 8, 2013, 5:21 GMT

    Morally,West Indies gained the honours.Inspite of coming with a 2nd string team they came within inches of pulling of a dramatic win in the 4th test at Madras,which decided the series.With their superior bowling attack they should have won that game.They were the better team in the 1st test in Mumbai when Kalicharan scored a classic 187 and was wrongly given out.I can never forget Faoud Bacchus's 250 at Kanpur which heroically saved the game for them at Kanpur.

    The most unforgettable moment was Gundappa Vishwanath's 124 out of 255 at Madras.On the fastest of tracks with disconcerting bounce Vishy proved why he was the real little master.He displayed wrists of plywood and manipulated the bowling attack like moving pawns on a chess board.