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A true West Indian spirit

Ebullient. That's how his friend and former Test player, Andy Ganteaume remembers Robert Julian Christiani, who died at the beginning of 2005 after prolonged illness. "If I had to pick an entertainer, Robert would be one of them," said Ganteaume. "He played all the shots and was not in the least bit inhibited by bowling. He just went after it and enjoyed himself tremendously. He was a beautiful player, lovely to watch and also a very good wicketkeeper."

Ganteaume laughed as he remembered some of the wickets lost as a consequence of Christiani's daring, but he maintains that watching Christiani's style was worth the hazards.

Christiani, who had lived in Canada for decades, had suffered with Alzheimer's disease, before succumbing six months before his 85th birthday.

Born on July 19, 1920, in what was then British Guiana, he played football (once representing his country as goalkeeper), and was something of an all-rounder at cricket, being a stroke-making batsman, leg-break bowler and wicketkeeper. His mother was a passionate cricket fan, often keeping scores at matches and encouraging her four sons; all of whom played for BG. His elder brother Cyril played for the West Indies too, but he died from malaria at 25.

Robert's first class career lasted from 1938 to 1954, when he scored 5,103 runs at an average of 40.5. This included 12 centuries, 97 catches, 12 stumpings and 18 wickets. Although he had turned out for trials in 1939 (and should have been selected insists Ganteaume), he did not make his Test debut until the English toured the West Indies in January 1948. It was a bittersweet entry. He scored 99 runs in the second innings, enough to make a grown man cry in the dressing room.

He went on to play in 22 Tests, against England, India, Australia and New Zealand. He was part of the famous 1950 series against England, scoring more than a thousand runs on that tour, despite batting at number seven.

He scored 896 runs during his Test career, at an average of 26.35, both figures either a reflection of his batting position or his penchant for hitting every ball. His highest score was 107 against India in New Delhi in 1948.

Christiani was not a big man, standing at 5ft. 10in., and with his spectacles, he cut a more sedate figure than he was. He possessed an infectious joie de vivre, and this he brought firmly to his cricket: a true West Indian spirit if ever there was one.