In this week’s edition of In Search of West Indies Cricket, Roger Seymour reflects on his boyhood batting hero Alvin Kallicharran.
It is hard to pinpoint exactly why Alvin Kallicharran became the cricketer I wanted to emulate when we played as kids. We were both left-handed at bat and adored the hook shot. A Kalli hook off of a tearaway fast bowler was a sight to behold, as he got right behind the line of the ball, and turned his wrists over at the last split second, executing perfect timing. Or was it the running between the wickets? Kalli was lightning quick and with Clive Lloyd’s long looping strides, they routinely conjured two runs out of singles. Kalli was swift in the field and possessed an electrifying return from the deep. He was diminutive, 5’5″, just slightly bigger than us kids, almost schoolboy-like in appearance, and a real life Merlin with a cricket bat!
Alvin Isaac Kallicharran from Port Mourant, Berbice came to prominence as a schoolboy in 1966, when he represented Guyana in the first schoolboys’ tournament in the West Indies: the Barclays Bank Regional Schools Cup. He was the captain for the first two games in Barbados and Dominica. In the second game versus the Combined Leeward and Windward Schools, August 20 – 22, at Windsor Park, Roseau, he scored 92 against an attack spearheaded by a fast bowler of tremendous pace, Norbert Philip. Ronald Austin was the captain for the two games at Bourda, versus Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica. Kalli notched 98 off the Trinidadians in the August 26 – 28 encounter.
Kalli’s first class debut was on March 15, 1967, six days before his 18th birthday, at Queen’s Park, St George’s, Grenada versus the Windward Islands in the Shell Shield Tournament. He contributed 14 and 2, as Guyana led by Lance Gibbs and including Rohan Kanhai, Basil Butcher, Stephen Camacho and Roy Fredericks, won by 230 runs. In the 1969 Shell Shield, he scored 99 at Bourda against Trinidad & Tobago. Kalli finally scored the elusive first hundred, 137 off of the Combined Islands at Bourda, in March 1970, as Guyana won by an innings and 21 runs. Kalli’s 96 at Kensington Oval, Barbados was the highlight of his 1971 Shell Shield season. His selections in the 1971 and 1972 West Indies Board President’s XI sides for the matches with the visitors from India and New Zealand respectively, brought modest returns.
The first Test I attended, was the Fourth Test between New Zealand and the West Indies at Bourda. Kalli, batting sixth on his Test debut, came out late on the first afternoon, Thursday, April 6, 1972, after the tragic run out of Clive Lloyd for 43, who was hammering the ball wherever he wished. The crowd was very upset with the non-striker Charlie Davis who had declined the run; bottles were thrown onto the field, and play was halted. Kalli waited patiently for his first ball in Test cricket, as Lloyd appealed to the crowd from the radio broadcast booth for order to be restored. On the second day, Kalli progressed from his overnight score of 14 to 59, as rain delayed the start of play until after lunch. On Saturday morning, he resumed his innings along with the wicketkeeper Mike Findlay. The runs came quickly, and I can still remember the flick behind square, and Kalli scampering through for the run to bring up the hundred. He received a standing ovation from his home crowd. I joined in the cheering, having unwittingly at the time, witnessed only the seventh West Indian and second Guyanese, to achieve the much coveted feat of a century on Test debut. Sobers promptly declared with the West Indies total on 365 for 7; Kalli was undefeated on 100, and Findlay on 15. His innings had spanned four hours and fourteen minutes, with the last 41 runs coming in only an hour, and contained seven fours and one towering six off of Hedley Howarth over mid-wicket.
Kalli followed his debut century with another, 101, on April 20, the first day of the Fifth Test at the Queen’s Park Oval, Port-of-Spain. This innings took only three hours, and included thirteen fours and one six. Next, he was off to England for his first season of county cricket with Warwickshire, having qualified by playing for their Second XI, the previous year. Alan Smith, the Warwickshire Captain had scooped Glamorgan in 1971, by flying to Guyana to sign Kalli, and beating a British mail strike. Warwickshire with Rohan Kanhai, Lance Gibbs, Deryck Murray and company, ran away with the county championship in the summer of 1972.
Third Test Match, Queen’s Park Oval, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.
The home team chasing a target of 334, and their first victory in Test cricket since 1969, were 188 for 3, at the start of play on March 28, 1973, the fifth day. Kalli (61) and Lloyd (1) were the overnight batsmen. A West Indian victory depended heavily on this pair. Lawrence Rowe had pulled ligaments in an ankle whilst fielding on the first day and took no further part in the match, and of the remaining players, only Maurice Foster and Keith Boyce were capable with the bat. The first two Tests had been drawn with the home side equalling the visitors’ 428 in the first innings in the First Test, and taking a first innings lead of 67, in the Second Test, after posting a total of 391.
When Lloyd was fourth out, caught off of O’Keefe for 15, 115 were required. Foster, centurion (125) in the First Test came to the wicket. Kalli and Foster applied themselves to the task of taming the leg spin of O’Keefe and Jenner on the turning wicket, taking no undue risks as the scoreboard ticked along. By lunch, the West Indies had taken control of the match: two sessions remained, five wickets in hand and 66 runs needed.
“I didn’t think there was any way we could have gotten Kallicharran out,” Australian Captain Ian Chappell later conceded. Kalli had come to the wicket at the dismissal of replacement opener, Murray, (Foster had opened in the first innings) with the score on 39, and with Fredericks (76), had laid the perfect foundation to chase such a formidable total. Now, it was up to Kalli, who had compiled an attractive 53 in the first innings, to deliver the victory.
The first ball after lunch, Kalli chased a wayward delivery from Max Walker, and edged a catch to wicketkeeper Rod Marsh. His 91 in 289 minutes, included twelve fours and one six. The West Indies lost by 44 runs as the tail provided no assistance to Foster’s 34.
Dennis Amiss defies the odds
Second Test Match, Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica.
The West Indies had won the First Test in Trinidad by 7 wickets, and on Tuesday, February 19, 1974, the fourth day of the Second Test (Monday had been taken as the rest day) versus England, were beginning to swing the series their way. Fredericks (94) and Rowe (120), shared an opening stand of 206 in reply to England’s 353, as Rowe completed his tenth first class hundred, all made on Jamaican soil. Kalli, batting first wicket down, continued his fine form from the First Test where he had had his best Test innings to date, of 158. At the close, WI were 434 for 4, with Kalli (89) and Sobers (8). Kalli promptly got out on the resumption the next morning for 93, having struck twelve fours and one six, in 252 minutes at the wicket.
Trailing by 230 runs, England began the last day on 218 for 5, with Amiss (123) and Underwood (1). Dropped by Sobers at backward shortleg off of the third ball of the day, Amiss (262 not out) led England to an unlikely draw. All the West Indians with the exception of wicketkeeper Murray, bowled in the second innings, in a match involving seven Warwickshire players – Amiss, John Jameson, Bob Willis (Eng), Kanhai, Murray, Gibbs & Kalli.
600 at Wankhede Stadium
Fifth Test Match, Wankhede Stadium, Bombay, India
With the series tied at 2-2, Lloyd won the toss for the first time and elected to take first strike on January 23, 1975. Fredericks (104), Kalli (98), Lloyd (242 not out) and Murray (91) were the main scorers, as WI accumulated 604 for 6 declared, on their way to an emphatic 201-run win in the six-day Test. Kalli was dismissed on the cusp of close of play and his knock had lasted 222 minutes and included 13 fours.
“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs…” From Rudyard Kipling’s “If “
First Test, Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, Pakistan
On Monday February 17, 1975, history seemed to be repeating itself. In the First Test in India at Bangalore, November 23, 1974, rain delayed the start of the second day until after lunch, with the West Indies on 213 for 2. The Indian spin duo of Venkataragahavan and Chandrasekhar then wreaked havoc, getting the ball to bite and turn, as the eight remaining West Indian wickets fell for 77 runs, of which Kalli made 60. Here’s The Wisden Report on that innings,
“Kallicharran’s 124 made in four hours, forty minutes, with two sixes and 15 fours, was a faultless innings. He played with supreme skill on a pitch from which the ball both turned and lifted. Added to the merit of his performance was the fact that Kallicharran, a left-hander, had to face in these conditions, two of the finest off-spinners in the world, in Prasanna and Venkataraghavan.”
Resuming on the third morning at 139 for 4, with Kalli (40) and Murray (8), the West Indies were dismissed for 214, replying to Pakistan’s 199. Safraz Nawaz and Asif Masood bowled superbly, with the former taking 6 for 89, as only Murray (10) and Boyce (13), reached double figures. Kalli was masterful in compiling 92 not out, as the West Indies lost their remaining wickets, the last four via the lbw route. It was his second 90 in consecutive Test Matches. West Indies held out for a draw, as Leonard Baichan (105 not out), in the second innings, on Test debut, emulated Gordon Greenidge’s effort in the Bangalore Test three months earlier.
First Test, Kensington Oval, Barbados
On Thursday March 11, 1976, the second day of the match, West Indies consolidated their advantage, after dismissing India for 177 in their first innings. Viv Richards (142) and Kalli (93) added 220 for the third wicket. A grafting innings by Kallicharran, it came in a year less ten days, after his birthday hundred against Barbados in the Shell Shield, and two years since his 119 off Mike Denness’ England XI, on the same ground. Missed by wicketkeeper Kirmani after lunch, Kalli toiled for three hours and forty minutes before falling to the gentle medium pace of Mohinder Amarnauth. His fifth 90 in Tests had 12 fours and a solitary 6. WI wrapped up the match with two days to spare, and went on to their first series win at home in 11 years.
The slaughter of the lambs
First Test, Trent Bridge, Nottingham
The English summer of 1976 is remembered for the sweltering sun, the drought and the batting of Viv Richards. Oft times, when John Arlott, the doyen of cricket commentators came on the air during the BBC Radio Test Match Special that summer he would greet listeners with the phrase, “And the slaughter of the lambs continues.” The flaying of the English attack began on Thursday, June 3, the First day of the Test, when Kalli joined Viv in the middle, 53 minutes after lunch, with WI 105 for 2. By the close, they had progressed to 274 for 2, with Viv (143) completing his ninth century for the year, and Kalli (52) content to play the defensive role. When Viv departed for 232 to a steepling catch by Greig on the long-off boundary, it was 2.30 pm on Friday and the partnership had yielded 303. Kalli followed 15 runs later, caught at backward point off of Underwood for 97. His epic 267-ball innings had lasted for 6 hours and had only eight boundaries. It was his highest Test score in three tours of England. In the first Test at the Oval, in 1973, he had the exact score of 80 in both innings, in spite of a broken finger.
Fourth Test, Queen’s Park Oval, Trinidad
Kallicharran was appointed WI Captain for the Third Test after the Packer players withdrew from the Series. An inexperienced XI lost the Third Test at Bourda, by 3 wickets. Bobby Simpson won the toss on Saturday, April 15, 1978 and invited the WI to bat. Kalli followed his First Test hundred (127) at the same venue with a scintillating display of strokeplay, hitting 16 fours in two and three quarter hours, in a magnificent innings of 92. The Captain, leading from the front, inspired his young team to a 198-run victory, in four days.
Fourth Test, Chepauk, Madras
Thursday, January 12, 1979, India went into a Test Match, for the first time in 12 years without any of their three great match-winning bowlers, Bedi, Chandrasekhar and Prasanna. However, WI were soon in dire straits at 68 for 6, at which point Kalli was joined by Derek Parry. The latter’s contribution to a partnership of 100 was 12, as Kalli, in a brilliant display, manipulated the bowling. Clearly shaken and upset by Parry’s needless run out, he was bowled for 98. His three hours and 20 minutes stay at the wicket had included 16 fours. The WI lost a low scoring game by three wickets, their lone defeat in the Six Test Series.
Did Kalli suffer from ‘the nervous nineties?’ Perhaps, he did like so many other batsmen. (See chart.)
We will always have fond memories of Kalli’s excellent footwork, wonderful driving, pulling and hooking, and especially his savage attack on Dennis Lillee in the first round encounter against Australia in the 1975 Prudential World Cup. During his second innings hundred, 106, on Tuesday, January 29, 1980, in the Third Test versus Australia at the Adelaide Oval, commentator Alan McGilvray made this observation, “The West Indies are so lucky to have a batsman of the calibre of Alvin Kallicharran coming at number four in the order…”.
Trivia on Test 90s
Other players with 90s
Six 90s – Rohan Kanhai, Geoffrey Boycott (5 out + 1 not out), Gordon Greenidge, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Shiv Chanderpaul (4 + 2)
Five 90s – Garry Sobers (4 + 1), Sunil Gavaskar, Michael Atherton (3 + 2), Jack Kallis
Robert Christiani was given out lbw for 99 on his Test debut.
Richie Richardson was twice dismissed for 99 in Tests.
Viv Richards had Test scores of 92, 192 not out, 291.
Gordon Greenidge made 93 and 107 on Test debut at Bangalore, India 1974, and was twice dismissed in a Test in the 90s: 91 and 96 vs Pakistan at Bourda, 1977; and 91 and 97 vs New Zealand at Christ Church, NZ, 1980.
Four of Boycott’s 90s were against the West Indies.