Among the top guns of West Indies during the 70s, Alvin Kallicharran hogged the limelight because of his stylish batting display. He was short in stature, but never short of scintillating stroke-play…….
Alvin Kallicharran had the talent and skill to become one of the legends from West Indies, but the potential was only partly fulfilled. Despite facing a career ban from West Indies Cricket Board at an age of 32, Kallicharran remains one of the most elegant batsmen West Indies have produced. In his playing days, Kallicharran was a testament to the fact that height hardly matters to excel in cricket.
Despite his short stature, Kallicharran had the elegance, the charm and almost every stroke in his armory. His balance was just perfect and was equally equipped against any kind of attack. He rendered batting a joy to behold; the southpaw won thousands of hearts with his graceful stroke-play and was a vital cog in the side during his playing days.
Saying that West Indies conjugated world cricket in 1970s and 1980s would be an understatement. They were the giants of world cricket during that era and inspired confidence as a unit. They had an aura of fine players, whose presence was intimidating at the crease. The likes of Viv Richards, Desmond Haynes, Clive Lloyd, Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Gordon Greenidge and Alvin Kallicharran were match-winners and could win games single-handedly on their day.
Kallicharran’s footwork was a joy to watch, it was dazzling. He could play strokes off the front foot as well as off the back foot, there was no major weakness in his technique. He had the hunger to score big and was a plucky striker of the cricket ball. After his playing days were over, Kallicharran took spiritualism.
Kallicharran was a part of the West Indies side that won the World Cup in 1975 and 1979. In fact, he was the highest run-scorer for West Indies in the 1975 World Cup, where he plundered 197 runs at a staggering average of 49.25 with the highest score of 78. He was also named as the Wisden Cricketer of the year in 1973 for his prolific run with the bat. He also led the West Indies side in 1977-78 when Clive Lloyd resigned.
Kallicharran hogged all the headlines on his Test debut, scoring an emphatic ton against New Zealand at Georgetown in 1972. He didn’t stop there, he continued his pristine form in the next encounter at Port Of Spain by scoring another emphatic ton.
He recorded his highest score in Test cricket against India in Mumbai in 1978, where he scored 187 to rescue the West Indies innings after an early storm.
Kallicharran destroys Dennis Lillee in a World Cup game
In a group stage encounter, West Indies asked Australia to bat first after winning the toss. Their bowlers did a magnificent job in restricting the Australian side to a modest total of 192. Australia had a formidable bowling with the likes of Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee in the attack. Walker drew the first blood by getting rid of Gordon Greenidge for 16 with West Indies’ score being 29 for 1. In came Kallicharran at three and along with Fredericks, they accounted for 124 runs between them.
Kallicharran was the wrecker-in-chief in this partnership, scoring 78 off 83 deliveries with the help of 14 boundaries and a solitary six. But what made this innings memorable was the southpaw’s onslaught on Lillee. He went berserk and scored 35 runs off the last 10 deliveries bowled to him by Lillee. He scored 4,4,4,4,4,1,4,6 and a 4 in an era, where the balance between bat and ball was equal. It’s never easy to smash a bowler like Lillee in the manner Kallicharran did, it requires courage and most importantly, the mentality.
Eventually, Lillee had the last laugh by getting rid of Kallicharran on 78, but the damage was already done. West Indies won the game by seven wickets and the southpaw was awarded Man of the Match for his scintillating innings. This episode still remains of the memorable folklores in cricket.
The controversial runout
One of Kallicharran’s finest innings came against England at Port of Spain in 1973-74, where he scored an inspiring 158. However, at the end of the first day, Kallicharran was batting on 142, when his partner Bernard Julien played out the last ball towards Tony Greig at point.
The southpaw walked down towards the pavilion without returning to the crease. Greig was aware of this and threw the ball towards the non-striker’s end to have Kallicharran run out. Umpire Douglas Sang Hue ruled him out but Kallicharran was given a new life the next morning when tension started mounting on the tour.
In March 1978, when Australia toured West Indies, the home side won the first two games of the five-match series. Kallicharran scored a fighting 127 in the opening game. After the second encounter, skipper Clive Lloyd resigned as the captain of West Indies team over the Packer issue. Few players were dropped by the selectors for the third game, which sparked tension in the West Indies dugout and players from the Packer group also stepped down in support of Lloyd.
With a lot of new names, Kallicharran was appointed as the captain of the side. This West Indies side lost the third encounter but won the fourth one with Kallicharran scoring 92 in the first innings. In the final encounter, Australia were on the brink of a win when the crowd intervened to end the game. In the final game, Kallicharran was fighting his way to save the day for West Indies on the final day with an astounding ton. He was dismissed after a valiant knock and when the ninth wicket in the form of Vanburn Holder fell, the crowd threw stones, bottles etc. on the ground, further bringing it to an end.
Kallicharran’s downfall started in New Zealand; after grabbing a pair in the first Test, he returned with a decent knock of 75 in the second Test, but got out on a duck in the second innings. In 1980 tour of England, Kallicharran scored just 102 runs in six innings, which triggered things against him.
His run in Pakistan same year, where he got just 80 runs in four games prompted his ouster from the West Indies side and was subsequently dropped.
Banned at 32
At the age of 32, things turned out to be bad when Kallicharran decided to lead the side in their unofficial rebel tour to South Africa. The decision ignited controversy and Kallicharran was banned by WICB at the age of 32. After the ban, Kallicharran played a lot of cricket in English County and scored heavily there.
Kallicharran signed off international cricket with 4399 Test runs along with 12 centuries at an astounding average of 44.43 in 66 Tests under his belt. In the ODIs, Kallicharran featured in 31 games, scoring 826 at 34.41. His name may not come to light when West Indies cricket is mentioned but has been one of the finest batsmen to have embraced the game of cricket. Despite his short height, Kallicharran managed to grab the spotlight with his flawless technique and temperament. One could only imagine the kind of impact and record Kallicharran would have scripted had he played a full career.
Kallicharran’s view on Test cricket
The languishing value of Test cricket has been the talk of the town for a very long time now. Many believe that Test cricket is losing its importance and dying a slow death, but Kallicharran has other ideas about it. In a chat with The Hindu, Kallicharran was once quoted saying, “I am old-fashioned. Test cricket is the nurturing ground to produce quality cricketers. You need the longer version to sustain the skills of batting and bowling. Only Test cricket teaches you to bat longer and bowl longer. To me, that is the most important aspect of coaching. If you know how to bat longer and bowl long spells you can play any format of cricket. Remember, any format you play, a bad ball is a bad ball. Also, if you can’t judge the length of the ball, you can’t find gaps. Simple!”