Why Kalli's men were not as bad

Published: Oct 11, 2018, 06:05 IST | Clayton Murzello

Recalling the spirit of the depleted WI team that toured India in 1978-79. Unlike the present side, they didn't fall short on intensity

Why Kalli's men were not as bad
Alvin Kallicharan, who led the West Indies on their 1978-79 tour of India where the men from the Caribbean lost to Sunil Gavaskar's team. Pic/Getty Images

Clayton MurzelloThe visiting West Indies cricket team have provided enough reason to believe that they are the poorest Caribbean Test side to tour India, even though that assessment has been made after only one Test. The hosts outclassed, outgunned and outwitted them at Rajkot and something similar could well be witnessed in the second and final Test, which begins in Hyderabad tomorrow.

At one time, it was rare for WI to lose a series in India. They made their first tour here in 1948-49 and it took India four more series to beat them when, led by Sunil Gavaskar, they won a six-match rubber 1-0 in 1978-79. WI cricket was in disarray in 1978 with their best players involved in Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket (WSC) and thus a second string outfit, led by Alvin Kallicharran arrived in India. Yet, the WI didn't disgrace themselves.

Karsan Ghavri, who opened the bowling for India with a young Kapil Dev in that series, played a big role in that series while bowling pace and spin. He remembered feeling confident that some from that WI team would have extended international careers if and when the Packer issue was resolved. "Unfortunately, I can't see anyone from the current team enjoying a long career. They look out of depth, lack hunger and play far too many T20 shots," Ghavri, who claimed 27 wickets in 1978-79, told me on Monday.

The 1978-79 Test series evoked a good level of excitement and the Tests attracted healthy interest despite wet weather affecting three of the six Tests. Gavaskar reckoned 3-0 would have been a true reflection of India's dominance. "They (WI) were a keen, enthusiastic and talented bunch and sure enough, ran us close in the first two Tests," he wrote in his series review for Sportsweek magazine. However, Gavaskar felt the West Indians lost their grip on the series when Dilip Vengsarkar and Gavaskar himself put on an unconquered, record 344 for the second wicket in the third Test at Kolkata.

A lot depended on Kallicharran and he came good in the first Test itself with his 187, which helped WI score 493 in response to India's 424; a total that included Gavaskar's first Test double century on home soil. Kallicharran followed that up with 71 in his next innings at Bangalore, where the last day was abandoned due to political disturbances. After 55 and 46 in Kolkata, he scored a vital 98 in Chennai, the most thrilling Test of the series.

Rookie Kapil Dev contributed to WI's post lunch crisis of 68 for six on the opening day of this Test, but Kallicharran played splendidly and put on 100 with Derek Parry for his team to end up with 228. India replied with 255 with 124 of those runs coming from the blade of Gundappa Viswanath. Although he enjoyed two lives on a brute of a pitch, he deserved every paisa of his R2500 man-of-the-match earnings. Kapil (3-46), Ghavri (3-52) and S Venkataraghavan (4-43) shot out West Indies for 151 and India were set a victory target of 125. Sylvester Clarke and Nobert Phillip resorted to intimidatory bowling and India were reduced to 115 for seven before Kapil and Syed Kirmani saw India through to a three-wicket win.

The Test was played on a bouncy track. Cricket writer Dicky Rutnagur compared it to the WACA in Perth. The fifth Test at Delhi was all set to go India's way but January showers prevented them from winning their second Test of the series. Gavaskar was in enviable form, slamming his fourth century of the series, which he kicked off with a double century in Mumbai. Vengsarkar scored a hundred too, but the knock of the match was Kapil Dev's maiden three-figure score in Test cricket.
Unbeaten on 94 at the end of Day Two, he was belligerent in the very first over of the third day. After on-droving Nobert Phillip for a boundary, he followed it up by swinging the next ball for a six over square-leg to reach his century.

The sixth Test at Kanpur was played on a lifeless pitch. Faoud Bacchus, who missed out on his maiden hundred by four runs in Bangalore, thrived on the Green Park belter to score 250, helping his side avoid a follow-on. The draw at Kanpur proved to be an anti-climax in an otherwise memorable series. Skipper Kallicharran, wicketkeeper David Murray, Derek Parry, Bacchus and Clarke were chosen again for the West Indies post WSC and several went to South Africa as part of the rebel team.

But two more players – Malcolm Marshall and Larry Gomes — went on to become critical members of Clive Lloyd's all-conquering team. That proved that there was some quality in the WI tourists of 1978-79. The WI team that collapsed in Rajkot had a combined experience of 241 Tests, more than double that of the 1978-79 side (113 Tests) for their opening Test in Mumbai. Yet, the current side is a far poorer. Unfortunately, world cricket is poorer too.

mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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