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Cricket great Kallicharran is 75 today

Updated on: 21 March,2024 06:47 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Clayton Murzello |

A tribute to USA-based former West Indies cricket captain and batting great Alvin Kallicharran on his landmark birthday

Cricket great Kallicharran is 75 today

West Indies cricket great Alvin Kallicharran during a visit to Mumbai in 2022. Pic/Ashish Raje

Clayton MurzelloThree short-statured champion batsmen, who peaked in the 1970s, were born within the span of six months in the same year of 1949. It’s trivia like this that tickles cricket enthusiasts, adding a delightful ring to their cricket-following. Gundappa Vishwanath turned 75 on February 12 while his brother-in-law Sunil Gavaskar will celebrate his 75th birthday on July 10. Meanwhile, West Indies’s Alvin Kallicharran (Kalli to friends) will be 75 today.

We Indians will remember Kallicharran for his two Test tours to India in 1974-75 and 1978-79, the latter as captain of a second string West Indies team, whose regular stars were part of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket (WSC) in Australia.

His maiden tour of India in 1974-75 started with a hundred in the opening Test at Bangalore, the city’s inaugural Test. He rated it as the best among his 12 Test hundreds, played on a track affected by a strong overnight shower. The late sports writer Sunder Rajan wrote glowingly about Kallicharran’s first innings’ 124 in a book on the series:  “Kallicharran’s faultless century under none-too-easy circumstances was one of the highlights of the Test [won by the West Indies by 267 runs]. Here was a batsman with the technique and temperament of the highest class. Though many have hailed him as another [Rohan] Kanhai, any resemblance between the two is only superficial. Not for Kalli the adventurous spirit of Kanhai. He employs his strokes with deliberation and care. His batting is a beautiful blend of defence and attack. Such a batsman is always to be feared.”

Feared he was even by the Australians, who encountered him the following English summer during the World Cup. At the Oval, Kallicharran smashed 78 off 83 balls. At one stage, he took 35 runs off 10 Dennis Lillee deliveries which resulted in a seven-wicket win for the eventual champions led by Clive Lloyd. Kallicharran’s mauling of Lillee in the 1975 World Cup notwithstanding, it’s amazing that he couldn’t hit the high notes on English soil in his three Test tours of England. In 11 Tests there, he scored only 494 runs.

In a YouTube video, Raleigh-based (North Carolina, USA) Kallicharran revealed how he scored a mountain of runs leading up to the 1973 Test series-opener at the Oval; centuries against DH Robbins XI, Nottinghamshire and Glamorgan. Senior pro Lance Gibbs noticed Kallicharran joking with his fellow Guyanese Roy Fredericks on a bus ride and believed the young turk could be getting carried away with his pre-series form. Gibbs chatted with Kallicharran and told him, “You can’t bat to save your life!” The young left-hander probably got his best cricketing lesson in the form of hard talk which stressed on big scores. And yes, confronting the England Test side was far more challenging than the county trundlers.

The following year, during the home series against England, Kallicharran inadvertently got involved in a major controversy when play ended on the second day of the opening Test. Bernard Julien played the last ball of the day bowled by Derek Underwood and walked towards the pavilion. At the non-striker’s end, Kallicharran left his crease to return as well. But Tony Greig fielding at silly point, in commentator-writer Tony Cozier’s words in his West Indies Cricket Annual for 1974, “followed the course of the ball, noticed Kallicharran out of his ground and threw down the stumps at the bowler’s end. Umpire Sang Hue had no alternative but to give the batsman out on appeal.” Kallicharran would have been gutted. He had batted for over five hours for his 142. After consideration the England team management withdrew the appeal later in the evening and Kallicharran was allowed to resume his innings on the third day.

The India tour of 1978-79 was long and arduous. Kallicharran had the late Joe Solomon as his manager. Like Solomon, Kallicharran took his first steps in the game in Port Mourant, Berbice in Guyana. Kallicharran carved a captain’s innings of 187 in the first Test at the Wankhede Stadium, where he had missed his second century of the series by two runs on the previous tour in 1974-75. His opposite number Sunil Gavaskar scored 205 in the 1978-79 Test.  The Test was drawn and so were the next ones in Bangalore and Kolkata before India’s three-wicket win in Chennai. The Delhi and Kanpur Tests were drawn too with Kallicharran topping the series runs chart for West Indies with 538. As for Gavaskar, he amassed 700-plus run in a series for the second time in his career.

As expected Kallicharran was replaced as captain by Lloyd when peace was restored between WSC and the establishment. He was dropped from the side after the 1980-81 tour of Pakistan. And he didn’t please the administrators when he signed up to play for Transvaal in 1981-82 before being part of the 1982-83 and 1983-84 rebel West Indies teams in South Africa. He continued to be force for Warwickshire and in 1982 played two innings which lit up the county season. His clash with Hampshire’s Malcolm Marshall was, according to Wisden, “a contest to savour” with Kallicharran scoring 131 against Marshall’s “extreme pace and unrivalled expertise” at Southampton, where the hosts won by 37 runs. In a NatWest Trophy clash during the same season, he destroyed Somerset with an innings of 141 not out at Taunton which put Warwickshire into the one-day competition’s semi-finals. One of the bowlers the five-foot, five inches batsman tore apart was a six-foot, eight inches pace bowler, who answered to the name of Joel Garner.

Kallicharran has come a long way since growing up at Port Mourant in a house in which he was one of 11 siblings. He treated cricket like oxygen, did the hard yards amidst financial hardships, played first-class cricket before turning 19 and scored centuries in his first two Tests against NZ in 1971-72. Among the many accomplished players who walked out for the West Indies in the 1970s, Kallicharran could fall into the formidable category too. And as his friends would attest, he’s been a great guy, too.

mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance.
He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.

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