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Alvin Kallicharran:
A Man Worth Honoring

By Ray Sundar

Sept. 22nd, 2000
The man affectionately known as “Kalli”, made his grand entrance into this world on March 21, 1949 to proud parents, Mr. & Mrs. Isaac Kallicharran. As a young lad he excelled in cricket, and was a fixture, initially at St. Joseph’s Anglican Primary School and then Corentyne Comprehensive High School (COMPRI) cricket teams.

Alvin Kallicharran (center) with Rohan Kanhai (left) and the late Cheddi Jagan.

At Port Mourant Community Centre Boys Club, he joined forces with several other promising young cricketers – Anand Sookram, Beasmonie, Mohandas Madramootoo, Rishi Jodhan (God rest his soul ), Ranji Etwaroo, “Chic” Baldeo (God rest his soul ), Stanley Kallicharran (God rest his soul) to form a veritable who is who in school boys cricket in Berbice. In fact, it was like a junior murderer’s row (the N.Y. Yankees being the senior) which propelled the club. After representing Guyana at the highest level of school cricket, at the age of 161/2, he became the youngest Guyanese to play in the Shell Shield Tournament. Legend has it that he represented Guyana before representing Berbice.

As it is not my intention to regurgitate his career, I shall touch briefly on some aspects of a splendid career:
On April 6, 1972 he played his first test. Batting at # 6 against New Zealand at his home ground – Bourda, he became one of a select few to score a test century on debut. His even 100 not out was decorated with 7x4s and 1x6.

He did the unthinkable in the first innings of his 2nd test – batting at #3 he scored 101 against New Zealand at Port of Spain. His century contained 13x4s and1x6. Consecutive centuries in his first two test innings! Off and running, you say!

During his career he developed a well deserved reputation as one of the best batsmen of spin. Time and again against India, home of the spin gurus, he capably demonstrated this. In fact, on December 3 & 5, 1978 in Mumbai against the likes of Bedi, Chandrasekhar and Venkataraghavan , as West Indies captain, batting at # 4, he scored a magnificent 187 (his highest test score), disdainfully dispatching 25x4s to all parts of the boundary. Incidentally, Sunil Gavaskar, the Indian captain, scored a classy 205, tearing the much vaunted W.I. attack asunder. Here willow, regardless of origin, crowned leather
Though a superb batsman of spin, he showed his impartiality and class by authoring his most ferocious assault against Australia’s speed merchant, the glowering and hostile Dennis Lillee. “Standing all of 5 feet 5 inches, hatless and shirt unbuttoned halfway down”, in an 8 ball span in the 1975 World Cup, he clobbered 1x6 and 5x4s, leading the West Indies to victory. The crowd was delirious with joy as the ball hopped and skipped merrily to the boundary. Here is the scoring sequence - 44414604. One could say Kalli had kangaroo for lunch.

His glorious career saw him record his highest test aggregate of 1325 against Australia with 4 centuries at an average of 42.74. Against India he scored 1229 with 3 centuries at an average of 55.86

In his last test he went out with a whimper – scoring 18 and 12 not out.

Any tribute to Kalli would be woefully inadequate and totally incomplete without referencing and documenting his humility, his humanitarianism and the respect he engenders. In short, the intangibles he brings to the table. Though he and I attended the same high school – Corentyne Comprehensive High School (principals over time: Mr. John Muria, Mr. Ishwar Prashad, Mr. Rudra Nath - God rest his soul, and Mr. Walter Ramdehol) and lived within 795 yards of each other, we did not really interact. However, in 1993 the Sunder family, in association with some friends and associates, started the annual Harry Sunder Cricket Match in New York in memory of the family’s patriarch. We felt a famous face was an absolute necessity to give the match some much needed star power and a boost which would withstand the test of time. Prakash Tilakdharry suggested I contact Alvin. Upon contacting him and articulating my vision, he graciously consented to come to America (from England) to lend his name and prestige to the match. When asked about his appearance fee, he responded in a down to earth fashion, “I can’t charge you a fee to play in your dad’s memorial match. He was a good man.” Just provide round trip airline tickets. When he was offered hotel accommodations, he declined, stating “I’ll stay with you guys”. That was indeed very refreshing and kind of him. He came, he played and he conquered. Thousands showed up to see this son of Port Mourant in action. He made a swashbuckling 47 and took 2 pivotal wickets. He carted off the man of the match award. He shook hands, signed memorabilia, exchanged pleasantries, granted interviews to the press corp present etc. Saying the match took off is an understatement of epic proportions. It is now in its 17th year and a must see on NYC’s summer calendar – will be held on Saturday Aug 12, 2009 at Baisley Pond Park in South Jamaica, New York.

On another trip to New York, we had lunch at Santoor’s restaurant. Grown men from India mobbed him, jumping for joy when he agreed to sign autographs and took out pictures with them. In Florida and Toronto, again, he complied with simple requests, signing autographs and granting photo ops. In Mumbai some acquaintances with ties to Bollywood told me Mr. Kalli is here to play in a “masters” cricket tournament and enquired whether or not I could get admission tickets for them. Kalli provided complimentary tickets for all of us. I was fortunate to see one of my boyhood idols, South Africa’s Graeme Pollock, bat for the first and only time. He scored a half-century. Also, Vivian Richards scored a half-century – only time I saw Richards play.

In England I accompanied him to one of the cricket grounds. I was pleasantly surprised at the reception he got from several English youngsters – with their wholesome cockney accent, “Good afternoon, Mr. Kalli. Here for a game of cricket?” And did they mob him! Autographs again! Later we visited a pub as I wanted to experiment with a glass of “bitters”. He cautioned I should try a small glass. Being Mr. Greedy, I opted to try the tall glass. He sipped soda (no alcoholic beverages) as he smoked a cigar and got into an animated discussion with some pub patrons. A strategically placed phone call ensured I got admission to see West Indies Vs England at Lords.
Respect by his contemporaries and Pakistani spectators manifested themselves at Multan, Pakistan on New Years Eve in 1980. In the 5th test West Indies was fielding, nursing a 1-0 lead in the 5 test series. The restless and despondent Pakistani fans were clearly in a foul mood. They started showering some of the West Indian fielders with debris. Sylvester Clarke, fielding at the fine-leg boundary, was struck with an orange. He retaliated, understandably, but perhaps foolishly, by tossing a brick into the pavilion, hitting 22 year old Shafiq Ahmed on the head. The ensuing mayhem resulted in a 20 minutes delay which ended after a courageous Kalli approached the boundary, got down on one knee and pleaded for calm. Shortly thereafter order was restored and in the process averting a potential confrontation which could have easily degenerated into something ugly.

Now, I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, implying that everything was positive. Of course there were disappointments and negativity. Perhaps the greatest injustice done to Kalli was when some short sighted sanctimonious hypocrites saw fit to ban him from West Indies cricket. Why? For being part of the rebel tour (along with 17 others) of then apartheid South Africa. This is/was tantamount to banning a player from earning a livelihood and effectively rendering him helpless to provide for his family. Smells like restraint of trade. Too bad he did not consult a slick lawyer! The stench emanating from this sad sorry saga continues to permeate the atmosphere. Rest assured this blatant act to deprive these men from earning a living continues to be repugnant, reprehensible and unforgivable.

For those of you who are genuine Kalli fans and would like to know his whereabouts and how he is doing – he is in England. He is the manager of Lashings World XI and he does promotional work for them. In fact at Lords on July 7, September 17 and 29, 2009, a special promotion, a day with Alvin Kallicharran, is planned. The world class players at Lashings, a veritable who’s who in cricket, deferentially refer to him as “the leg” (short for legend).

PS: 1. On the occasion of COMPRI’s 50th anniversary.
2. Author attended St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic School and COMPRI. and could be contacted on cricket798@gmail.com and or 347 932 1771.
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