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August 27, 1979. Arunabha Sengupta recalls Alvin Kallicharran’s moment of sheer genius during the county match between Warwickshire and Worcestershire.
Towering genius disdains a beaten path. And there never was great genius without a mixture of madness.
Dennis Amiss, the former England opener and an outstanding batsman himself, will vouch for the truth of the statements in context of the supremely talented Alvin Kallicharran. The final career figures perhaps show that the tremendous potential was not fully realised, but few could doubt the extraordinary ability of the Guyanese batsman. And seldom was it as splendidly showcased as in one over during the summer of 1979.
The ways of seeing a bowler off
For much of his career, Vanburn Holder played alongside men like Michael Holding and Andy Roberts. To cut through the remnants of the batting after the fire-like pace had scorched opposition the line-up, the man from Barbados developed a reputation as an accurate fast-medium change bowler.
Yet, there were instances when he got the new ball in his hands and was presented with a fiery wicket to pitch it on. In such conditions, he could run in and send them down disconcertingly quick. Sometimes he did so for Worcestershire, the county he represented for as many as12 seasons.
And during that summer of 1979, he came across one such dream wicket in the Worcester County Ground. On the second afternoon, the visiting Warwickshire side took strike after the hosts had declared their innings at 300 for seven. Holder charged in and bowled his first few overs at furious pace.
As Amiss watched from the other end, David Smith received one far too quick to get his bat down in time and the ball thudded into his pads. The batsman who had become consistent enough to be awarded the county cap the previous season could do nothing about it. The finger of the umpire went up.
Five years down the line, Andy Lloyd would be rendered hors de combat by a Malcolm Marshall on his Test debut, and would remain in the hospital for ten days and suffer from blurry vision. However, there was nothing wrong with his eyesight on that day when he got a vicious in-dipper from Holder that uprooted his stumps.
It was 32 for two, and the West Indian pacer was breathing fire. And at this juncture, Kallicharran walked out to the middle.
According to Amiss, “I went up to Alvin and said, ‘He [Holder] can’t keep coming in as fast as this much longer, he will atmost have another over or two. Let’s see him off.’”Kallicharran nodded, walked to the striker’s end and took guard.
Holder sprinted in and greeted him with a short one rearing for his face. And the little Guyanese batsman swivelled around with languid grace and hooked him out of the ground. Amiss gazed after the ball and shook his head in disbelief.
The third ball was struck through the covers, and it raced away before crashing into the advertisement boards. A chastened Holder ran in for the last delivery of the over and bounced again. The batsman rocked back and pummelled him for another boundary that streaked through mid-wicket.
At the end of the over Norman Gifford, the Worcestershire captain, approached his star bowler. Amiss heard him say, “Vanburn, take your sweater.”
Kallicharran walked down the wicket with a smile. He said to his partner, “That’s the other way of seeing him off, Dennis.”
Amiss did not last too long, but by then the momentum had shifted. Kallicharran kept striking the ball magnificently to score an unbeaten 107. Captain John Whitehouse closed the innings a few minutes before the close of the second day at 264 for five.
Brisk scoring by Glenn Turner and Phil Neale followed by a sporting declaration by Gifford on the final day set the match up for a thrilling finish. In the end Warwickshire triumphed by four wickets.
Worcestershire 300 for 7 decl. (Younis Ahmed 152; Anthonie Ferrera 4 for 70) and 259 for 2 decl. (Glenn Turner 108, Phil Neale 101*; Steve Parryman 1 for 30) lost to Warwickshire 254 for 5 decl. (Alvin Kallicharran 107*, Geoff Humpage 96; Vanburn Holder 3 for 47) and 298 for 6 (David Smith 69, Chris Maynard 47*; Norman Gifford 4 for 91) by 4 wickets.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)
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