Alvin Kallicharan scored 4, 399 runs at an average of 44.43 © Getty Images
Alvin Kallicharan scored 4, 399 runs at an average of 44.43 © Getty Images

By Navneet Mundhra

Alvin Kallicharran was one of the most jovial and affable cricketers of his era. He was a vital cog in the formidable West Indian wheel of the mid-70 and 80s. He marked his arrival in Test cricket in spectacular fashion, unleashing a century on debut against New Zealand at home and followed it up with another hundred in the next Test match.

On his day, he could take the best of the bowlers to the cleaners, as the great Dennis Lillee found out in the 1975 World Cup. Sadly, his career had copious controversies — be it the infamous Tony Greig run-out saga at Port-of-Spain in 1974, be it joining and exiting Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket (WSC) or the worst of them all, his decision to be part of the rebel tour to South Africa.

It was a decision that angered the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and triggered public outrage among the volatile West Indians. The West Indian rebels were treated as outcasts on their return and were banned for life by WICB.

Alvin Kallicharan, only 32 then, and on his way to securing a place among the pantheon of greats, became an object of hatred. He received death threats and was snubbed by his community, cricket board and teammates. However, he was not the only player who found himself in such a situation; players like Collis King, Lawrence Rowe and Sylvester Clarke also suffered the same fate. A few other talented players like Richard Austin, Herbert Chang and David Murray became emotional wrecks and were reduced to being drug addicts.

The first Test between India and West Indies at Sabina Park conjured up memories of Kallicharan. The Jamaica Cricket Association organised an official ceremony before start of the opening day’s play in the first day to name a pavilion in honour of Lawrence Rowe, another sublime talent of 70’s and Kallicharran’s contemporary. Rowe expressed his happiness to be felicitated and conveniently apologised to the Caribbean public — after almost 30 years — for leading a West Indian rebel side to the then ostracised South Africa. He said that he wants to move forward and thought that it would be appropriate to apologise before receiving this honour.

Way back in 1983, WICB had asked Kallicharran for an apology with an assurance that he would be drafted back into the team. Kallicharran was in the midst of phenomenal run-glut in the domestic and county seasons and had some years of international cricket ahead of him. But being a principled man, he turned down the offer because he felt that he had nothing to apologise for as he had done nothing wrong by going to South Africa. He had always maintained that money was not the primary motivation for him and he went to the tour as he derived joy in the fact that he would be making a contribution, however minuscule, to banish apartheid.

Kallicharan continued to play county cricket for Warwickshire till 1990 and later on went on to coach Kenya team. He is now settled in England and nurturing young talent.

Maybe, it’s time for the West Indies Cricket Board to let bygones be bygones and honour Kallicharan as well.

(Navneet Mundhra is a dreamer who has no delusion of grandeur about himself. He is an eternal learner brimming with passion and compassion, a maverick who swears by perfection and integrity and an avid reader, devout philharmonic, die hard movie buff and a passionate writer)