On Kanhai - 1

Date Published: 
Stabroek News
Pryor Jonas

Let's make our eye single - with both eyes concentrating until they become one eye - on the ball, and I'll show you, if you're West Indies fan indeed, as I am - proud to be an inheritor of the Caribbean tradition, slavery, indentureship and all - I'll show you that the ball you were looking at all these years was a WI ball.

But the WI doesn't stand for West Indies, or even West Indian, but Wisden. That's the First World wisdom that relegates us not to the second but to the Third World.

Here are three celebrated writers on cricket, who have all now gone to the Great Beyond. They were all referring to Rohan Kanhai.

A great West Indies cricketer in his play should embody some essence of that crowded vagueness which passes for the history of the West Indies. If, like Kanhai, he is one of the most remarkable and individual of contemporary batsmen, then that should not make him less, but more West Indian. You see, what you are looking for, and in Kanhai's batting, what I have found, is a unique pointer of the West Indian quest for identity, for ways of expressing our potential bursting at every seam. So now I hope we understand each other (C.L.R. James).

There goes Kanhai. You know at times he does go crazy. A few great batsmen do play brilliantly sometimes, but at other times it's just "business as usual." That one (Kanhai) is different from all the rest. On certain days before he goes to the wicket, he makes up his mind to let them have it. And once he's in that mood, nothing on earth can stop him. Some of his colleagues in the pavilion, who have played with him for years, see strokes that they have never seen before - from him or anybody else. He would carry on that way for sixty or seventy or even a hundred runs and then he would come back to the pavilion with a superlative innings behind him (L.N. Constantine.)

Kanhai will long be remembered in Australia. When he arrived, he had nothing like the reputation of Sobers, but by the time he left these shores he had firmly established himself in the hearts of all who love scintillating batsmanship. This little man, who sometimes reminds us of Macartney - that is no light praise - had such superb natural skill. He had the ability to please. Like Macartney, he was never prepared to let the bowler call the tune. So he had a grand tour, with more than 1000 runs, and a century in each innings at Adelaide, setting the seal on his fame. All in all, he was far more consistent than Sobers. He always seemed to me to handle spin bowling with greater skill, and judging him on his form and performances in Australia, he was certainly a finer batsman and a greater menace than his left-handed colleague, who was too spasmodic in his brilliance. (A.G. Moses).

We'll tell you more next week.