Outstanding Captain & Manager
I followed with interest the cricket analysis and commentaries in the media and the university on the celebration of our great legends that made us a force to be reckoned with in world cricket. This is taking place against the background that we are the proud host of World Cup 2007 especially Guyana.
As a boy who grew up on the sugar plantation of Port Mourant, I soon realised that cricket was not just a game/sport but a passion in the Caribbean. As a child I followed cricket with great interest not only because my village was known to produce great cricketers in the likes of Basil Butcher. Joe Solomon. John Trim and Ivan Madray, just to name a few, but also Rohan Kanhai who was like a family friend to my parents.
I always remembered him gracing my father with a visit whenever he was in Guyana.
However. I found the tributes and analyses to be missing some important points. First, not enough prominence was given to the role played by Alvin Kallicharan in our first World Cup victory in 1975. Kalli, as he is popularly known, destroyed the attack of the popular Australian speed merchants Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson.
Further, had the CWC given a man of the series for the World Cup in 1975 it would have certainly been Kallicharan who led the batting average for the West Indies and was man of the match twice. Kallicharan was only the fourth batsman to score back-to-back centuries on his Test debut. Kalli was the fourth Guyanese to captain the West Indies and the third in succession. Ile was also the Wisden cricketer of the year in 1982.
The tribute paid to Rohan Kanhai fell short of expectations. It failed to underline the success of Kanhai as a captain, manager/coach and author. Kanhai was the first Guyanese to captain the West Indies in a Test series, preceded by Maurice Fernandes, who captained the West Indies in one Test match. Kanhai also had the distinction of captaining the Rest-of-the-World team that defeated the powerful Australian team led by Ian Chappel in 1971/1972.
After leading the West Indies in three Test series he succeeded in breaking the jinx in winning a Test series against England in 1973. After reinvigorating a young and new West Indies team, the torch was passed to Clive Hubert Lloyd, another Guyanese as West Indies captain in 1974.
Kanhai returned to play under Lloyd in the first World Cup in 1975. After West Indies found itself in early trouble in the final against Australia with the loss of three early wickets, it was the Kanhai and Lloyd partnership of over 150 runs that laid the foundation for the West Indies victory in the final.
Kanhai was a manager/coach. Kanhai began his career as a coach in Jamaica when the Jamaican team was at its lowest ebb in the 80s. He succeeded in lifting the Jamaican team, both at the national and youth level to a formidable force to be reckoned with in the West Indies. For his achievement he was bestowed with the highest honour by then Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley.
A poor showing by the West Indies in World Cup 1992 in Australia and a young team reeling from the retirement of Vivian Richards. Gordon Greenidge and Malcolm Marshall led to the West Indies calling on Rohan Kanhai to take up the mantle as manager/coach in 1992. His short stint as coach led to the return of the West Indies as world champions by beating a powerful Australian team in 1992/1993 in Australia.
The dominance continued against Pakistan in 1993. India in late 1993 and a massacre of England in the 1994 Test series when Brian Lara broke the world batting record in 1994. The removal of Kanhai as a coach in 1995 coincided with the demise of West Indies cricket. Australia beat the West Indies for the first time in more than two decades to lift the Frank Worrell trophy in 1995. Since then West Indies have never recovered as a superpower of world cricket.
Rohan Kanhai is a household name not only in Guyana. It is no accident that many children were named after him: prominent among them is the son of the greatest opening batsman in the history of cricket Sunil Gavaskar. It is no accident that our great cricketers, such as Rohan Kanhai, Lance Gibbs and Clive Lloyd have placed Guyana as a proud nation on the map of the world.