Cyril Christiani

Full name: Cyril Marcel Christiani
Born: 28 Oct 1913, Georgetown, Demerara, Guyana
Died: 04 Apr 1938, Georgetown, Demerara, Guyana
Batting: Right-hand batsman
Fielding: Wicketkeeper
Relations: Brother: RJ Christiani; Brother: ES Christiani; Brother: H Christiani
Teams: Guyana (Main FC: 1932-1937); West Indies (Test: 1935); All teams
Lists of matches and more detailed statistics

The first Guyanese to keep wicket for the West Indies in a Test was Cyril Christiani. Christiani went with the West Indies team to England in 1933 at the young age of nineteen as deputy to the Jamaican wicket-keeper, Ivan Barrow. He did not play in any of the three Tests of the series which England won by two games to nil with one match drawn. However, by the time the West Indies was involved in its next Test series in the Caribbean early in 1935, Christiani, then only twenty-one, had become the first-choice wicket-keeper, replacing Barrow.

Christiani played in all four Tests of the series, keeping superbly. Also a useful lower-order batsman with a good technique and sound defence, he was asked to open the batting in three of these matches. In the second Test at the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad he formed with Charlie Jones, the Malteenoes left-hander, the first Guyanese opening pair in Test cricket. His wicket keeping helped the West Indies to gain its first series victory in its fifth attempt, winning by two games to one with one match drawn.

Christiani seemed destined to have a long and distinguished career as a wicket-keeper, but this was not to be. In April 1938 his career came to an early and sudden end when he died of malaria at the young age of twenty-four. In the four Tests which he played he had seven dismissals (six caught and one stumped) and scored 98 runs with a highest score of 32 not out and an average of 19.60 runs an innings.

Two features of Cyril Christiani's wicket-keeping stood out. Firstly, possessing courage, keen eyesight and quick reflexes, he frequently stood up to the stumps for fast bowling, usually without conceding byes or dropping catches and often effecting stumpings - a rare achievement for a wicket-keeper. Secondly, he was a brilliant stumper, especially on the leg side. Few wicket-keepers anywhere in the world in their first-class career have had such a high proportion of stumpings in their dismissals. In a first-class career of 28 matches, Christiani had 64 dismissals, 20 or nearly one-third of them stumped. The closest any Caribbean wicket-keeper has come to this achievement is the Jamaican, Jackie Hendriks, who had 50 stumpings in his 190 dismissals in a first-class career involving 83 matches, that is, about one quarter of his victims were stumped.

Of the five Guyanese who have kept wicket in Test cricket, Cyril Christiani is generally considered the best. In fact, some analysts consider him the finest wicket-keeper in the history of West Indies Test cricket. However, he was not as good a batsman as any of the other four Guyanese keepers. This is clearly reflected in the statistical record which shows that his batting average is only 19.45 in his entire first-class career. (Winston McGowan)

Only one Guyanese was included in the team to tour England in 1933. He was Cyril Christiani, generally regarded as the best wicketkeeper who ever played for Guyana or the West Indies. 'C. M.' was a man 'who stood up to Mannie Martindale and Leary Constantine, and his leg-side work was considered to be bordering the miraculous. For all this, he did not play in the Test matches, Ivan Barrow of Jamaica displacing him on account of superior batting. On the tour Christiani played in only 13 games, scoring 179 runs, but his wicket-keeping was of the highest standard.

But when the M.C.C. came to the West Indies in 1935, Christiani played in all four Test matches. He opened the innings on several occasions, and he twice had Charlie Jones, the Malteenoes player, as opening partner. (Umpire Cecil P. Kippins)

Batting and Fielding Averages
Team Format Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave 100 50 6s Ct St
Guyana FC 28 44 4 658 79 16.45 0 1   44 20
West Indies Test 4 7 2 98 32* 19.60 0 0 0 6 1
Bowling Averages
Team Format Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10
Guyana Fc 28   6 6 0 - - - 6.00 - 0 0 0