|Full name:||Leonard Baichan (born: Ganesh Baichan Dhanraj)|
|Born:||12 May 1946, Rose Hall, Berbice, Guyana|
|Bowling:||Right-arm medium pace|
|Teams:||Guyana (FC: 1969-1980); Berbice (FC: 1972-1982); Guyana (ListA: 1973-1980); West Indies (Test: 1975-1976); All teams|
|Clubs:||New Amsterdam SC, Fort Canje Hospital SC, Rose Hall Welfare Center (all Berbice)|
|Lists of matches and more detailed statistics|
Leonard Baichan was one of the most successful opening batsmen for Guyana, along with Roy Fredericks, Leslie Wight and Clayton Lambert. Baichan, a left-hander, was a solid reliable batsman whose greatest assets were his good defense and immense powers of concentration.
He was a cautious, cool-headed resolute accumulator of runs, often playing the role of sheet anchor, maintaining one end while the other batsmen pushed the score along at the other. His apparent deficiencies were his limited stroke play and tendency to be unsettled by good fast bowling.
Born "Ganesh Baichan Dhanraj", his name was anglicized to "Leonard Baichan", a fairly common practice in Guyana. He played in Berbice, mainly for 3 clubs: New Amsterdam Sports, Fort Canje Hospital and Rose Hall Welfare Center. While at Rose Hall, he benefited significantly from the guidance of captain Ancel Hazel before his meteoric rise to national recognition.
A prolific scorer at the Guyana inter-county levels, he scored a first class double century (216 not out) against Demerara, and another double century (not first class) against Essequibo. He also scored hundreds in each innings against Demerara twice. In 1981 he scored 187 against Essequibo in the Jones Cup semi-finals (not first class), in a record opening stand of 407 with Tyrone Etwaroo, who scored 220.
He made his first-class debut for Guyana in the 1969 regional Shell Shield tournament. In the absence of the country’s established openers, Roy Fredericks and Stephen Camacho who were representing the West Indies in Australia, Baichan played two games at Bourda against Barbados and Trinidad. He performed satisfactorily, scoring 162 runs in four innings with two fifties (64 and 72) and an average of 40.50.
Though Baichan had a successful Shell Shield tournament in 1972, he was omitted for the first three matches in 1973 due to the success of Roy Fredericks and Stephen Camacho as Guyana’s opening pair. He was eventually called for the last match against Trinidad and Tobago and scored a century while batting at number three. Guyana won the Shell Shield series for the first time under the captaincy of Rohan Kanhai in 1973.
In his third Shell Shield match for Guyana in 1972, against Jamaica at Sabina Park, Baichan hurt himself while fielding in the Jamaica first innings. Jamaicans Morgan, Rowe and Foster ran rampant against the bowling of newcomer Colin Croft, Syd Matthews and others. Fredericks tried to rescue Guyana by clobbering 22 off the first over of the innings (by Dowe), but Guyana had to follow on 268 behind, with a day and a half left.
Fredericks opened the Guyana second innings with a limping Baichan as his partner, batting with a runner. By midway through the last day's play Guyana was 286 for 7, with Baichan still there, and only tail-enders Matthews, Croft and Lance Gibbs left. Matthews, whose previous highest score was just 19, played the innings of his life by adding 76 in nearly 2 hours with Baichan, who was finally dismissed for 95, after batting nearly 7 hours.
The appreciative Jamaican crowd gave Baichan a standing ovation, having witnessed one of the great rescue acts in regional cricket, in one of its most unforgettable matches. Matthews went on to score 82.
After that, Baichan became a permanent fixture in the Guyana team, as Roy Fredericks' opening partner.
Though generally obdurate, he was capable of adjusting his batting as needed. He played one of his best first class innings when Guyana chased an ambitious target of over three hundred runs at the Skeldon Cricket ground in 1972 against the Combined Islands. Baichan scored 116 not out while rotating the strike to the more aggressive Roy Fredericks and Alvin Kallicharran, giving Guyana a victory by six wickets in even time.
By 1974 Baichan was seen as an ideal Test partner for the aggressive Roy Fredericks, who already had more than a dozen opening partners. Selected for the West Indies tour of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Baichan scored centuries in two warm-up matches in India and seemed certain to make his Test debut. Fate intervened, however, and he was injured in a car accident shortly before the first Test.
Instead of Len Baichan, Gordon Greenidge made his Test debut, seizing the opportunity with both hands by scoring 93 and 107. Greenidge remained the preferred partner for Fredericks for the remaining four Tests of the rubber. Baichan, however, got his opportunity to play Test cricket in Pakistan when Greenidge suffered a back injury.
This short two-Test rubber in Pakistan was viewed with considerable importance by the West Indies. They hoped to avenge the series loss on their only previous visit there in 1959, sixteen years before, when Franz Alexander’s team was defeated by two games to one by Fazal Mahmood’s side.
It was in the first Test at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore in February 1995 that Baichan, then 28 years old, made his Test debut. Pakistan, led by Intikhab Alam, batted first and was dismissed for only 199 due mainly to penetrative pace bowling by Andy Roberts and Keith Boyce who took five for 66 and three for 55 respectively.
In reply the West Indies made 214, a lead of only 15 runs, faltering against the pace of the Pakistani opening bowler, Safraz Nawaz, who took six for 89. Baichan and Fredericks shared an opening stand of 66, their team’s largest partnership. Baichan made 20 in 115 minutes, his team’s third best score after a brilliant knock of 92 not out by his fellow Berbician, Alvin Kallicharran, who ran out of partners, and 44 by Fredericks.
Pakistan scored 373 for 7 in their second innings before declaring late on the fourth day of the 5-day match, leaving the West Indies to get 359 for victory, or survive the entire last day. There were concerns about the two umpires, Amanullah Khan and Shakoor Rana, who were both officiating in their first Test and had already given eight leg-before-wicket (lbw) decisions in the game, including five in the West Indies first innings.
At the close of the fourth day, the West Indies, after batting for 30 minutes were 15 for 0, with Fredericks 10 and Baichan on 4. They suffered a setback early the next day when with the score at 30, Fredericks was adjudged lbw to Safraz Nawaz for 14. Baichan was joined by Kallicharran and the pair took the team safely to lunch, when the score was 89 for one.
Most of the 69 runs of their-second wicket partnership were scored by the more aggressive Kallicharran who at the interval was 44 not out, including one six and five fours, made in 90 minutes.
Any hope the West Indies had of winning the game was lost immediately after lunch when, with the score still at 89, the wrist spinner Intikhab Alam had Kallicharran caught at the wicket for 44 and Vivian Richards lbw for a duck. On the other hand, these successes raised Pakistan’s hopes of victory considerably.
This was the most critical juncture of the match. With the score now 89 for 3, Baichan was joined by another left-hander, the skipper Clive Lloyd, the last of the team’s five specialist batsmen. To follow Lloyd were Deryck Murray, Bernard Julien, Keith Boyce, Vanburn Holder, Andy Roberts and Lance Gibbs, who in the first innings had scores of 10, 2, 13, 4, 0 and 0 respectively - a total of 29 runs, made as the side collapsed from 141 for 4 to 214 all out.
Baichan and Lloyd decided to put their heads down to stave off a collapse and play for a draw. This was difficult for the naturally aggressive Lloyd, but suited the normally defensive Baichan. The two Guyanese enjoyed a long match-saving fourth–wicket partnership of 164 runs, enabling their team to reach 100 in 155 minutes and 200 in 289 minutes.
Their stand ended shortly after Baichan reached his coveted century when Lloyd in a hurry to reach his eighth Test hundred was dismissed for 83 with the score at 253.
Baichan reached his hundred with a push through midwicket for two and was besieged by spectators who were chased off the field by baton-wielding police. He had most of the strike in his partnership with Lloyd and had at times to contend with as many as three or four bouncers in an over from the exasperated Safraz Nawaz.
Shortly after Lloyd’s dismissal, with the score 258 for 4 and six of the final regulatory overs remaining, the two captains settled for a draw. Baichan, who had batted throughout the day, was then 105 not out, made in 348 minutes and including five fours. The importance of his confident match-saving maiden Test century was highlighted in the headlines in Guyanese newspapers which, for example,stated “Baichan steers West Indies to safe draw”.
Baichan’s hundred was historic in at least two ways. Firstly, he became only the third Guyanese and the ninth West Indian to score a hundred in his first Test match. He followed the example set by George Headley (in 1930), Andy Ganteaume (1948), Bruce Pairaudeau (1953), “Collie” Smith (1955), Conrad Hunte (1958), Lawrence Rowe (1972), Alvin Kallicharran (1972) and Gordon Greenidge (1974).
Secondly, Baichan was only the second player and the first overseas one to score a century in Pakistan on his Test debut. Over ten years before in October 1964, the opener Khalid Ibadulla, had made 166 against Australia at Karachi to become the first Pakistani to score a hundred in his first Test match.
Baichan’s century, followed by scores of 36 and 0 not out in the second Test at Karachi in March 1975, enabled him to finish second in his team’s batting averages. The 161 runs which he scored in his four innings with an average of 80.50 were surpassed only his Kallicharran who made 251 runs in three innings with an average of 125.50.
Greenidge returned to the West Indies squad for the first World Cup in England in 1975, which the West Indies won handsomely.
Later that year the West Indies embarked on a tour of Australia, and in match after match against the State teams, the West Indies batting was ripped apart by a host of emerging Aussie fast bowlers - except for Len Baichan. So successful was Baichan's defense and defiance, and so contrasting was it to the failure of the rest of the team, that the Aussie press labelled him "Barnacles Baichan".
Thus, it was a great surprise and disappointment to many, including the Aussie press, when Baichan was left out of the Test team for the first five Tests of the 6-Test series. The press questioned the wisdom of omitting Baichan for the sake of "calypso cricket". To make matters worse, Gordon Greenidge failed abyssmally and no one else was willing to step up to open with Roy Fredericks.
Despite this, the West Indies persisted with Baichan's omission, until injuries left them no choice but to play him in the essentially meaningless sixth Test, with the West Indies already down 1-4. By then he was out of practice and could manage scores of only 20 and 3, against two of the fastest bowlers (Jeff Thompson and Dennis Lillee) in the world at that time, with their tails up.
He never played Test cricket after that, despite continuing to perform well for the next five years in regional cricket. This was probably because Gordon Greenidge developed into one of the finest West Indies openers ever, and Desmond Haynes emerged to partner him.
Nevertheless the potential of Baichan's batting style to stabilize a volatile line-up of stroke-makers probably facilitated the inclusion of Larry Gomes, Jimmy Adams, Shiv Chanderpaul and other similar players in later years.
In September 2012 Len Baichan was inducted into the Berbice Cricket Board Hall of Fame. Almost every year he returned to Guyana from the USA, to coach young cricketers in his native Berbice.
Len Baichan also played for Cumberland County in the English Minor Counties Championship, from 1977 to 1983.
(Parts written by Norm, Professor Winston McGowan and Rajendra Rampersaud)