By Sean Devers
At age 65, former Guyana and West Indies left-handed batsman Alvin Isaac Kallicharran wants to return
home to work with the Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) to help improve Guyana’s cricket by focusing his attention on the grassroots programmes, especially at school and club levels.
The former Berbice batsman feels it’s a serious challenge to improve Guyana’s cricket if the school system is not working since that is the nursery of cricket in any nation.
Kallicharran, who scored 12 centuries in 66 Tests and played 31 ODIs in a career which spanned from 1972 when he scored a debut ton against New Zealand at Bourda, and 1981 when he played his last Test and ODI, wondered why there is little space for former players to contribute to West Indies cricket and says he wants to work with youths.
It is with this background that Kallicharran, regarded as this country’s most complete batsman to both pace and spin, sat down yesterday with executives of the GCB to discuss his possible involvement with that entity.
One of 17 Berbicians to wear the maroon West Indies Cap in Test Cricket and one of seven from the famous Port Mourant club, Kallicharran proves that good things, in fact great things, come in small packages.
Standing just 5ft 4ins, Kallicharran’s strength, despite a diminutive size, was his magnificent timing and exemplary footwork as he gloriously demonstrated by dishing out a sound beating on hostile Australian fast bowlers Dennis Lillie and Jeff Thompson in the 1975 World Cup.
He plundered a merciless 78 with 14 fours and one six from only 83 deliveries and took on Lillie with several audacious hooks and pulls. It was one of the most spectacular innings in World Cup history.
But to many, Kallicharran’s best Test innings was his elegant 158 against England in Trinidad in 1973-4. This fantastic exhibition of batting was controversially halted at 142 when he was run out by Tony Greig who threw down the stumps at the bowler’s end. Kallicharran was given out by Umpire Douglas Sang Hue only to be reinstated next morning.
Now that his cricketing days are long over he now wants to give back but apparently the Government is not as interested as it claims in youth development through sports.
“Three years ago I sent my CV to the Government and they sent a reply to say they received my CV and that they would make contact me. I am still waiting for a reply today,” Kallicharran, who grew up in the same village that produced former Guyana President Dr Cheddi Jagan, lamented.
“Cricket remains the same today as it was when I played. Cricket has not changed but a lot of other things have, including the way the young players think and what influences them to perform. When I played it was not all about money but the willingness to do the basics right, put in the hard work and the pride you felt when the West Indies won,” Kallicharran recounted.
He noted that there are not enough cricket facilities as there were in the 1960s, 70s & 80s. This might sound strange at a time when Government boast of investing millions to sporting grounds but Kallicharran explains.
“When I played and even after my time, the Sugar Estates made sure that Berbice alone had four First-Class grounds, all controlled by Guyana Sugar Corporation. We had Skeldon, Albion, Rose Hall Canje and Blairmount, where Roy Fredericks came from. Plus there were other grounds on the East Coast and in West Demerara, like Uitvlugt, Leonora, Versailles and Wales which were all controlled by the Sugar Industry,” Kallicharran remembered.
“When Guyana’s Cricket was strong there were several good facilities but when the Sugar Industry pulled out and could no longer sustain their grounds, the Government did not do their part and Guyana’s cricket lost out,” said Kallicharran, one of several gifted Guyanese stroke-players who followed in the footsteps of fellow Berbice greats Rohan Kanhai, Basil Butcher, Joe Solomon and Fredericks.
When asked why he did not go to the Kerry Packer series in 1978 when West Indies Captain Clive Lloyd and most of the players in the West Indies team accepted contracts which paid them far more than the WICB, Kallicharran explained.
“In the 1975 World Cup we were paid 1000 pounds and of course we thought we deserved more but when the Packer series came up I did not know what to expect there, so I did not take the chance to go. In addition Warwickshire would not have renewed my contract if I went to play for Kerry Packer,” Kallicharran disclosed.
Kallicharran, who scored 87 centuries from 505 First-Class games, said if his discussions with the GCB prove fruitful he would relocate from England where he resides, adding that he is passionate about working with youths.
Kallicharran is just one of the former greats to be shunned by this Government when they wanted to give back to the sport that made them famous. Just ask Colin Croft for his story.
Kallicharran said he did not know all the facts and would refrain from commenting on the non-selection of Keiron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo but would hope that whoever goes to the World Cup understand how important they are as West Indian cricketers and give of their best at all times.
It seems as if the battle with the Guyana Government and GBC, who both head towards their respective Elections, is far from being resolved. It also seems that Dr Winston McGowan, the Ombudsman appointed by the Sports Minister, was out of Town this week attending a Church conference and could not be reached because he does not own a mobile phone.
It is however good news that a cricketing icon like Alvin Kallicharran wants to get involved and only time will tell if he can make a difference.
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