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Rohan Kanhai! A natural genius for batting
A natural genius for batting
Full name: Rohan Bholalall Kanhai
Born: 26 Dec 1935, Port Mourant, Berbice, Guyana
Batting: Right-hand batsman
Fielding: Right-arm medium, wicket-keeper
Relations: Nephew: MV Nagamootoo; Nephew: V Nagamootoo;
Nephew: R Etwaroo; Nephew: R Etwaroo; Nephew: TR Etwaroo
Teams: Berbice (FC: 1960); Guyana (FC: 1955-1974); Guyana (ListA: 1973);
West Indies (Test: 1957-1974); West Indies (ODI: 1973-1975); Western
Australia (FC: 1961/62); Trinidad & Tobago (FC: 1965); Warwickshire (FC,
ListA: 1968-1977); Tasmania (FC: 1970); Transvaal (SACB) (FC: 1974/75); All teams
Clubs: Port Mourant (Berbice); Everest (Georgetown);
Indian Cricket Cricketer of the Year: 1958/59
Wisden Cricketer of the Year: 1964
Warwickshire cap: 1968
Warwickshire benefit season: 1977 (raised 11,500 pounds)
Cricket has played a pivotal role in the development of Guyana as a nation long before Independence in May 1966. There are a many outstanding Guyanese cricketers whose contribution to the glorious game will never be forgotten. Today Guyana Times Sport looks at Rohan Kanhai
Rohan Kanhai had a natural genius for batting. A small, neat right-hander with every cricket stroke and a few he invented himself, (notably a full-blooded sweep to leg-side – half-volleys which swung him off his feet and the ball out of the ground), he possessed a wonderful gift of timing and scored runs consistently all over the world.
A steely determination and huge appetite for runs made him one of the most consistent of batsmen to come from the Caribbean and he did much, personally, to dispel the general impression that West Indies batsmen would waste their natural brilliance from time to time and either throw their wickets away or fold up quickly in a crisis.
Though he was not a particularly successful captain when that honour came his way – his occasionally stormy temperament being wrong for the job – Rohan Kanhai was in this sense highly significant in the development of West Indian cricket at international level.
Born on a sugar plantation at Port Mourant, British Guinana, to which colony his grandparents emigrated from India, Kanhai is slightly built and stands only 5 ft. 7 ins. Like most male West Indians he took to cricket as a matter of course at an early age and when eight was in the team at the local Roman Catholic school as wicket-keeper-batsman.
In common with most Guyanese schoolboys in those days, he played without gloves or pads — a reason, he considers, why West Indies batsmen are less addicted to pad-play than players of other countries.
During four years he made many runs for the school, which he captained in his last season, without putting together a century. Though receiving no coaching, he advanced steadily – he hit his first three-figure innings for Port Mourant CC when sixteen – through studying the methods of leading players, and in 1954 he graduated to inter-county matches, so attracting the attention of the Colonial cricket authorities.
He appeared for the East Indian Cricket Club (now Everest Cricket Club) in the Case Cup Competition and gained a place in the British Guiana team in 1955 when nineteen, scoring 51 and 27 in the match with the Australian touring side. Thenceforward he did not look back.
Kanhai recalls with amusement, however, how he got his first trial for British Guiana. Four players were available to fill the last two places and it was decided to settle the problem by drawing two names from a hat. Kanhai was unsuccessful; but the following morning he was called upon to play, for one of the lucky players had wrenched an ankle.
In 1956 he distinguished himself by hitting 129 from the Jamaica bowling and 195 against Barbados in the Quadrangular Tournament, following with innings of 62 and 90 in the first of two trials staged to help in the selection of the party to tour England. In his first three Tests he kept wicket before Franz Alexander took over behind the stumps. Kanhai deputised as keeper on several other occasions.
For Warwickshire Kanhai scored 1,000 runs in a season on ten occasions, his most prolific year being 1970 when he hit 1,894 at an average of 57.39. He also hit 1,000 runs in a season once in Australia and once while touring India and Pakistan. His highest score for Warwickshire was 253 against Nottinghamshire in 1968 at Trent Bridge, when he added 402 with Billy Ibadulla, a record for Warwickshire’s fourth wicket.
Kanhai and Jameson created a first-class world record with an unbroken stand of 465 for the second wicket for Warwickshire against Gloucestershire at Edgbaston in 1974; Jameson made 240 and Kanhai 213.
But it was his batting which West Indies came to rely on for more than 16 years. His sequence of 61 Tests were broken only because he had to return to England for a cartilage operation. He didn’t score a century until his 13th Test but it was worth waiting for; he smashed 256 runs off the Indian attack at Calcutta. There were centuries too for Sobers and Basil Butcher as West Indies crushed their hosts by an innings and 336 runs.
Kanhai followed this with 99 in the next Test as West Indies went on to win the series 3-0. Another double century followed on the same overseas tour, this time in Lahore as West Indies beat Pakistan by an innings. In all he hit 15 Test centuries, averaging 47.53 in Test matches.
Shortly before the end of the 1963 West Indies tour of England he surprised his team-mates by secretly marrying a Lancashire girl.
Kanhai was appointed captain of the West Indies for the home series against Australia in 1972-73. West Indies lost the five-Test series 2-0 but he retained the captaincy for the tour to England the following summer. This time he enjoyed success, winning the three-Test series 2-0, although the following winter he only managed to draw the five-Test home series against England 1-1. Unhappy with his own form, he retired from Test cricket after that series.
One-day cricket was in its infancy as Kanhai’s career drew to a close, and he only played in seven ODIs. However, he went out on a high, appearing in the first World Cup Final at Lord’s in 1975 against Australia. He scored 55 in putting on a vital 149 with Clive Lloyd for the fourth wicket after West Indies had been struggling at 50 for 3. The West Indies went on to win by 17 runs.
Kanhai also played cricket in several English (and Scottish) leagues.