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The Legend of Rohan Kanhai

Harsh Thakor
on West Indian Cricket

If Statistics was not the prime criteria and the chief criteria was the technical excellence, style or raw ability of a player then my vote for greatness after Bradman would go to Rohan Kanhai.
True, statistically Everton Weekes, Gary Sobers,Sunil Gavaskar, Vivian Richards, Sachin Tendulkar or Greg Chappell surpassed him. However for ability to dominate bowling combined with technical excellence and graceful strokeplay Kanhai defeated all of them. On his day Kanhai would simply caress the best fast bowlers to the boundary with the grace of a weaver or a pianist. The ball would simply zoom to the boundary like a bullet. Kanhai Kanhai had one of the most spectacular hook shots where he would literally fall to the ground. Kanhai also had a most organized defence and in addition to possessing every shot in the book had invented some of his own - the true mark of a genius. Kanhai was also a great cover fielder.

Rohan Kanhai made his test debut as a wicket keeper in 1957 against England. However he met with little successs until the 1958-59 tour of India. Here Kanhai made what was the highest test score ever made in India, a record that lasts till this day for an overseas batsmen scoring 256 at Calcutta. He scored 538 runs at 67.25. He played Subhash Gupte with perfect technique. He followed this effort scoring 217 in Pakistan where the home side was inflicted their first home defeat.

On the 1960-61 tour of Australia Kanhai accumulated the record number of runs scored by aWest Indian on an Australian tour amassing 1,083 runs at 64.29In the tests. He scored a record West Indian test aggregate for an Australuian tour scoring 503 runs at 50.30. Against Victoria he scored 252 an innings which many rated the greatest they had ever seen to the extent he dominated the bowling. In the tests at Adelaide he scored 2 breathtaking centuries before lunch scoring at almost a run a minute. Australian spectators perhaps never saw such domination till the days of Bradman. (Weekes never made big scores in Australia) He simply took the bowlers by the scruff of the neck.

Against India the following year Kanhai scored 2 more test hundreds at 70.71 scoring 495 runs.Then against Australia at home Kanhai made useful scores in the last 3 tests of 89,129 and 121,significantly scoring hundreds when his team looked like being defeated.

On the 1963 tour of England under Frank Worrel Kanhai played useful knocks including a useful 90 at Old Trafford where West Indies wom by 10 wickets. At Edgbaston where West Indies triumphed by 221 runs Kanahi scored an effortless 92.Kanhai also made a significant contribution to the West Indies victory in the final test chasing 253 runs to win. In that series he played the great Fred Trueman superbly.
Back to the West Indies in England Kanhai scored 535 runs at 59.44, including 143 at Trinidad and 150 at Georgetown.Kanhai handled John Snow like a true master.

In the 1971 Rest of the World series Kanhai performed most erratically but scored a superb 115 against Dennis Liillee at Perth,one of Cricket's great Innings. In brilliant style Rohan combated Dennis Lille bowling at his fastest on the fastest and bounciest of wickets. When the other greats were struggling Kanhai simply srtuck the ball with explosive power to the boundary. To some fans it was a better effort considering the situation than Gary Sobers 254.

In 1970-71 against India Kanhai scored a superb 158 . in one innings but West Indies in that series were defeated by India for the first time.

In 1973 Kanhai was appointed captain. Although he made useful scores ,scoring 433 runs at 54.12 he lost the series. He compensated for this by beating England 3-0 in 1973 where he scored 653 first-call runs including a magnificient 157 in the final test at the Oval. English spectators were to see the maestro at the international level for the last time.

Kanhai failed to win his last series as captai. England after being outplayed for most of the series were lucky to escape with a drawn rubber after winning the final test at Trinidad by 25 runs. Kanhai, sadly had to play on a losing side in his final test as a player and captain.

Sunil Gavaskar rates Kanhai to be marginally better than Viv Richards and Sobers. Gary Sobers in 1979 said Kanhai was the best batsman who played cricket in the previous 15 years rating him even above Viv and Barry Richards. Writer Rajan Bala and Mike Smith rate Kanhai the best righthanded batsman they ever saw. His rating amongst the all-time greats is a moot point but his place is unquestionable. There were few better sights in Cricket than watching Kanhai. His memories will be cherished forever.
© Harsh Thakor


The Man Who Swam the Channel

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