The West ‘Indian’ connection

Vineet Ramakrishnan

Christopher Columbus first set sail on his ship, the Santa Maria, in search of wealth from established trade routes. He had the East Indies in his mind; but his miscalculation landed the Santa Maria within the Bahamas Archipelago.

Greeted by friendly inhabitants of San Salvador, he therefore described them as Indians - an inaccurate name which has remained attached to the aboriginal peoples of the whole American continent.

Thus, Columbus re-discovered and named the group of islands from Florida to Venezuela, The West Indies. So, in some way or the other, a connection between the newly found West Indies and the then mystical land of spices, East Indies was laid, though, as a pure gaffe by Columbus.

However, a literal correlation of these two countries was set up by way of the East Indian descendents from the Indian indentured labourers who arrived in the West Indies during the 1840s through the routes of the imperial empire.

And nearly 100 years later, these indentured labourers who had by then become an integral part of the Caribbean, took the willow and cherry in their hands for the first time, to represent what now was their motherland.

Up till now, many Indian origin players have represented West Indies cricket at International level.

They are Allvin Kallicharran, Rohan Kanhai, Shivnarine Chanderpaul , Sonny Ramadhin , Imtiaz Ali, Inshan Ali, Nyron Asgarali, Faoud Bacchus, Leonard Baichan, Sewnarine Chattergoon, Narsingh Deonarine, Rajindra Dhanraj, Daren Ganga, Raphick Jumadeen , Ivan Madray, Dave Mohammed, Mahendra Nagamootoo, Rangy Nanan, Charran Singh, Suruj Ragoonath, Denesh Ramdin, Ryan Ramdass and Dinanath Ramnarine.

Players like Ramnaresh Sarwan , Ravi Rampaul and Devendra Bishoo are part of the current team as well. This piece looks into some of the most famous and most skilled players from this bunch of cricketers who were derived from the land of Calypso.

Rohan Kanhai

Rohan Bholalall Kanhai is widely considered as one of the best batsmen of the 1960s. With a Test avg. of 47.53 in 79 matches, there is no doubting the class of this prolific middle order batsman. Kanhai featured in several great West Indian teams, playing with, among others, Sir Garfield Sobers, Roy Fredericks, Clive Lloyd, Lance Gibbs and Alvin Kallicharran.

Born at Port Mourant on British Guyana, Kanhai played for the country from 1954-55 until 1973-74. In his early days, he was a wicketkeeper as well as a pugnacious middle-order batsman.

One Day cricket had just started when Kanhai was at the fag end of his career, but 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.

Sonny Ramadhin

At an age of just 20, Sonny Ramdhin made his Test debut in the famous 1950 tour of England as the first player of Indian origin to feature in a West Indian team. He was a right-arm off break bowler who could spin the ball ether ways with ease.

He along with his famed spin twin, Alf Valentine, bamboozled the English side lead by Norman Yardley. In his career spanning a decade, he took 158 wickets in 43 matches. More importantly, he paved the path for Indian origin players in West Indies to take up cricket. He was one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1951.

With a rather peculiar first name of Sonny attributable to none, as his birth certificate had the description of ‘boy’ only, he became K T Ramdhin for the tour of England; because initials were necessary in England.

Alvin Kallicharran

Alvin Isaac Kallicharran, played for West Indies from 1972 to 1981. With an impressive Test avg. of 44, Kallicharran was admired for his batting style which was pleasing to the eye.

Rather short in height, he possessed every stroke of the cricketing book and balance personified him. He was also adjudged as the Wisden cricketer of the year in 1973.

During 1977-1978 when Clive Lloyd resigned over the Packer issue, Alvin had the opportunity to lead the West Indian team.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul

The adjective work-horse in cricketing terms is generally used for a bowler, bowling long thankless spells in Test matches. But if ever the true definition of work-horse has to be embodied in every sense, look no further than Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Debuting against England in 1994, Shiv was in a team which had enjoyed a golden period and now was looking for some young guns to take over the reins.

His stance was unorthodox, he was unusual yet he proved to be the backbone for the West Indian ‘fragile’ batting line up for many years to come along with the living legend Brian Lara.

With an immaculate Test avg. of 49, this unorthodox southpaw has been a regular feature in the top ten best ranked Test batsmen.

He holds the record of being the only batsman in the history of Test cricket to have faced 1000 consecutive balls without getting out. He probably is the most under rated cricketer and the reason, perhaps is that his best performances have very seldom lead to his team’s victory. There have been many instances of Shiv coming into bat when the result was pretty much sealed against his team and he would stick it out valiantly just to close in the gap.

Devendra Bishoo

In this esteemed list of cricketing greats, inclusion of Bishoo’s name could be regarded as immature. But, the little of what he has showcased so far is something which has to be taken notice of.

Following the tradition, another Indian origin spinner is representing the West Indies. And Bishoo is probably the most promising of them all. His action bears similarities to the great Shane Warne and his exploits in the recent ODI series against India is evidence of the fact that it’s not just the action of Warne this Guyanese possess.

Bishoo was a replacement for the injured Dwayne Bravo at the World Cup in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka from 19 February to 2 April 2011. He made his international debut against England at Chennai on 17 March, taking 3/34 in his 10 overs. His was the Man-of-the-Series in the 2010 Caribbean T20 tournament, finishing with ten wickets in 4 games.

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