Cricket: History: Rohan Kanhai-gifted, and talented, led the Guyanese march into the West Indies XI + video

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Rohan Kanhai -1975

He was gifted with eagle-like eyes’ and he had the speed of a hare and the concentration of a man on fire.
Those qualities abounded in him, a testimony that can be retold by opposing bowlers from England, India, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand.

Of course we speak of Kanhai when that dapper figure dons his whites and marches to the middle with bat in hand at the start of an innings in test matches, in first class games or what have you.

Hitherto unknown excepting for those who were fortunate to dwell in the areas of Port Mourant in Berbice, this new found West Indian cricketer blazed the trail of West Indies cricket, bringing joy to many who, among other things, defied the elements of the weather, inclement or otherwise, to see him pepper the most fearsome of bowlers in his quest of blasting for runs.           

Rohan Kanhai

The players of Essequibo and, of course Demerara, had their early taste of Kanhai, along with Basil Butcher and Joe Solomon.
But the records tell the sad story of Demerara when their bowlers thought it best to ask the Demerara Skipper Clyde Walcott to pass them by and to try another bowler.

The record says only Lance Gibbs had the courage to continue to bowl to Kanhai, and to face the onslaught of the little man from the Corentyne.

Kanhai hit the ball to every corner of the field and was a pest as it were both to bowlers and fielders alike as his piercing and punching shots scorched the ground on their way to the boundary.

When finally he signalled to his captain that he had had enough, the Demerara bowlers were indeed relieved. Indeed, it was time to declare his innings closed and to give another batsman a chance to face the music. Undeniably, Kanhai had blasted his way into the Guyana side under his coach, Clyde Walcott. The line up was Jamaica. Generations have grown up to learn that Roy Gilchrist and Tom Dewney were among the line up of the Jamaicans quickie.

For Kanhai, they were fellow mortals. His score of 129 speaks for itself. The regular march of Jamaican fielders to the boundary board, the unannounced pleas to their captain Alan Rae, and the looks of disgust and frustration on the countenances of their bowlers tell the sad story that enough was enough for the poor Jamaicans. After three days of merciless leather hunting the Guyanese skipper called it quits and the Jamaican were asked to take strike.

The next game against Barbados was not much different.  Guyana had to contend with the Atkinson brothers, Eric and Dennis. They also had to contend with a young and effervescent all rounder, Garfield Sobers; have we forgotten the name of Wesley Hall? Of course there was John Goddard himself and the bowling line up was raring to go against Pairadeau, Glendon Gibbs, and Kanhai and his new found crew, led by Barbados-born Clyde Walcott.

The Barbados line up had yet come to grips with  Kanhai whose feat included a six on the last ball before tea—-talk about throwing caution to the winds. Kanhai could hardly had forgotten the warning — if you could call it that —- or the plea by Skipper Clyde Walcott to Kanhai, that he should make an effort to concentrate more on his batting and that he should seek bigger scores. Do bear in mind that he had made 129 in the just concluded match against Jamaica. For Kanhai, 195 was not enough which he made against the Bajans. One can imagine the joy among the Barbadian fielders when he was ruled run out for his 195.

Kanhai from then on continued to announce his presence to the world and the Test century that evaded him was around the corner. Kanhai himself knew that it was only a moment of time. In his first Test tournament which he made in England he was said to record his first 50. It was indeed a pleasure to listen to him and the great Clyde Walcott bat together as they fought the bowling of Sir Fred Trueman and Brian Statham, Tony Lock and Jim Laker, It was indeed a pleasure hearing how Kanhai practiced the shots off the back foot, patterned after the great Clyde Walcott.

Against the Pakistan touring team, Kanhai recorded 96 and in his enthusiasm to become the first Guyanese to make a Test Century at Bourda, he was caught on the boundary, four short of this magical figure. It is opportune to mention that Kanhai recorded the first Test century at Bourda by a Guyanese cricketer subsequently.:

Fans will remember that he again fell in the nineties this time in Pakistan by the run out route as he strived to achieve his first test 100.  However, he was the first Guyanese to make a double century in test cricket, and also the first Guyanese to captain the West Indies for extended tests. Rohan Kanhai had also played in the Lancashire League, a footstep that was to be followed by several West Indian players.

Rohan Kanhai 157 vs England 3rd test 1973 Lords

Some Comments on this video –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEM_k9JnvfA

He was the best pure batsman of his day. No voops or lofted balls. All along the ground to the boundary. Never saw him with a helmet and remember he played against Truman and Statham. He faced Hall and Griffith and the West Indies fast bowlers in Shell shield cricket. A protege of Clyde Walcott from Barbados who really went to Guyana and coached them.
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Mr. Kanhai was and is my all-time favourite batsman. I saw him for the first time in the late 60’s V England during their tour of the WI. My father took my brother and I out of school to watch our very first test match. Great day.
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Years ago I thought he was the best I had ever seen, after watching this I still do.
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Comments

  • Ron Saywack.  On 10/27/2021 at 5:33 am

    Bourda Cricket Ground, April 1965, West Indies v Australia. West Indies won by 212 runs:

    My sister Betty and I were children when our father took us to watch the third Test at Bourda. We sat in the bleachers (east stands) under blazing sunshine.

    Rohan (Bholalall) Kanhai was fielding on the deep extra-cover boundary, about 10 yards from us. He was 29 years old and in his prime. Also on that great West Indies team were Garry Sobers, Basil Butcher, Conrad Hunte, Seymour Nurse, Wes Hall, and Lance Gibbs.

    Neil Hawke and Graham McKenzie were the menacing fast bowlers representing Australia. Neil Hawke claimed 6/72 in the first innings, including the wickets of Kanhai (89) and Sobers (45).

    Bobby Simpson, Bill Lawry were two of the greatest batsmen of that time.

    Rohan played in 79 Tests and scored 6,227 runs at an average of 47.53. His highest score was 256 against India at Calcutta.

    Kanhai was famously known for his ‘falling hook shot’ after which he would end up on his back. Sunil Gavaskar claims that Kanhai was the greatest batsman he had ever seen and named his son Rohan. Also, the Australian spin bowler Bob Holland named his son Rohan.

    There can be no greater honour than that. Indeed, it was a treat and a privilege to see those iconic players in action live.

    RS.

    P.S.: Rohan Kanhai remains the greatest cricketer of all time to emerge from the homeland.

  • Francis Quamina Farrier  On 10/28/2021 at 12:35 pm

    I’ve previously suggested that the east-to-west stretch of road from the Strand to the Berbice River Bridge at New Amsterdam, Berbice, be named “Rohan Kanhan Drive.”

  • wally n  On 10/28/2021 at 1:04 pm

    I think that is an excellent idea! Hope it gains traction.

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