If Sachin Tendulkar scores his 100th international century at Edgbaston it will be fitting. Edgbaston has been the English county home of three of the greatest batsmen to ever play the game, Rohan Kanhai, Alvin Kallicharran and Brian Lara.
Recently Shiv Chanderpaul, # 10 on the List of all time Tests runs scorers and endorser of American College Cricket, signed to play the key final games in the 2011 English County season for Warwickshire.
Edgbaston has hosted Test cricket for 100 years (since May 1902). In 1996 Tendulkar scored a Test century ,122, there and it was at Edgbaston in 1957 that Kanhai made his Test debut.
My Uncle Frank Jodah joined the Warwickshire Cricket Club at Edgbaston in the 1960s, and became friends with Rohan Kanhai, who as a dynamic batsman, was what I call the first Bollywood Action Hero !
Being an International cricketer in the 1950’s and 1960’s was extremely difficult economically. But Rohan Kanhai pioneered an option, by signing to play professional cricket with the Warwickshire County team, whose home was Edgebaston Cricket Ground. For Warwickshire 1968 to 1977 Kanhai scored 11,615 First Class runs at an average of 51.62, including 8 centuries in one season.
Sunil Gavaskar named his son Rohan after Kanhai, and said "To say that he is the greatest batsman I have ever seen so far is to put it mildly.”
Cricket writer Harsh Thakor once wrote “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. Statistically Everton Weekes, Gary Sobers,Sunil Gavaskar, Vivian Richards, Sachin Tendulkar,(Brian Lara) or Greg Chappell surpassed him. However for ability to dominate bowling combined with technical excellence and graceful strokeplay Kanhai defeated all of them”.
The great writer CLR James said, “Kanhai had found his way into regions Bradman never knew. It was not only the technical skill and strategic generalship that made the innings the most noteworthy I have seen. There was more to it, to be seen as well as felt. Bradman was a ruthless executioner of bowlers. All through this demanding innings Kanhai grinned with a grin that could be seen a mile away.”
It was no surprise that, Alvin Kallicharran would emulate his hero Kanhai, and join Warwickshire in 1971.(he too named his son Rohan).
In 1982 Kall scored over 2,000 runs, including 3 double centuries and 5 other centuries and was Wisden 1973 and1983 Cricketer of the Year. To bring up his 2,000 runs he hammered the great Malcolm Marshall all over in his 131.
In fact Kallicharran was the only batsman to consistently thrash the fearsome West Indies pacers, other than Gavaskar. For Warwickshire he scored over 1,000 runs in a season 12 times, including over 2,000 twice.
Kallicharran’s squeezing out of the West Indies side was happening long before his final two lean Series. We watched him get sent to bat at # 3 when early wickets fell, but dropped in the order in favor of Richards if the going was good.
Finally forced to make an economic decision he led a “rebel” tour to apartheid South Africa, and was banned from Test cricket. In the meantime Viv Richards led a West Indies team from 1983 to 1991 that had NO players of Indian background. Richards and that West Indies team have been celebrated. After Richards retired, Indians were able to get back on the West Indies team, with Shiv Chanderpaul debuting in 1994.
Contrast this with all the other periods of West Indies cricket when many Indian Caribbean players have played Test cricket, and you might gain an understanding of the racial and socio-political circumstances Kanhai and Kallicharran played through.
In 1994 the Bradmanesque Brian Lara broke the amazing Gary Sobers’ record for the highest Test score of 365* by scoring 375 in the West Indies. He then went to play for Warwickshire and began by scoring 4 more successive centuries.
Edgebaston was then the site of his magnificent 501*, the highest first class score ever, in 474 minutes and 427 balls. In that season Lara scored 9 centuries, a feat only previously accomplished by Alvin Kallicharran (in 1984). In 1982 Kalli had scored 8.
So if Sachin Tendulkar raises his bat after scoring his 100th International century at the newly refurbished Edgebaston ground in the coming Test, some old timers will see visions of Kanhai, Kallicharran and Lara at the wicket .
Rohan Kanhai, Alvin Kallicharran and Brian Lara could be watching, remembering “when we were the new boys” * batting on that pitch, measuring the Edgebaston ground with their boundaries.
Strangely however, neither the first Bollywood Action Hero Rohan Kanhai, or Alvin Kallicharran is listed in the Warwickshire Hall of Fame!
* from "When we were the new boys" by Rod Stewart.