The word Caribbean or West Indies conjures up images of giant killers in world cricket in our minds.
The seventies and eighties were the golden era of west indies cricket with players like Sobers, Viv Richards, Brain Lara and Malcolm Marshal dominating the stage. Even at that time, the public in the Caribbean held one indian cricketer in high esteem, our little master, Sunil Gavaskar.
I had the privilege of visiting a tiny part of west indies in the year 1988. I was part of the press party accompanying the then Vice President, Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma on his three-nation tour of Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana and Surinam. In this article, I will only talk about the mecca of cricket, the west indies. Being a die-hard cricket fan, first leg of our tour, Trinidad and Tobago highly excited me. It was here in April 1976, that India inflicted a crushing six wicket defeat on west indies, literally snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
The venue was Queen's Park Oval, Port of Spain. I visited the stadium, were India achieved this near impossible task. West Indies batted first and scored 359 runs in first innings, with Viv Richards smashing 177. Indian spin duo of Chander Shekhar claimed six and Bedi four victims. India was bundled out for just 228. Sniffing chances of victory, Caribbean declared at 271 for six, in second innings, with Kalicharan hitting a century. India was set a near impossible victory target of 403 runs.
India recorded a historic six-wicket victory over the West Indies, led by Clive Lloyd, in the third cricket Test at Port of Spain. India chased down the victory target of 403 before lunch on the final day of the Test. Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Viswanath scored hundreds and Mohinder Amarnath a valuable 85 as India won the match with six wickets to spare. This was India’s highest ever run chase in Tests. The West Indies attack included Michael Holding.
People in West Indies and the media hailed India for its superlative performance. At the heart of that incredible series victory was a young batsman named Sunil Manohar Gavaskar. At the age of 22, Gavaskar made his debut in the second Test at Trinidad where he scored 65 and 67 not out respectively. He finished the series with an awe-inspiring tally of 774 runs at an average of 154.80. Undoubtedly his best performance came in the final Test, again in Trinidad, where he scored 124 and 220 to become only the second Indian batsman to score a century in each innings.
Sunil Gavaskar became a hero for his overall performance in the series. One of Gavaskar admirer’s, Lord Relator (William Harris) composed a calypso on India’s conquest that soon become iconic. The line “We couldn’t out Gavaskar at all” became legendary, summing up how India had conquered the West Indies. This calypso is available on You tube. https://youtu.be/M0pMF430pAw
Calypso is a folk song in the style of Afro-Caribbean music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad has given to west indies team players like Pollard, the spin magician, Sunil Narain and Dwayne Bravo.
The Port of Spain also hosts a boisterous carnival featuring calypso and soca music. In Trinidad and Tobago, I filed several news stories, news reel dispatches and spotlights for All India radio News. I remember, my dear colleague and friend, Farooq Naqvi was heading news reel unit.
When I rang up the news reel unit for a dispatch on third day, he said, guru, tum to chha gaye. (Brother, you have done very well). The media critic, Neel Batra has appreciated your dispatches and written about them in Hindustan Times.
Naqvi even showed me those clippings on my return from tour. In Port of Spain, the Indian community arranged a cultural show for the Vice President. A young fellow in achkan and churidar, sang some heart touching songs of Mohamad Rafi. He was introduced to us as Mohamad Rafi of the Caribbean. Indians are about 38 percent of the population of this twin island nation. Trinidad and Tobago is well known for its African & Indian cultures reflected in celebrations of Carnival and Diwali.
The World bank recognizes it as high-income economy. It has large reserves of oil and natural gas. This twin island nation has the third highest GDP based on (PPP) purchasing power parity among the countries of north America and South America.
Guyana, a nation on South America's Atlantic coast was second leg of our visit. Guyana's economy is based on rice and sugar, bauxite, gold mining, timber and minerals. The sugar industry accounts for 28 percent of all export earnings of the country.
In 1988, when we visited Guyana, we had a meeting with its Prime Minister, Hamilton Green. He had great love for green colour, reflected in his clothes, writing ink and even writing pad.
This nation is culturally connected to the Caribbean region. Guyana is famous for its dense rain forests. It is an English-speaking nation with love for cricket and calypso music. Guyana gave to west indies cricket legends like Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd and Kali Charran. 40 percent of its population is that of people of indian origin.