As I write this, the number one test team, India has suffered two comprehensive defeats from the English in England. I watched the matches. There were several reasons for the dismal performance. As captain Dhoni put it, the team was jaded with too much cricket and injuries to several top players. This is true but not entirely. The reason why is that Indians do not know how to play the raising fast delivery that goes up above the left shoulder next to the left part of the head. It is difficult to leave the ball and sway the head away from being hit. The only way is to duck under or hook it. To duck under is ugly but can be done if the ball is seen early and the batsman is quick enough. This we did not do well and some like Yuvraj Singh got hit and became non players for the series.
Next option and an elegant one at that, is the hook shot. To see the shot played to perfection is a rare treat not available in international cricket these days. The last batsman who was an effective hooker was our own Mohinder Amarnath. I remember way back in the early seventies when the West Indians toured India, there was a batsman of Indian origin called Alwyn Kallicharan. In the Bangalore test played at the makeshift Chinnaswamy stadium, I was sitting way up in the built up stands behind the fine leg. I don’t remember who was the hapless Indian fast bowler was [they were not really fast]. What I remember was the hooked six over the fine leg and the way it was done. Kallicharan went down on his knee and the next I saw was the ball coming towards where I sat. The shot was also played by swiveling on the left foot when the ball came up shoulder high. Another West Indian who hooked the ball was Cammie Smith. Smith’s carrier was cut short in an automobile accident. The great Garry Sobers too was involved in this accident but survived to play for many more years.
One does see a semblance of this shot played occasionally and the one who did play this recently was again another West Indian, Chris Gayle.
Kallicharan kept visiting Bangalore in later years, not to play cricket but to see Sathya Sai Baba!