Robert Christiani

Accomplished West Indies cricketer overshadowed by his peers
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The Independent Online

Robert Julian Christiani, cricketer: born Georgetown, British Guiana 19 July 1920; married; died Toronto, Ontario 6 January 2005.

Robert Christiani was an attractive, attacking right-hand batsman, especially strong in driving, who could bowl useful off-breaks, was a brilliant close field and could also keep wicket, if necessary on a regular basis. His accomplishments were such that he could probably have commanded a regular place in any other team in the world other than that fielded by West Indies in the decade after the Second World War.

His misfortune was to have been born in 1920, not too many months ahead of such mighty mid-order contemporaries as Frank Worrell (born 1924), Everton Weekes (1925) and Clyde Walcott (1926). Christiani, one of the rare Test players to wear spectacles, was also proficient as an opener but, even in that position, his path was blocked for most of his career by the regular performances and consistent play of Jeffrey Stollmeyer (1921) and Allen Rae (1922).

Fellow Guyanese would also hint that coming as he did from what was then British Guiana put him at a disadvantage when compared with the players from much more influential cricket associations such as Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad. Nevertheless he was almost chosen, at 19, for the West Indies tour of England in 1939 and won his first cap on England's visit of 1947-48, scoring 1 and 99 in the first Test at Bridgetown. He followed this by scoring 107 in the first Test against India the following season in Delhi and finished the tour with the excellent figures of 785 runs at an average of 41.

He could not be overlooked for the West Indies tour of England in 1950, where a place was found for him at number six, behind his five famous contemporaries. But in a team containing the three Ws and "those little pals of mine", (Sonny) Ramadhin and (Alf) Valentine, he was unfortunately regarded as something of a makeweight but was invaluable in the tour matches outside Tests, scoring 1,094 runs at an average of 45 and taking 30 catches, mostly behind the stumps, and making three stumpings. He may not have made headlines, but he was a key team player.

Christiani continued as what might be called West Indies' "first reserve" until 1954, touring Australasia and appearing at home against India and England. In all, he played in 22 Test matches over his seven-year career.

In a first-class career spanning 16 years, he scored 12 centuries and was described by Michael Manley in A History of West Indies Cricket (1988) as a "fine attacking player, overshadowed by his peers but standing alone beside [George] Headley as the only man to score two centuries in a match at Lord's" - 131 not out and 100 not out against Middlesex in August 1950.

Derek Hodgson

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