41 years, 164 tests, over 8700 runs in limited over cricket and just 86 run short of Brian Lara’s tally of test runs at 11,867. That’s just a slice of the mighty Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
The Guyanese batsman, one of the finest of his generation and easily up there with the likes of Rahul Dravid , Andy Flower and Jack Kallis for his powers of concentration, just announced his retirement from international cricket.
The news of Chanderpaul’s retirement comes at a time similar to the one where he played; amidst absolute crisis. In a West Indies side that was fighting hard to clinch some of its early heydays during the beginning of their decline (in the nineties), having first sniffed a sign of it occasionally during the mid 90s, Shivnarine Chanderpaul who arrived on the cricket pitch in 1994, was a regular feature of both ODI’s and Tests, before the latter elevated him to greatness.
Batting partners changed, but one name didn’t – Shivnarine Chanderpaul
If Cricket is a funny game where players exchange pleasantries as often in the middle as that occasional slang, Shivnarine Chanderpaul unrelentingly partnered with them all; the King Carl Hooper, the Prince Brian Lara, the often pinch hitting Sherwin Campbell and toward the latter stage of his career, Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels and little Lara, i.e., Darren Bravo.
Most play with a certain manufactured hype and some resort to clever and often, unbecoming shenanigans. But, even in his retirement, there was a certain dignity and grace, something with which one got accustomed to seeing Shivnarine Chanderpaul bat all through his career. Ever the quiet man who went about doing his job without a fuss, Shiv cannot be held any less an able ambassador of West Indies, as is Sir Viv Richards, Sir Wes Hall, Michael “whispering death” Holding or the man famously accused of doing in his career, Clive Lloyd himself.
Often criticized for pacing his innings quite slow as compared to more powerful and fearsome batsmen at the other end, it was Chanderpaul’s unflinching approach to building an inning that connected his fans to the able connoisseur in him, known for manufacturing fighting test knocks. But, often in berating talents, even the most respected pundits of the game fail to hold off from unwanted criticism.
This couldn’t be truer for Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s critics.
Hailed by Hooper and Sarwan
Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s ability to dig deep when the chips were down is a testimony to his efforts from saving Windies many a times from the jaws of ‘self constructed defeats’. For a watertight technique that often held Warne at his backyard and enabled him to attack Murali, Chanderpaul shall be remembered for defending his side against the nagging pace of McGrath, the consistency of Kallis and the many fightbacks he played a great part in whilst saving Windies from a Donald and Pollock led attack.
In so doing, the headline in the morning newspapers, many a times in the Caribbean would read; “Lara and Chanderpaul rally Windies”. If Brian would make way early to the pavilion, then this would often leave the task of rebuilding a West Indian inning to King Carl, better known as Carl Hooper. A talented batsman all rounder and also one of Chanderpaul’s fellow Guyanese, the Windies line up for quite some time connoted a certain fluidity and some class given the combined strengths of the Guyanese trio of Chanderpaul, Hooper and perhaps the saddest and most exasperating of all Windies’ batsmen in a long time; Ramnaresh Sarwan.
A career destroyed by his own carelessness and largely by an indifferent West Indies selection policy, Sarwan often teamed up with the recently retired West Indian legend in helping West Indies rediscover its lost groove, especially in the period of 2002-2007.
Not any less than Lara
There was a time when the Guyanese trio of Ramnaresh Sarwan, Carl Hooper and Shiv Chanderpaul, constituted a strong and formidable West Indies batting line up, although upon Brian Lara’s retirement (circa 2007), one had begun to sniff the rapid pace of Windies’ test cricket collapse.
Big hitters like Chris Gayle, the only West Indian apart from Lara to score two triple hundreds notwithstanding, Chanderpaul was the only capable name in a batting line up that lacked inspiration and even profound meaning following Lara’s exit from the game.
It remains to be seen why a batsman of the caliber of Marlon Samuels has so bitterly disappointed, not just the West Indian fan but the general lover of test cricket, evidently a dying pedigree of cricket in front of T20’s explosive charm. But all said and done, whether touring Pakistan or Australia or defending against South Africa or New Zealand at home, the match would often stick to a draw in favor of Windies , more often than not, due to the timeless service of Chanderpaul.
Nerve wrecking is a word that describes the checkered career of Kallis or say a Sehwag mighty blow. For fans who live for instant gratification, Chris Gayle’s big blows over the fence spell often a doom that send bowlers running for cover. But, in Chanderpaul’s dictionary, the phrase would do apt justice to a great inning built under extreme pressure.
Finishing on a highly impressive tally of 11,867 test runs accumulated, mostly under incessant pressure and fighting lonely amidst embarrassing batting collapses, Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s greatness lies beyond the panache of statistics and away from the insignificantly vain pleasures one derives from nicknames or monikers.
A sterling legacy in the game
But, a thing can be said for certain.
Bowlers from around the world can breathe free and relax for that immovable force, one that weighed light otherwise whilst holding an awe inspiring spirit to cater to West Indian triumphs has finally bowed out from Cricket in a way it always approached the game; cleanly, with a sense of purpose and importantly, pride. This is something that shall make Chanderpaul hold his head high, over and above a mind numbing fact the test cricket fan often forgets; upon Lara’s retirement, since 2007 to 2014, Chanderpaul scored 16 of his 30 meticulously constructed hundreds, on pitches that have not just raised the game but given us sublime pleasure of watching a true and often undervalued West Indian soldier march on toward meaningful triumphs. These are triumphs that were collected for his side’s interest, not for stoking his ‘batsman ego’.
Well done Shiv. Well done indeed.