Most of us probably won’t remember him because it is hard to remember something which never caught your eyes or fascinated you while it had last but for many of us who had seen him almost throughout his career and even at his prime would wonder how it lasted that long. To his merit Shivnarine Chanderpaul struggled but he survived.
If you are a bowler who has never seen him before you will be unsure when to start your run up. For a good part you will be mislead into believing that he is probably trying to make a conversation with the leg umpire. Such was his stance (for the best part of second half in his career) unforeseen, not found in manuals or taught by coaches and to some extent ugly. Barring Clayton Lambert I do not remember another soul possessing such weird stance. Though Lambert’s struggle was much short lived specially on the international arena (He played 5 tests and 11 ODIs for West Indies and later on had appeared for USA during 2004 Champions trophy and played 1 ODI)
If you are a pitch curator you will probably find his demeanor demeaning and get irritated seeing him dig a hole in the wicket (on both sides every time he takes a fresh guard) which you have prepared after a log hard week’s work and a lot of care. His overall pre ball ritual will make you feel he is ill at ease when at the crease. Yet he survived long enough to damage most of the pitches of international venues and did it again during a domestic game standing opposite to his own teenage son Tangerine. Clearly the curators struggled but he survived.
If you were me who had first seen him during the test match at Barbados in India’s 1996-97 tour of west indies 3 years after his international debut (mind you his stance was much different then) you would have wondered how lucky on earth was he to survive a spell from Venkatesh Prasad (he took 5 wickets during the first innings and 8 during the test) where he constantly got beaten and the only thing the ball was hitting was his pad instead of his bat. But he had dug it out, though not looking anywhere near comfortable throughout the innings of 284 balls where he scored an unbeaten 137 .The first of his 41 three digit scores at the International arena. I had thought it was just a lucky break but many years later today when I see another of his innumerable innings for his national team I realize it’s not luck but it is his way , a very own and unique way not soothing to the eye but effective end of the day for the scoreboard . You will never associate with him the elegance of Sourav Ganguly , the calmness or serenity of David Gower , nor will you remember him playing as destructively as Brian Charles Lara. At the most you will see flicks and nudges, soft hands and two feet which were poles apart. But he survived. In a way he seemed comfortable with the discomfort or the inherent struggle (or so it seems) during his stay.
He never had the strong and muscular built of a West Indian cricketer rather he was fragile and many believed that he was hypochondriac. During early parts of his career he struggled due to recurring injuries specially the one stemming from a floating bone in his foot. He got the same operated in 2000 and survived to average nearly 56 (up from 40) since then in test cricket and 46 (up from 34) in ODIs.
In 2004 West Indies cricket was in a mess as Brian Lara decided to quit captaincy due to an ongoing issue with the board. The whole team seemed like as if they were against the board. The situation was one of struggle for West Indies. Chanderpaul found his comfort zone in the discomfort of it all. He took the mantle of captaining the team during emergency.
A year later he lost almost all his belongings to a flood in Guyana. His struggle reached beyond the 22 yards yet he survived.
His records till date are one which compares with (or at times better than) the best from his part of the world. During his 21 year long career he has been part of 39 test wins whereas the Prince was part of 32. Both of them scored nearly 3 thousand runs but he scored them at an average which was better by 4.5 runs (65.66 vs 61.02 by prince) and 3 more centuries. Almost 2 decades at the international arena from his debut he is now faced with a precarious situation. In his last 2 test series which had 6 test matches he managed to scored only 187 runs. His struggle was on but the only difference was the runs have stopped coming. The man with close to 21 thousand runs found himself out of favor with the selection committee (including coach Phil Simmons whom he had replaced to make his test debut in 1994) which feels his days with the national team is over.
As of today he is struggling to come to terms with that decision believing he still has cricket left in him. But it is this struggle which epitomizes his overall character, be it the way he scored his near twenty one thousand international runs or his short captaincy or be it the recent conundrum about accepting the end of his international career.
It will be a struggle for someone from next generation to understand the brand Chanderpaul .But in all fairness he has struggled long enough to become a legend.
Credits: We would like to thank Mr. Suhan Sarkar, a graduate from International Management Institute for taking out time from his busy schedule and writing this astonishing masterpiece for us.