A huge debate ensued at Lord’s last week about whether Shivnarine Chanderpual was being selfish by not promoting himself to protect the less experienced teammates against a ruthless England bowling attack.
At the end of the innings, Chanderpaul walked back silently, stranded on 87, an innings that lasted over four hours. But by the end of the fourth day, the West Indies found themselves in unfamiliar territory having pushed the match to the fifth day.
And when Kemar Roach sent two Englishmen back in fading light, heartbeats grew faster in both dressing rooms. Test cricket was alive once again, at least on that evening, only because one man decided to be selfish.
If not for Chanderpaul’s focus across his six-hour vigil, the West Indies would’ve been in a sorry state. Unlike his famous contemporary Brian Lara, Chanderpaul has never filled grounds because of the nature of his batting — being resolute in stark contrast to the daring and entertaining approach of the Trinidadian.
But we’re talking about a man who has, on four occasions, batted for 1,000-minute intervals without being dismissed (twice against England and once against India and Australia). His marathon during the 2002 series in India will be uttered in the same breath as the Timeless Tests. Chanderpaul is the undisputed marathon man of Test cricket.
He just doesn’t bat time, he challenges the best bowlers to keep having a go at him, feigning and pulling back all those fists that are thrown at him. You could be easily fooled by his delicate yet strong wrists on small hands.
Like a bank clerk, Chanderpaul has worked his way up and is now the world’s top-ranked Test batsman. He’s one of the grand old men in cricket but just like Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis, Chanderpaul’s candle continues to burn strong. This is because, like all those stalwarts, he has never forgotten to work hard and take anything for granted – he wears his laurels lightly.
Questions have been asked of him throughout his career.
But Chanderpaul has responded boldly every time. He might be quiet, but during team meetings and training sessions, the man from Unity village speaks openly. He has been comfortable to work in synch with the new philosophy of Ottis Gibson and Darren Sammy and as much as he likes to practice in a separate net, he’s equally diligent about standing and mentoring youngsters.
In this series, Chanderpaul has inspired teammates like Marlon Samuels to aim for more and become hungrier. He has also managed to remind opponents that the West Indies are capable of putting on a show without Chris Gayle and a few others.
The late Peter Roebcuk once said that Chanderpaul is insecure because he had to make his way up through the insular cricketing structure in the Caribbean.
But he has used the same insecurity to drive himself, being firm in his beliefs. He’s not afraid to express them when he needs to. If you listen to him, you might even agree with why he doesn’t want to bat up the order – you learn about batting only when you’re thrown in at the deep and by facing the new ball. Even Lara, who criticised Chanderpaul for not promoting himself, has taken back his words.
The writer is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2012.
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