Cricket: Chanderpaul still rides to rescue

By David Leggat

West Indies batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul has a passion for donning the pads which remains undimmed. Photo / Getty Images
West Indies batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul has a passion for donning the pads which remains undimmed. Photo / Getty Images

Shivnarine Chanderpaul has made a career of putting out fires in the cause of West Indies cricket.

The little Guyanan has been the rock in the middle of often modest West Indies batting units since making his test debut in 1994 and, at 39, shows no signs of packing it in.

He could not do the trick yesterday, lasting only 16 balls in a rare lapse. But the first innings was a different story, as he became the seventh batsman to pass 11,000 test runs, on his way to 76, an innings which showed him to be in a different class from his teammates.

This is Chanderpaul's fifth tour of New Zealand, and presumably his last, although you wouldn't bank that as a certainty given his longevity, fit-ness and passion for batting, which remains undimmed.

Over the years he has accumulated 28 centuries, has a test average of more than 50 and has developed a technique which works for him.

His stance must be disconcerting for a fielder at mid wicket, who will have Chanderpaul facing him as the bowler runs in.

Then, at the moment of delivery, his right, or front leg swivels around so that when bat makes contact with ball he is in what approximates a standard position.

Trying to get Chanderpaul to explain the stance, or much else about his cricket isn't easy. A quiet man, he prefers to let his bat speak for him. And it roars long and loud.

"He just comes in and does his stuff every day. He's a professional guy," said West Indies opener Kirk Edwards. "For a young guy, he's more someone you have to watch and learn. He doesn't talk much."

Ian Bishop, once among the production line of fearsome fast bowlers who helped the West Indies rule the game for a couple of decades, and now a commentator, roomed with Chanderpaul, played with and against him and has a high appreciation of his game.

"I think the desire is still there and he's a fierce competitor," Bishop said.

"People look at him from a distance and that body language, with his head bowed walking to the crease, doesn't indicate that. He's not afraid of anyone, be it fast bowling or great spinners."

Certainly there's no swagger or chest-out strut about Chanderpaul. He cuts an anonymous figure in the field. You suspect he's simply biding his time until he can put his pads on.

His origins were humble, growing up in Unity, on the Demerara coast of Guyana. "He talks about the hours of hitting a ball underneath his home, about his old man bowling at him on a concrete strip from closer than 22 yards," Bishop said.

No one was safe - be it his mother or sister or an anonymous passerby - from being persuaded to bowl at him.

"That epitomises his desire to perfect his art. [Former West Indies player] Jimmy Adams once said if Shiv came back from a tour and you asked him to go straight to Timbuktu to bat, he would."

He is capable of adjusting his tempo - he scored the fourth fastest test century on his home ground Georgetown off 69 balls against Australia in 2003 - but has largely settled for a sedate, compact, no frills philosophy, although he has attractive strokes.

Along with now-retired Brian Lara, he has been the bulwark for the West Indies in recent years, an antidote to the sparkier, free shotmaking types in the batting order.

- NZ Herald

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