Strictly speaking, Shivnarine Chanderpaul is a bit of a renegade. Probably, you could even call him an outcast. For he did nothing in congruence to what most left-handers do to the game.
Though, surely, he’s an outcast with exorbitant numbers.
Chanderpaul didn’t exhibit grace.
He didn’t bludgeon a pull or carve a square drive anywhere bordering on the exuberance of a Brian Lara or David Gower. He didn’t pull with the vicious strength of a Hayden.
In a sport decorated by the elegance of left-handed batsmen, he brought to the niche art of batting humongous boredom. He reduced ecstatic eyebrows often to perturbed eyelashes. He induced sleep in stadia wherever he batted.
He successfully disguised boredom in the form of stoicism with the bat. He made the crafty and aesthetically pleasing art of batting an inexplicably successful affair.
This was an affair that courted a love triangle involving both white and red balls, where both dated the less-caressing, equally less-appealing but enormously successful and continual Gray-Nicolls in a backdrop that included an audience comprising tired fielders including their aching muscles.
And guess what?
Yet, Shivnarine Chanderpaul eloped into thin air having batted for 2 decades, but without even a modicum of flavour as associated with a Saeed Anwar, Alastair Cook, Kumar Sangakkara or David Gower.
This flavour-less magician’s enigma stemmed from the fact that his willow wasn’t a bludgeoning blade. But that, it was a focused one.
Chanderpaul wasn’t a born batting magician.
He wasn’t a sorcerer, perhaps of the kind his good friend and teammate Brian Lara was.
He didn’t possess the flamboyance that swept audiences off their feet of the kinds when ‘The Prince of Trinidad’ wielded his majestic bat.
Yet, Chanderpaul managed to stay on the wicket, undefeated, unbeaten on more occasions than Lara ever managed. Lara’s been not out on only 6 occasions in his Test career. Chanderpaul’s feat stares Lara right in the eye, being not out on 49 occasions.
Yet, you get a sense that Chanderpaul wouldn’t broaden his shoulders with arrogance. His 49 not outs in 5-day cricket is 32 more than Sangakkara, 16 more than the God of Cricket, 34 more than Mahela and even 9 more than Jacques Kallis.
Leave that aside.
Chanderpaul, who turns 44 on August 16, someone whose batting probably could be compared to the somnolence Dravid brought to the middle, struck 30 Test hundreds, which included 2 double tons.
For a batsman who was dubbed and often openly chided as being only applicable to Tests, found a way to strike 9000 ODI runs and 11 hundreds in the shorter format.
Long before Virat was born into the sport, before Jimmy became an expert of knowing which side of the red ball to shine and when Steve Smith hadn’t lost fans to his stints outside of batting, Chanderpaul blasted Donald and Pollock on his way to a 150 at East London, 1998, South Africa.
Not too bad for a Test match batsman?
Still, the common Chanderpaul narrative is the same you’ve heard since god knows when.
If you were to hear for the millionth time that Shivnarine Chanderpaul has been a great batsman, it would make no difference to you.
Nor would there be a change if you read, yet again, that Shivnarine Chanderpaul is an unsung hero. Any amount of implying a natural truth would make no difference to the price of fish in Guyana.
But probably there’s a keen dimension that hardly got us thinking about this tiny man from Demerara, Georgetown, Guyana.
Perhaps, what made him an unfettered, fearless batsman who bowlers truly felt was a cunning adversary was that he honed his game on the basic tenets that exemplify the human spirit- courage under pressure and the power of perseverance.
What probably never got you thinking was that Shivnarine Chanderpaul faced more deliveries- that clearly means lasted more, when compared to- Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Saurav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and even, Brian Charles Lara.
No other West Indian, including Sir Viv or Gary Sobers, have faced the number of deliveries Chanderpaul did, 27395 of them at the highest level.
Surely, his hundreds and double hundreds may have been lesser than the greats hailed as tall contributors to their respective sides. Surely, there’s not a single triple hundred in his kitty.
But what Chanderpaul does have, in fact, is gargantuan patience, whose quantum is that of a literal behemoth.
In a sport where his West Indies continued their downward spiral, lacking application and focus (especially since late 1999 onward), Chanderpaul emerged as the only surviving Dinosaur from a Jurassic Park that was Caribbean Cricket-respected and chided in equal measure.
Long after the prodigal son of the West Indies walked into his sunset, circa April 2007, not before asking “Did I entertain,” Chanderpaul continued to arrest the withering attention of the Caribbean fan who seemed destined to walk out of the Warner Park, from Sabina Park and even, Georgetown.
Chanderpaul didn’t even ask of his fans whether he entertained?
And probably, that’s right also. His job wasn’t to entertain like Lara. Even as Lara was the great saviour, Chanderpaul was the rescuer for West Indies. Where Lara was “Sun is Shining” of the great Marley, Chanderpaul was the “Buffalo Soldier” who belonged to Bob Marley’s country.
There’s a little irony then that for his well-mannered, mellow-warrior like humungous appetite for runs, that was sadly forcefully curtailed merely 86 runs shy of Brian’s Test record (for most runs by a West Indian), Chanderpaul belonged to a heritage West Indian land known for cultivating a rich harvest of something sweet; sugarcane.
Isn’t that as sweet as Shiv’s utterly humane, gentle conduct?
In an age where Cricket continued to salivate after glamour and big hits, the sizzle of T20s and the big bucks and pompousness of slam-bam cricketing action, Chanderpaul resisted the temptation to sell his soul to the devil and focused on national duties.
He could’ve easily hung up his boots and gone the County way. He instead chose continuity.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul isn’t regarded for possessing the high-backlift, a parallel aspect of Lara’s style that fetched him fans. But Shiv’s efforts lifted his side from the scene of embarrassing defeats. And when not, they, at least, delayed the inevitable.
Lording at Lord’s
Perhaps, citing two profound examples of Shiv Chanderpaul’s grace under pressure would suffice. In 2003, he struck a 69-ball 100, the most runs in a West Indian first inning score at Georgetown that delayed Australia’s big-win when even Lara failed.
At Lord’s, where probably most fans regret not seeing Lara and Sachin having struck a hundred, Shiv struck 128, only to follow it up with a 97 in the second innings. In both innings, he would be not out and would sway Harmison, Hoggard and Jones to delay England’s eventual win.
If West Indies cricket is as much about the contemporary culture of a glitzy affair with six-hitting adventures then Chanderpaul serves a fitting reminder to an era where success mattered more with team morale and playing saviour at times where the team was stifled under crisis.
And despite for his benevolence, for there’s practically no better word that advocates justice to his intention, we seldom care to celebrate Chanderpaul. Maybe, his victory over us is marked by the fact that he hails from a place called Unity Village in Guyana.
Do personal records or individual brilliance matter over the unity of the team? Take a bow Shiv!