When I heard that West Indian Batting Legend Shivnarine Chanderpaul had retired, I was shocked to discover he was still playing, and at the age of 41! I grew up watching the batsman who has been a mainstay for the West Indian Cricket Team for the last 22 years. The quiet man has hung up his bat and pads, and the most surprising thing I have noticed, is the lack of coverage on the news that one of the greatest batsman of the modern era is retiring.
The Limpet of Cricket
“A bloke you needed to crowbar away from the crease”, that was the quote from none other than arguably the greatest bowler in history, Shane Warne.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul was born in Guyana and grew up playing in Georgetown. He is of Indo-Caribbean descent and started his career with the International side when he was 19. When he started out, Chanderpaul was known for his aggressive style, but after the first three years fell short of his high standards he became a more defensive minded batter. This new approach was very handy when he found himself in a floundering West Indies team throughout his twenty-two years. His ability to stay on the crease for prolong periods of time, probably allowed the Windies to compete in games they would have been bowled out of. He is the current record holder of most ‘not-outs’ in history. His stoicism is much needed in the current Windies side ahead of the Tri-Nation Series.
This is more suprising when you consider what Chanderpaul is famous for. His technique was unusual to say the least. Facing the bowler straight on with his bat waggling waywardly, everything about his posture implied the bowler was coming from the Umpires’ square leg position. His notable front-on stance has been deemed ‘ugly’ and crab-like. Though his father gave him the nickname The Tiger, people referred to him as the crab. His positioning was not a quirky style choice though it had a lot to do with his past.
Playing indoors in Guyana’s Unity Village, he was used to balls bouncing very high, and like any self-respecting Caribbean he played on the beach as well, which is known for skiddy balls. His father was known to encourage bowlers to aim for the body and try to hit his son. This made Shivnarine more tentative and careful to watch the ball. He found it easier to face front on, where he could fix both of his eyes on the ball, rather than from the side.
This style served him throughout his 22 years at top level cricket, and Bangladesh last year would have been infuriated when they bowled to a 40-year old in the test match last year, with West Indies, and Chanderpaul was not out for the entire series. This is not the only impressive statistic. Chanderpaul has 20,000 international runs and is the 7th highest test runs scorer ever. The only players ahead of him are Kallis, Sangakarra, Dravid, Ponting, Tendaulkar and Lara.
The Crab’s Legacy
Despite this incredible achievement, you will not be reading much fanfare or celebration of his career, that we saw with Tendaulkar or Lara. Chanderpaul was a silent competitor and being left-handed he was constantly in the shadow of Brian Lara. His ugly stance probably had something to do with it, as his crab like nature on the square was hardly befitting to be included in a list with the technical magician Tendaulkar. It seems to have been a career where he just got on with it, and left things out of his control, like opinions, wash over him. He never wanted attention and was very understated with the media.
His legacy will be as one of the best West Indian cricketers and world players ever. The only problem is no one seems to know it. Perhaps his long lasting legacy will be in the form of his son Tagenarine Chanderpaul, who has been showing great promise with the bat too. I doubt his father will use the same tactics as his own father, but if Tagenarine his hoping to get as much notoriety as Shivnarine he should hope he can do something even better than being the 8th best test player ever, as it did not work for his father.