Shivnarine Chanderpaul will be even harder to replace than Brian Lara

2012-05-02 00:00

BRIAN Lara may lay claim to the highest Test match and first-class score, but Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s retirement, whenever that may be, will be a void the West Indies might not be able to fill.

I often refer to Shivnarine Chanderpaul as “Shift Chanderpaul” because of how he values his wicket.

His type is not the most aesthetic, but Test cricket has many examples of artists who did not realise their batting potential.

His Guyanese compatriot Carl Hooper is bracketed in that unfulfilled potential company, but the unorthodox southpaw has shown that good-old grind and application not flash, is the key ingredient to survive in the Test format.

Being the 10th member of the 10 000-run club is ample reward for Chanderpaul.

It cannot be understated that he has joined some much esteemed company.

It is a reward for sticking to what has worked for him and having faith in his own ability.

Only Lara is the other West Indian in the company and he owes his place in the club due to an insatiable hunger for runs and an ability to go big, especially when the chips were down.

One wonders how many more runs the Trininidadian prince would have scored if he married his extraordinary talent with Chanderpaul’s stick ability.

Their careers intertwine and the best part of it fell during the West Indies’ rapid decline.

Lara fought fire with fire, with some of his best innings studded with boundaries raging against the dying of the light.

Much like the West Indian heroes, they saved their best for Australia and England. Chanderpaul chipped and chivvied the West Indies out of numerous situations.

He had his day — like in George­town in 2003 — where he too sought more boundaries with a 69-ball 100 when his side was staring down the barrel of an Australian gun.

While Lara was prone to bouts of impetuosity and clashes with the West Indian cricket hierarchy, Chanderpaul remained unobtrusive, letting his Gray-Nicholls underline his value to the team.

The West Indies have always been blessed with stroke players, even when the results have not been beckoning.

Darren Bravo, Kieran Powell and Adrian Barath flash their blades like fairies weaving their wands, but without the bricks and mortar Chanderpaul provides, their foundation would be more than rickety.

After the retirement of Larry Gomes in 1987 — another adhesive lefthander who glued a talented batting line — the West Indies battled to find another one of his ilk before the bandy-legged player bounced into the scene as a teenager in 1994.

Lara’s blade was feared the most as it had the ability to change a Test match in a session.

His belligerent batting ensured that teams always tried to formulate their bowling plans around him.

Chanderpaul though gives the illusion that he is one ball away from being dismissed, yet accumulates without teams knowing, and by the time he is well set, he is an immovable barnacle.

Talents like Lara come around once in a lifetime, but grafters like Chanderpaul are being killed off by T20 cricket like rhinos are being systematically poached off the face of the earth.

Lara was unable to inspire his lesser talented team-mates, but Chanderpaul has shown the ability to harness the talented but green line up.

He might be on the wrong side of 35, but his mentoring is necessary as the team has shown that they have the talent, but haven’t shown the ability to grit it out, something that is second nature to Chanderpaul.

If he were to retire, the hole in the West Indian line-up would be gaping and their talent conveyor belt has not yet rolled off a designated successor.

His place should not be under scrutiny and if West Indian cricket needs a role model whose modus operandi is not burdened by the heydays of years gone by, it is the unshiftable Shivnarine “Shift” Chanderpaul.

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