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The Chanderpaul conundrum: Should ‘Tiger’ tail wag WI cricket dog?

Shivnarine Chanderpaul thinks, I am hearing, that West Indies cricket has not given him the send-off he deserved. I agree. 100%.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul also thinks, I am hearing, that West Indies cricket has not given him the send-off he deserves. As does Brian Charles Lara. I disagree. 100%.

Photo: West Indies cricket great Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
Photo: West Indies cricket great Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul, I am hearing, has been privately told the truth. In the considered view of the current coach and the selectors, he will be surplus to requirements for the two-Test series against Australia set to begin in Dominica this week.

I hear his defiant response. “I have decided to make myself available for the Australian series. I am not retiring. Thanks.”

Ill-advised? Perhaps. But had the long-serving former captain limited his statement to those 16 words, I think, maybe the fans would have started a spontaneous initiative to buy Shivnarine Chanderpaul some more playing time.

Leading the charge, former WIPA president Dinanath Ramnarine would most likely still have sent this barb in the direction of the old enemy: “It is typical of how the WICB have mismanaged top players’ departure from WI cricket” and forthrightly condemned the manner in which the veteran batsman was being treated as “most disgraceful.”

If only for the form, the adversarial posture is an essential part of the WIPA brand so Ramnarine’s successor, Wavell Hinds, would almost certainly still have classified the process of omitting his former teammate as “untidy and distasteful.”

Photo: Former WIPA president Dinanath Ramnarine. (Courtesy RJRNewsonline)
Photo: Former WIPA president Dinanath Ramnarine.
(Courtesy RJRNewsonline)

Citing Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s 11,867 runs from 164 Tests with 30 centuries and 66 half-centuries, Guyana Minister with Responsibility for Sport Dr Rupert Roopnaraine might still have argued the case for retaining his countryman.

“What he has contributed,” he says, “has just been gigantic and that should have been acknowledged, recognized and dealt with appropriately. It has not been dealt with appropriately.”

Conceding that, “At the moment, on current form, he doesn’t make it (the best team)…,” he would still have concluded, I think, that we should “let him leave in a dignified way.”

And on SportsMax, former West Indies wicketkeeper Jeffrey Dujon would still have enunciated, I think, the unassailable principle that “a player should always know when he is playing his last Test.”

Shivnarine Chanderpaul, it is true, was not told that he was playing his last Test when he donned the maroon cap for the Third Test against England in early May. But by the end of it, had he been honest with himself, even without being told, surely he would have known that he had played his last Test. I did.

Photo: New West Indies cricket coach Phil Simmons (right) talks to Test captain Denesh Ramdin. (Copyright AFP 2015)
Photo: New West Indies cricket coach Phil Simmons (right) talks to Test captain Denesh Ramdin.
(Copyright AFP 2015)

Shivnarine Chanderpaul, I wrote here then, “has managed scores of 46 and 13, 1 and 7 and 0 batting often with his team in trouble. At 40, he is not the Chanderpaul of old, facing 186 and 63 balls in the two innings of the First Test and then 40 and 38 respectively in the next two Tests.

“Chanders has served West Indies cricket long and well and it would be wrong to dump him unceremoniously if he wants to stay on to try his hand against the Aussies. But someone should be designated to have a conversation with him about the advisability of playing on at this stage.”

Selection chairman Clive Lloyd and new coach Phil Simmons tried. In vain. Instead of accepting the reality, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, so often at a loss for appropriate words when he was at the helm of the team in 2005/06, forced us all to revisit the discomfiture of the “maninger” days when we almost always squirmed as he spoke to television and other interviewers.

“At the conclusion of the series,” his statement said, “it would give me an opportunity to thank the WI public and the Board for all the opportunities. It may also be an occasion for the WICB to recognize me for my long and dedicated service.

“It would be a good send-off after dedicating 21 years of my life to WI cricket.”

“Say what?” I ask myself, cringing. “Is the Tiger for real?”

But he is not done; there is more.

Photo: West Indies middle order batting star Shivnarine Chanderpaul in action against England. (Courtesy UK Telegraph)
Photo: West Indies middle order batting star Shivnarine Chanderpaul in action against England.
(Courtesy UK Telegraph)

“My request to finish up with the Australian series is not asking too much. It gives me a chance to acknowledge my supporters at home and the possibility of the WICB properly honouring me for my contribution to WI cricket. I should not be pushed into retirement.”

Take dat in allyuh rookoongkertoongkoong. I wonder what Minister Roopnaraine thinks of “dignified” now.

For me, the heart of the matter is set out in Garth Wattley’s “Tale of a Terrific Tiger” (Express, Wednesday May 27). In a fine, balanced piece that gives the one-time West Indies captain his due while also giving the full context, the Express Sports Editor writes, “Shiv’s sense of timing of a cricket ball was one of his assets but when it comes to knowing when it was time to go, his timing was way off.”

In “Daunting challenge from Aussies,” a weekend piece assessing the imminent tour (Sunday Express, May 24), Tony Cozier, dean of West Indian cricket writers, had referred en passant to “The inevitable decline, at 40, of the ever dependable Shivnarine Chanderpaul, repeated saviour of lost causes…”:

In the same paper two days later, under the unequivocal headline “Time betrays Chanderpaul,” Cozier added this, “(In) 11 innings in three Tests each in South Africa and England in the Caribbean, (…) he was just a sad shadow of a batsman who has been the most immovable object in the game.”

Photo: International cricket analyst and former West Indies legend Michael Holding. (Courtesy Telegraph.co.uk)
Photo: International cricket analyst and former West Indies legend Michael Holding.
(Courtesy Telegraph.co.uk)

Michael Holding, Bryan Davis, Tony Gray and Michael Findlay all agree that Shivnarine Chanderpaul can no longer command a place on the best team although the former WI wicketkeeper feels that, his decline notwithstanding, the veteran’s experience might well prove useful, indispensable even, against the battle-hardened Aussies.

But really, I am no longer listening to any arguments, I have lost all interest in the details.

In my head, I hear CLR James asking in Beyond a Boundary “What know they of cricket who only cricket know?”

And I am thinking not of Shivnarine Chanderpaul but of the cricket/culture matrix. What is it that has so blighted us old colonials that, blessed with abundant talent, we so often shift the focus in other directions?

I think of how Indian authorities bent over backwards to extend the careers of first Sunil Gavaskar and later Sachin Tendulkar so that they could achieve personal milestones. Gavaskar retired a few months short of his 38th birthday, making scores of 74, 5, 91, 0, 24, 63, 21 and 96 in his last eight innings after back-to-back centuries versus Australia in October and versus Sri Lanka in December of 1986.

Tendulkar’s retirement came in November of 2013 after 23 Tests in which he posted eight scores over 50 but never quite managed a century.

Photo: India cricketer Sachin Tendulkar plays a shot in an ODI against England. (Copyright AFP 2014/Prakash Singh)
Photo: India cricketer Sachin Tendulkar plays a shot in an ODI against England.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Prakash Singh)

I think of the South Africans’ handing the leadership mantle over to a green 22-year-old who would remain in charge for more than a decade, during which time he quite transformed the Proteas’ international fortunes.

Despite three bites of the cherry, our own prodigy only managed “moderate success, devastating failures.”

I think of  Aussie skipper Mark Taylor who, ending the day on 334 not out versus Pakistan in Peshawar in October 1998, declared the innings closed because he did not think it was appropriate for anyone, certainly not an Australian, to surpass the Don.

Not for the first time, I ask myself whether as, unbeaten on 320, our gifted almost 25-year-old left-hander retired for the night on April 17, 1994, the issue of being worthy enough to claim Gary Sobers’ record ever arose.

I think of a frightening story told me by the late West Indies off-spinner Jack Noreiga who, selected ahead of his ageing but long-serving rival on the side to face India in Jamaica in 1971, faced violent reaction in the dressing-room.

Ramnarine might have raised it for the wrong reasons, I think, but is it not true that the WICB has often failed to do right by those who have served us long and/or well on the field of play? Andy Ganteaume, Deryck Murray, Sir Garry, IVA Richards, Desmond Haynes and Tony Gray all come readily to mind…

Photo: Former West Indies cricket great Brian Lara at work. (Courtesy Guardian.com)
Photo: Former West Indies cricket great Brian Lara at work.
(Courtesy Guardian.com)

And, of course, Lara. The multiple record-holder was just 47 runs shy of the then magical 12,000-run mark when he jumped into retirement to avoid being pushed.

He was just over 37 years old and had made two double-centuries, two centuries and a half-century in the last year, with his last ten scores being 120, 10, 19, 26, 11, 61, 122, 216, 0 and 49.

So I rest my case by saying that, much as I liked, admired and respected Shivnarine Chanderpaul, I think it is fair that he will finish short of Lara’s mark.

The public record is there to show that I have repeatedly disapproved of and criticised the Prince of Port-of-Spain for his many “indiscretions.” But I have no doubt that, barring Sobers, he more than anyone else deserves to be at the top of the West Indian batting heap.

Indeed, as my friend Frank Hernandez has already convincingly argued in these pages, he has a real claim to being the best batsman the game has known.

And without taking anything away from the doughty left-hander with the crab-like stance, without underestimating or in any way underplaying his hugely valuable contribution to West Indies cricket, I say without fear of successful contradiction that nowhere on any objective shortlist of the best batsmen the world has known will you find the name Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

Photo: Cricket icons (from left) Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Sachin Tendulkar.
Photo: Cricket icons (from left) Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Sachin Tendulkar.

WI 1st Test squad: Denesh Ramdin (Capt.), Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood, Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Rajindra Chandrika, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Veerasammy Permaul, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor.

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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116 comments

  1. The fans would always accept this tiger tail wagging the WICB dog…..any day of the week and twice on Sundays….

  2. Give him some cash or an Honorary Doctorate, nah.