Even as the cricketing fraternity, and India in particular, get ready to bid farewell to the legend Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, another giant of the game will achieve a milestone of his own, albeit in a quiet, unassuming manner, like just how his entire cricketing journey has been. Shivnarine Chanderpaul will play his 150th Test at Mumbai, nearly 20 years after making his Test debut. Like Tendulkar, Chanderpaul’s career is also on its last legs, but unlike Tendulkar, the 39-year-old will hope to end his career on a high.
It is incredible that in spite of being among West Indies’ most consistent batsmen for nearly two decades, Chanderpaul is not counted among the modern greats. He deserves to, and his record also merits the same. In 149 Tests till date, the left-hander has amassed 10897 runs averaging 52 with 28 hundreds, 61 fifties and a highest of 203 not out. Only greats can have such a record. In terms of numbers, he is next only to Brian Lara in West Indies cricket; that says a lot. With some luck and more pluck, he might just be able to overcome the genius’ record. He has been a dark horse after all through his long journey in cricket.
One of the reasons, Chanderpaul isn’t viewed in the same vein as Tendulkar, Lara and Ponting is because he isn’t as pleasing on the eye as the other legends on the list. People wouldn’t pay money to watch Chanderpaul bat (would they?), as they would for Tendulkar, Lara and Ponting. His crooked stance is a sort of put off, and the strokes he plays aren’t always very convincing. But, he does a job for the team, that of scoring big runs, and in that sense is the equal of a Tendulkar, Lara or a Ponting.
Another rationale why Chanderpaul’s stellar efforts have been ignored is because he has played in a losing side for such a long period of time. Chanderpaul, who made his debut as a 19-year-old, has seen the drastic transition in West Indies cricket, from a strong side to that of an extremely fallible one. When Chanderpaul made his debut back in 1994, the team comprised the likes of Haynes, Richardson, Lara, Ambrose and Walsh. Today the line-up has names like Powell, Ramdin, Sammy, Test at Mumbai, nearly 20 years after making his Test debut. Permaul, Best and Cottrell, none of whom will find a place in most other Test squads, with due respect to them.
Considering all that Chanderpaul has witnessed over the last two decades in West Indies cricket, it is astonishing how the veteran has maintained his consistency. It is extremely tough and demotivating to maintain a certain standard when the team is losing on a constant basis. However, Chanderpaul has kept the flag flying high for West Indies cricket in the post-Lara era even as Chris Gayle has been in and out of international cricket. When Chanderpaul takes stance at Wankhede, it would be another day in the office for the ageing warrior. But, it would be pleasing to see him get a few pats on the back. He deserves some. Kudos to Chanderpaul.
--By A Cricket Analyst