Shivnarine Chanderpaul - The West Indies Sheet Anchor
By Partab Ramchand - DreamCricket Columnist
Chanderpaul realizes that even with Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan around the team depends on him for playing the sheet anchor role to perfection. He is the rock around whom the West Indian innings is built.
Bill Woodfull was known in the twenties and thirties as 'The Rock' or 'The Unbowlable'. His backlift was a staccato bending of the wrists but he had an imperturbable temperament, very strong defence and great powers of endurance, gathering runs patiently and consistently.
Succeeding generations saw the likes of Jackie McGlew, Hanif Mohammed, Bill Lawry and Geoff Boycott all players known for their concentration, determination, dedication and long tenures at the crease. McGlew was appropriately named for he really used to stick to the crease. On one famous occasion he carried his bat for 255 compiled in about nine hours and was on the field throughout a Test match against New Zealand.
A few years later against Australia he took nine hours and five minutes to reach the then slowest century in Test cricket. Hanif was known for his superb defensive technique, deep powers of concentration and in extended tenures at the crease he was second to none. He is chiefly remembered for his 973-minute stay in compiling 337 and helping Pakistan save the Test against West Indies at Bridgetown in 1958.
Four years later against England he was at the crease for a total of 893 minutes while scoring a century in each innings. Lawry on his part made it clear that he was not particularly gifted and was a percentage cricketer. But he rendered yeoman service to Australian cricket in the period 1961 to 1971 at the top of the order and was certainly one of the hardest batsmen to dismiss in his time. Boycott perhaps caught up with his impeccable technique also overdid the cautious approach at times but his bat seemed impassable and certainly his was the wicket that most bowlers craved for during his long international career that lasted from 1964 to 1982.
The true contemporary successor to all these greats has to be Shivnarine Chanderpaul certainly the hardest batsman to dismiss in international cricket since Boycott played his last Test. The sight of this slightly built left-hander walking out from the pavilion to commence his innings must certainly bring a note of despair to the bowlers. They know that they have a job on their hands in trying to get Chanderpaul out so deep is his concentration so fierce is his determination and so sound is his defensive technique. He drives bowlers nuts by refusing to be drawn into hooking well thought out and well aimed bouncers and then keeping one out that is straight in the blockhole.
In the meantime the nudges, pushes and deflections bring up the runs at a steady rate and just when the bowler may feel happy that at least he is not being clobbered Chanderpaul unleashes a ferocious pull that sends the ball scurrying to the mid wicket boundary. This is when the bowler in desperation and disgusted with life as it were turns to his captain with a gesture of helplessness as if to say "there's no use bowling to this bloke. He's never going to get out."
Indeed Chanderpaul does give the impression of batting all day and every day. This is reinforced by the kind of eye rubbing and mind boggling figures that can only be associated with his name. In single mindedness of purpose and in demonstrating extensive spells of concentration and stamina Chanderpaul stands supreme He is the first batsman to record three 1000-minute vigils in Test cricket, his 1513 minutes without being dismissed by India in 2002 being the longest of them all.
Five years later he resisted England's bowlers for 1074 minutes between dismissals averaging 148 in the three Tests he played. In between was his 1031 minutes without being dismissed against Bangladesh and England in 2004. The irony is that despite having the image of a dogged customer at the crease with a crablike technique, he has scored what was then the third fastest Test century in terms of balls faced (69) against Australia in his hometown of Georgetown in 2003.
Moreover he has the ability adapt to the more frenetic approach required in limited overs cricket eight hundreds with a highest score of 150 and an impressive strike rate of almost 71 testifying to this. It was only a couple of months ago that he hit Chaminda Vaas for a last ball six to clinch for the West Indies a one-wicket victory - one of the very few occasions when such a feat has been accomplished.
Chanderpaul has a highest score of 303 not out in first class cricket where he averages almost 54. Runs matter to him and the runs that he notches up matter for the fragile West Indian batting. How often did we see in the nineties Brian Lara shore up the Caribbean batting almost single-handedly. But towards the latter half of his career one could almost hear his sigh of relief as Chanderpaul's solidity eased the West Indian legend's responsibility considerably. His record was second to Lara in bolstering the middle order but he did not do this in the dashing manner that his more talented fellow left-hander did. His technique was original. Call it odd, crabby, limpet and anything but a pretty sight. Chanderpaul could be saying to himself "my main business is not to look pretty but to score runs." And that he has been doing for almost 15 years now since making his Test debut early in 1994.
The great thing about Chanderpaul is his ability to rise to the occasion, to shoulder additional responsibility. One can see this admirable facet by the rise in his average, by his tendency to stay at the crease for even longer periods and the ability to get big scores after the retirement of Lara. He realizes that even with Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan around the team depends on him for playing the sheet anchor role to perfection. He is the rock around whom the West Indian innings is built.