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The Eternal Battler

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Shivnarine_Chanderpaul_West_Indies_cricket_legendIf cricket is a religion in India, then in the West Indies it is the most potent form of entertainment. Regardless of the fact that the stands today in Trinidad, Jamaica and Antigua aren't as full as they were in the heydays of Sir Viv Richards, Sobers, Kanhai or Lara, fans still run to the stadium to see Gayle hit a big one or Bravo take a scorcher in the outfield.

Cricket: Not a religion but a habit for a West Indian

Cricket may not be the West Indies' religion, but it does enough to stoke emotion.

While he may have not had the exuberance of a Rohan Kanhai or the powerful stroke play of Sir Vivian Richards, nor commanded the flair of the one and only Brian Lara, the recently retired Shivnarine Chanderpaul did enough to give the average Windies cricket fan something to cheer during the most rapid stage of their cricket's decline.

A lonely battler

No matter where you are from, as a cricket fan, it is impossible not to drop a comment, or at best a 'whack', on the reputation of the West Indies cricket team, their occasional and sporadic surprises with the bat notwithstanding. After all, they have earned this criticism.

In times of their game's sad decay, evident since the mid 2000s and ever more rapid since Brian Lara hung up his bat, a period marked by the severity of their losses in both Test and ODI formats, where the Islanders often helped their opponents run over them given their average showing in all departments of the game, Chanderpaul was the lonely fighter, who perhaps knew that he was fighting for a lost cause.

But, he kept on fighting.

The scorer of 30 Test tons and 66 Test fifties voiced no complaints. Not one. This when his younger and perhaps more talented colleagues in the side, such as Marlon Samuels and Dwayne Bravo (before exiting tests), said awful things in the last couple of years.

His fantastic and commendable career was marked majorly by efforts to 'stretch' a game toward helping his side hold on to a draw, or partner with Gayle to fight for a victory, when his back allowed him to participate in a test match. Even with a partner like Denesh Ramdin, easily the definition of average for his average showing with the bat despite being loaded with potential, Chanderpaul offered nothing less than his very best in national colours to the very end. Only during his final away series against South Africa during the summer of 2015, and the home series against England did Chanderpaul's bat finally begin to fail.

A victim of bias?

Many would, justifiably, say that at 41, you couldn't have expected Shiv to have given those aching muscles the continued rigours of test cricket. But for a batsman who was for a large part of his career described as possessing a 'crab like' technique, using which he actually struck the joint-fifth fastest test ton ever against Australia, such platitudes hold little value.

You might notice that while we call Dravid “the Wall” for his impregnable technique and Kallis, “a Rock”, there is no nickname for Chanderpaul, who also scored well over 8700 runs in limited over cricket with 11 hundreds, with his personal best of 150 coming against a Protean attack led by Donald and Pollock in 1999.

In an age where cricket is largely being defined by a rather overt display of commerce reigning in the T20 era, left handed Chanderpaul's giant contribution to the once mighty West Indies had gradually started to find the 'mute' button on the viewer's list of priorities. Some may believe this. And who knows, perhaps, none other than Clive Lloyd himself, a former great of the West Indies would root for this reason, no matter how incomplete it seems considering that the 41 year old has always been a mighty competitor.

Stoic in his defiance of the opposition, Chanderpaul always resorted to silence even when a legend like him could have given it easily to the best and the worst of his opponents. Many a time as Lara's most reliable partner, and then as the pillar of Windies' middle order in the wake of the Trinidadian's retirement, Chanderpaul faced some of the rowdiest competitors in the cricketing world. His answers would come in the form of gentle nudges down the leg side or those sheepish drives and pulls with that legendary "Gray Nicolls" bat.

At the end of 164 tests, Shivnarine Chanderpaul stands with grace and head held high over his detractors and those who often trivialized his game in front of the stronger opposition's showing, averaging over 50 in the test arena, a mark of greatness of a successful Test bat.

Batting style whilst batting all the while

While his closest comparable contemporaries, Dravid and Kallis, may have a greater tally of runs and perhaps even a greater share of fans, Chanderpaul's name surely commands a rich bastion of respect from around the world wherever cricket is followed.

Yes, when it comes to idolizing a batsman, none would fancy Shiv over the grace of Mark Waugh or the poetry that VVS Laxman's game resonates, but chances are, if you speak to Rahul Dravid or Shane Warne, Jack Kallis or Ricky Ponting or even the Waugh Brothers and the great Brian Lara himself, Shiv's name would be cited, for he possessed the obduracy needed to succeed at the highest level in Test cricket.

The willingness to bat for long periods of time and to make bowlers languish over frequent attempts to remove him from the crease made Chanderpaul not just West Indies' batting mainstay but a marvel signifying the triumph of patience over histrionics, the latter defining today's game.

For all that he has done in a remarkable career that began in 1994 as steadily as his purposeful stroll out to the crease every time he was needed out in the middle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who announced his retirement under what one may say were sad times for West Indies cricket has emerged as an all time legend.

An important legacy

The mid-innings crawler, the gentle partner to the night watchman at the other end, Shiv fought with fire to fire, with the likes of Warne, Donald, Murali and Pollock in defying the opposition the leeway to walk over his beloved West Indies.

In times where their game is largely hailed for mindless hoicks, Shiv had both the will and endless powers of concentration to help Windies claim those unlikely draws. For all that he has done and done over and over again for his side, one that is chastised for its lack of team-spirit, it is hardly an irony that the Guyanese hails from Unity Village in East Guyana.

Hail, the mighty combatant of West Indies!



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