West Indies Cricket May 16, 2012

The Brown Headley

From Bhisham Ojha, USA

From Bhisham Ojha, USA

In the 1920’s and 1930’s, West Indies cricket was in its infancy and the side was a hodgepodge of amateurs and weekend cricketers. This team was often bettered by the stronger English and Australian sides. During those forlorn decades, one world-class batsman emerged. He was the bulwark of a frail batting line-up and the team’s fortunes often rested on his shoulders, so much so that CB Fry dubbed him “Atlas”. That player was George Headley.

His amazing consistency and penchant for run making earned him another epithet, “The Black Bradman”. Fast forward eight decades, and another batsman, cast in the same indomitable mould has materialised and is drawing comparisons with this great player. He is Shivnarine Chanderpaul, sometimes called Tiger or simply Shiv. For his obdurate batting, resolute temperament and consistent run scoring, almost always in lost causes, he is deserving of another accolade – the Brown Headley.

This comparison is not inapt. Chanderpaul came on the scene as the sun was setting on the glorious Lloyd –Richards’ era. In the lean years that followed, as West Indies plummeted from their lofty perch to ignominious lows, the little Guyanese left-hander has grown in stature. Since the retirement of Brian Lara in 2006, he has become the linchpin of a brittle and mediocre batting side. From then to now, in series after series against all-comers Shiv has stood in Casabiancan splendour, quietly accumulating thousands of runs and frustrating bowlers from Lord’s to Lahore.

His latest display of Headleyesque run-making came in the just-concluded Test series against Australia. Chanderpaul’s aggregate in that series was a quarter of the team’s total. His value is starkly evident. In this present West Indies squad [the playing XI in the third Test in Roseau] there is only one other player with a career batting average above thirty and the rest of the team has a total of four Test hundreds. In the last six years (since Jan 2006), he has scored 11 centuries out of the 40 that West Indies have managed. Since 2007 he has tallied over 3,000 runs at a Headley-like average of 66. In the 2007 and 2008 calendar years he averaged over 100, joining Don Bradman as only other player to do so in consecutive years. That period was a purple patch for Chanderpaul .He was ranked the No. 1 Test batsman for seven months in 2008 -2009. He was a Wisden Cricketer for 2008. That same year, the ICC named him the player of the year. All of this was accomplished with an undercurrent of endemic administrative problems that has plagued the West Indies in recent times.

Despite these problems, Shiv has maintained his consistency and kept getting better and better. He has done this by putting a high price on his wicket. In these days of fast-paced cricket he has persisted with the old-fashioned method of occupying the crease, playing each ball on merit and building his innings one run at a time.

Too often when he is dismissed it has precipitated a ‘calypso collapse’. On other days, as he dug in, preparing to play a significant innings his team-mates have committed hara kiri, leaving him stranded. This has happened so often that he holds the West Indian Test record for most not-out innings [among West Indian batsmen, excluding all bowlers]. His doughtiness’ has rewarded him with another quirky record: In the 2002 series against India he lasted 1,513 minutes between dismissals.

Chanderpaul, however, on infrequent occasions, can deviate from the path of stolidity. One rare and startling exhibition of uncharacteristic audacity was against Australia in 2003. On his home turf of Bourda, in Georgetown he came to the wicket with West Indies in trouble at 47 for 4. Everyone expected Shiv to prod and push in a typical rearguard innings. Against all logic he shed his barnacle shell and blasted the flabbergasted Aussie attack for 15 fours and two sixes on his way to the third fastest Test hundred [at the time]. Another instance of his uncommon ebullience was in a 2008 ODI against Sri Lanka .With 10 runs needed off the last two deliveries, Shiv drove Chaminda Vaas down the ground for four and then lofted him over mid-wicket for the six needed for an unlikely victory.

He began his unheralded career on 19 March 1994 against England , when as a frail nineteen-year-old he walked out in the Bourda sunlight and took guard with the now trademark hammering of the bail into the crease. After several bouts of nerves he blossomed and Wisden Almanac noted that “Chanderpaul made a debut half-century of wristy elegance”. He notched twelve other half centuries in 18 matches before scoring his first hundred. He now has 25 tons, the third most for West Indians, behind Sobers (26) and Lara (34). Shiv’s career aggregate of 10,055 makes him the second-highest run getter for the West Indies. His fifty-nine Test fifties are ahead of other West Indians and only Allan Border, Jacques Kallis, Rahul Dravid, Ricky Ponting, and Sachin Tendulkar have scored more. His career average of 50.02 is greater than his illustrious predecessors: Kanhai, Lloyd, Greenidge, Worrell, Kallicharran and Hunte, and he is only a few decimal points away from topping Viv Richard’s.

Shiv seems an unlikely choice for inclusion into a pantheon of batting titans. But his durable class, the dedicated occupation of the crease and the sheer weight of runs made against all countries in all conditions often in solitary, perilous circumstances has placed him in hallowed company. He has quietly crossed into the realm of greatness and can now be unapologetically mentioned in the same breath as Lara, Richards, Sobers and Headley. And as he continues to strive in adversity, confounding both critics and captains, there is the tantalising prospect of years from now whenever a dream team, an all-time West Indies Test side is again chosen, Shivnarine Chanderpaul will take his rightful place in that immortal eleven

Akhila Ranganna is assistant editor (Audio) at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on June 30, 2012, 6:20 GMT

    Good job by the West Indians in showing the BAngladeshis their true place.And shame on Bangladeshi fans for petnlig stones at the Windies after their loss.first show your worth in the international arena and then we'll see that attitude of yours.

  • testli5504537 on June 28, 2012, 9:10 GMT

    a way to get west indies back on track is to set a west indies division 2,comprising of other nations in the carribean that dont play test cricket like belize,bahamas,cuba suriname,caymen islands,haiti,domician republic,puetro rico,turks and caicos islands.when thier standard improves they can enter the west indian domestic comp.

    the 1st division can play first class games in the 2nd division nations to help the game grow the leeward islands can play in puerto rico,virgin island and guadelope,the winward islands can play in martinique,guyana can play in suriname,jamaica can play in cuba and haiti and dominican republic and caymen islands and belize.

    try put the games on tv and grow the game

    with the lesser islands producing test star like viv richards(antiga) omari banks(anguila) and darren sammy(st lucia)im sure within 10 years these lesser islands will produce test cricketers.with guadelope producing thierry henri and suriname producing edgar davids thiers untapped talent

  • testli5504537 on June 14, 2012, 15:11 GMT

    Shiv is indeed a great batsman. The WI one-day side is a bit weak in the middle. Shiv should be there to hold things things together.

  • testli5504537 on June 5, 2012, 13:46 GMT

    What a great player.When all the other batsmen around him fall he is still there without any one to support him.I hope he goes on to score more hundreds an surpass Lara hundreds. He does not have the greatest stance, but he is a great accumulator of runs. If the younger players have a look at his patience and determination they can do the same. I would like to see Sarwan back in the WI team as quickly as possible as WI captain he and Shiv can do agreat job with support from the likes of Gayle, Samuels, Russel and the othr players around. I hope Shiv continues to give us a few more years. I hope after this England tour Sammy is removed as captain. Not captain material. Great job Shiv continue the great work.

  • testli5504537 on June 5, 2012, 1:16 GMT

    The Rock as i respectfully call CPaul is deserving of all the cricketing praise heaped upon him; I would like to read more of this seemingly quiet dignified man. He represents the best in WINDIES cricket--There was a time when I was afraid that India would approach him to play for them @ the highest level of the game.There was a time also admittedly when I thought he was past his best. I apoligize to this unflappable Present Leader of WINDIES cricket. Let him bat on.Thanks. Blessings Tiger.

  • testli5504537 on May 26, 2012, 23:49 GMT

    Truly a great batsman!!! A living cricket legend...make me proud to be a guyanese

  • testli5504537 on May 24, 2012, 7:34 GMT

    The best thing I like about Shivnarine Chanderpaul is his stance. It actually misleads the bowler who would try to knock down his stumps as the stance is really quite open. But Shiv's movements of the wrists are quick and this is well coordinate by great footwork as well.

    If only Chris Gayle is include in the Test starting on 25th May 2012,we could be sure of a very exciting game which will actually propel the Windies back to the Top 3 of Test playing nations. Yes as KP (Kevin Pieterson) has rightly stated it would make the game of Cricket more exciting to see Chris playing at the highest level.Fans would simply love to see him and this great cricketer is blessed with abundance of humility and his following in India has increased by a couple of crores !

  • testli5504537 on May 23, 2012, 8:21 GMT

    Excellent post however I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this subject? I'd be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Appreciate it!

  • testli5504537 on May 19, 2012, 13:36 GMT

    Certainly, a fantastic batsman and player. I wish him more runs !

  • testli5504537 on May 19, 2012, 8:44 GMT

    Shivnarine Chanderpaul in my opinion is one one of the greatest batsmen to emerge from the West Indies. Ramnaresh Sarwan is another batsman who might have achieved greatness, but was frustrated by a succession of underperforming coaches and the inept and despotic WICB. The test career of Chris Gayle was ubruptly ended. I suspect that the traditional bias in some Caribbean states against all Jamaicans might partly explain Gayle's predicament. I wonder if Gayle would be in the team if he was born in Trinidad, Dominica, St. Lucia or Barbados. I do not include Guyana, because it appears that Guyana has fallen out of favour with the WICB because of President Jagdeo's justified admonishement of the WICB.

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