Chanderpaul Junior ready to take centrestage
Read the following names, and make a note of how you feel: Matthew, Mali, Rohan, John. Not particularly bothered, right? Now read their fathers' names: Garfield, Vivian, Sunil, Donald. Now you're probably intrigued. Let's add surnames to the mix now: Sobers, Richards, Gavaskar, Bradman. Now it hits home. All of the names mentioned above, and many of the offspring of sportspersons in all disciplines, share a common feature: great expectations.
It is not uncommon to see sons and daughters unable to live up to the 'hype' of their parents' great successes because, quite frankly, the bar has been set impossibly high. It isn't a failure on anyone's part; in fact, it's confirmation of how special the parents are, and how much of a mix of circumstances, talents, events, and other effects it takes for someone to become a professional sportsperson, much less a legend.
Despite the rarity, though, a 16-year-old dynamic talent is emerging from Unity, Mahaica in Guyana to buck the trend: Tagenarine Chanderpaul. "Brandon", as he's known, is set to make his first-class debut, about 22 years after the similar debut of his father, the illustrious Shivnarine. It will be a rare sight to see the son of an active international cricketer make his debut, and it will be surreal if the father and son bat together at some point during the domestic season.
Shivnarine invokes great pride in his native land thanks to his years of achievement - thousands of runs, too many desperate battles to save the team, and determination in the face of challenges. Followers of West Indies cricket have already begun to come to terms with Shiv's career being close to an end (though he probably has a few more runs left in him), so the emergence of Tage is like a lifeline. It's as if the tiger's career is starting all over again thanks to the cub. Inasmuch as the son will be unable to escape comparisons, there are differences of note between the two. Junior is apparently more aggressive than Senior and, having almost complete ambidexterity, plays reverse-sweeps and switch-hits much more naturally. Shiv, with all his experience, can impart knowledge much faster to his protégé, making him much wiser than he himself might have been at the age of 16.
Tage is entering a cricketing universe where T20s are the sun and Tests are more like fleeting asteroids. His mindset might diverge quite a lot from the traditional and defensively-inclined Dad. Though the differences will be there, the similarities are also telling. Tage has apparently been under the strict tutelage of his grandfather, who clearly knows how to groom a world-class cricketer. There is also a distinctly dogged determination to 'not give my wicket away' in the young man's batting, and a hunger for runs and more runs. Despite the two decades of separation, the Chanderpaul DNA seems to be in full effect. As well-wishers, it is important to take a step back and realise what's about to happen, and how we all need to behave. Shiv's story was not always smooth - he had a long and hard toil before his first hundred, struggled with fitness issues, dealt with controversies, and had to endure the growing pains that come with starting an international cricket career at 19 years of age. Tage is a mere 16 years old. His game is not yet polished, and while he is certainly good, he has much more room to improve.
The messages to Tagenarine from supporters and skeptics alike must be one of patience, understanding and encouragement. While it is true that many children cannot, by sheer weight of history, emulate what their parents have done, we in the West Indies might just have the chance to see a chip off of the old block - but we must be careful and considerate. Tagenarine Chanderpaul has all the natural tools and guidance necessary, and no one should burden him with the weight of great expectations. Fans need to take a page out of Papa Shiv's book and be steady and watchful - soon enough the runs will flow and Tagenarine could well begin to build his own legacy. And we'll all be watching with pride.