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Shivnarine Chanderpaul is not the first selfish batsman but his talents might be better utilised to benefit the West Indies team
George Dobell at Lord's
May 17, 2012
Like the neighbour who rises early to practise on his drum kit, there can be a thin line between admirable dedication and infuriating selfishness.
It is a line that even the best of batsmen have struggled to find. Remember Geoff Boycott being dropped for slow scoring after a double-century against India in 1967, or Sunil Gavaskar batting through a World Cup match for 36 not out in 1975?
A glance at the scorecard from the first day of this game would convince you that Shivnarine Chanderpaul stood head and shoulders above his team mates. There is a good degree of truth in such a conclusion, too. While his colleagues flattered for a while, only Chanderpaul had the patience, the dedication and the temperament to offer meaningful resistance. Take his contribution - 87 not out - away and West Indies may well have not reached 200.
But that is not the whole story. The scorecard does not show how Chanderpaul left Darren Bravo stranded and run out; it does not show how Chanderpaul took a single from the first delivery of the final over of the day, fatally exposing Fidel Edwards to Stuart Broad, and it does not show how Chanderpaul has resisted the invitation to move up the order to No. 3. The current incumbent of the No. 3 position, Kirk Edwards has a Test average approaching 50 but, so far on this admittedly brief tour, has shown an inclination to play across straight ones and poke at wide ones. Those are not the attributes of a successful No. 3.
Perhaps the run out of Bravo was simply unfortunate. After all, most players are involved in a mix-up at some stage and, even if there was something unattractive in the way Chanderpaul grounded his bat to ensure his partner's doom, it is hard to think of many top-order players who would not have done exactly the same thing. Chanderpaul does not give his wicket away. You may as well try to persuade a lion of the virtues of vegetarianism as ask him to do so. That is not such a bad quality in a Test batsman.
But there is a context here. This was the 23rd run out in which Chanderpaul has been involved as a Test batsman. He has been the man dismissed on just three occasions. Those are damning statistics.
Chanderpaul could argue - with some evidence - that he has to put himself first for the sake of the team. He could argue - with some evidence - that the burden on his shoulders is such that he knows that he if fails, his team will fail and he could argue - with a mountain of evidence - that some of his team-mates would do well to emulate him.
But if that is the case, he needs to ensure he takes the final over of days. He needs to ensure he soaks up the new-ball spells of the best bowlers. He needs to ensure he bats in the position that is best for the team. Superiority comes with responsibility.
Chanderpaul has a method that has worked. He is currently rated as the best batsman in Test cricket. He averages more than 50. He has been strong enough to ignore decades of convention and years of coaching to develop a technique all his own. It takes strength to do that. It takes an ability to drown out every opinion, every bit of advice, everything but his faith in himself. Many captains would dearly love such a 'selfish' player in their side.
Fidel Edwards' dismissal may come back to haunt him, though. While it might increase the likelihood of him finishing with an average-flattering not out - Shannon Gabriel's career batting average of just 4.85 does not suggest he will detain us long on day two - it also reduces his chances of becoming just the fourth West Indies batsman (George Headley, Sir Garfield Sobers and Gordon Greenidge are the others) to score a second Test century at Lord's.
|"The honours boards at Lord's record not victories and losses, but individual successes. In a better environment, Chanderpaul's selfish streak might be manipulated to the team's advantage"|
Perhaps such issues should not matter. It is a team game. But selfishness and individuality are laced into it. After all, the honours boards at Lord's record not victories and losses, but individual successes. Chanderpaul may have a selfish streak but, in a better environment, it might be manipulated to the team's advantage.
It was as poignant as it was inevitable that, even as West Indies' middle-order were capitulating, Chris Gayle should be providing another demonstration of his extravagant talents with an 53-ball century in the IPL. It will not have gone unnoticed that Ramnaresh Sarwan also registered another century - his second in six Championship games - for Leicestershire on Wednesday.
The harsh might argue that Gayle, in particular, has been 'selfish' not to put country before franchise. They might argue that he should have patched up his differences with the WICB for the good of the sport and the good of the Caribbean.
But that would be simplistic. The truth is that Gayle - like so many other West Indies players - has been poorly managed. And that is the key. For while Gayle and Chanderpaul and Boycott and Gavaskar may all have an element of selfishness in their character, that does not mark them out as any different to just about every other batsman. Just about every other human, for that matter. The difference is management. In good teams, the needs of the individual are managed to ensure that they correspond to the needs of the group. In poor teams, the desires of the individual are allowed to come first. West Indies' management - at team and board and union level - have proved unable to coax the best out of their talented players for years. They have presided over the creation of an underperforming culture. It manifested itself on the first day at Lord's.
Indeed, this was a day that summed up many of West Indies' performances of late. They fought hard and at times it appeared they were building a decent position. Ultimately, however, they still ended up on the weaker footing and were still left searching for positives amid the rubble.
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