Trinidad & Tobago Express

West Indies in England 2009

Chasing Viv

Their figures are so similar as to be almost identical yet, in every other way, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and VIV Richards are polar opposites

Tony Cozier

May 16, 2009

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Shivnarine Chanderpaul offered resistance with 50, England Lions v West Indians, Derby, May 2, 2009
Shivnarine Chanderpaul is poised to become West Indies' second highest run-scorer in Tests © Getty Images
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As long as the rain and the gloom that obliterated the entire second day of the second Test here yesterday relents, an improbable statistical record is likely to be established before the weekend is out. It is one that confirms, yet again, the contrasts and the variety that make cricket such a great and fascinating game.

When he finally gets to bat on a pitch he knows well from his two seasons with English county, Durham, Shivnarine Chanderpaul needs 35 runs to pass Viv Richards' 8540 and become second only to Brian Lara, with his distant 11,912, as West Indies' highest scorer in Tests.

Their figures are so similar as to be almost identical yet, in every other way, Chanderpaul and Richards are polar opposites. If Richards, by the additional weight of personality and influence, rates far higher on the list of all-time greats, Chanderpaul's role in his 14 years in the West Indies team cannot be underestimated.

This is Chanderpaul's 121st Test, the same number as Richards. His present average is 49.45. Richards' was 50.23. There are 21 hundreds to Chanderpaul's name. Richards had 24 when his career ended at the Oval in London in 1991 after 17 years. The one major numerical disparity is in the innings played (Chanderpaul's 204 to Richards' 182) with the corresponding not out stars against their names (Chanderpaul's 32 to Richards' 12).

Such a detail has opened Chanderpaul to the charge of selfishness, an unjust judgment that disregards his middle-order position in an increasingly fragile batting order that he has repeatedly rescued from collapse. There the numerical parallels end, to be replaced by the glaring contrasts in other areas.

Chanderpaul, a Guyanese of east Indian descent from a small fishing village, is the frail, introverted left-hander with the weird stance and limited strokeplay who has accumulated his runs with the patience of Job. No one in Test history has gone unbeaten between innings as long and as many times; few have paid so diligent and exhaustive attention to practice. The glint in his eyes and the strength of his resolve in crisis has earned him the nickname "Tiger".

Richards, a proud black Antiguan from a cricketing background, had the physique, power and arrogance of a champion boxer. For a while, he was "Smokin' Joe", after his heavyweight favourite Joe Frazier, but "The Master Blaster" was more appropriate to his devastating method.

While Chanderpaul walks to the wicket with the misleading demeanour of a mourner in a funeral procession, Richards swaggered onto the ground as if he owned it. Chanderpaul was so focused on scoring runs that he was unsuited and uncomfortable in the captaincy that was thrust on him after one of Lara's departures. Richards, on the other hand, thrived in the post, the only West Indies captain not to lose a series at the helm. While Chanderpaul frustrates bowlers, Richards intimidated them.

Chanderpaul waits for the last moment to determine the appropriate shot to play, usually a careful push or deflection, just occasionally something a little more extravagant but always with his security uppermost in his mind. For Richards, the first option was ever attack. As the calypso king of his native Antigua, Shortshirt, put it: "No bowler holds a terror for Vivian Richards".

The opposite was the case. It was Richards who terrorised even his greatest opponents. Soon, Chanderpaul, in his unstated way, will take over Richards' tally of Test runs. It is an achievement that will please him, for runs are at the core of his cricket. It is, equally, an indication of his vital function in his time in West Indies cricket, in its way no less so than Richards' was.

Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for nearly 50 years

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