Chanderpaul shows GenNext the way
In the West Indies team, Shivnarine Chanderpaul is now the last man standing of a generation whose best players have either retired or been sidelined due to age or disagreements. At the Feroz Shah Kotla on Sunday, Chanderpaul ensured that his team remained standing during the course of a tough day, showing younger men around him the big difference between batting and scoring runs.
The most experienced man in this West Indies team after Chanderpaul, who has played 136 Tests (including this one), is Fidel Edwards, with 49. The four batsmen who preceded him on Sunday had 22 Tests among them. Chanderpaul's innings laid bare that gap.
Before him, some, like Kieran Powell, survived for a short while but had then fallen, defeated by the difficulty of their circumstances. Others, like Darren Bravo, had thrown away the opportunity to change the rhythm of the game and give India's spinners something to think about. Chanderpaul walked in at the No. 5, the linkman he has always been, and in the matter of fifteen-odd minutes sent out his own distinct signal. That of his calibre to every man in the field, of how to become the controller of a situation to his own dressing room.
West Indies have crawled to 256 for 5 and managed to get something out of a difficult day, largely due to Chanderpaul's 111 not out - his second century against India in successive Tests - and his 108-run fourth-wicket partnership with opener Kraigg Brathwaite. He averages over 71.00 against India with seven centuries against them in all, and memories of Chanderpaul's many prolonged resistances belong mostly to a consistent turnover of home Tests. Kotla was only his fifth Test in India and he made it memorable, both with his construction of this century and the circumstance in which it came.
He changed the tempo of the game with a few swift movements, deftly finding gaps to keep the scoreboard ticking over with singles and twos, which had run dry in the first session. His open stance and quick-step shuffle enabled him to whip balls from off stump over to square leg, and he attacked the bowling at the earliest opportunity, as if it were a 50-over match and the asking-rate was six an over.
Chanderpaul's Test-match play has been marked by his obduracy and endurance, but among new developments to his game has been a version of his ODI over-drive. His showing at the Kotla borrowed a slice of the same. Sitting on the dressing room balcony, watching the others struggle, he said he thought the wicket was "pretty good" and so, "I thought it would be better to be more aggressive than just being patient out there."
Even in attack, he is a man who appears placid. Chanderpaul is nicknamed 'Tiger' but is a man of minimal physical presence and imposing aura, and is most often thought of as one of cricket's oddballs. He walks onto the field in short, sharp steps, compactly, purposefully, two black, semi-comic, anti-glare strips stuck on his face. With the manufacturer's logos on them.
Then, he takes his bizarre, open, disaster-zone of a stance, his leg stump exposed to the bowler running in. Glenn McGrath once said Shane Warne had wanted to go to square leg and bowl to Chanderpaul from there. This eccentric non-conformism mixed with his orthodox approach to a Test innings have, for a while, distracted from what happens with Chanderpaul once the ball leaves the bowlers' hand.
Swift, sure movement across the stumps, a shuffle, a hop, a quick step, always ensures that he is in the best position for bat to meet ball. It wasn't always this way, but it has taken years of practice for Chanderpaul to finally arrive at a set-up he is most comfortable with it. It has made him consistent and successful, and while the Chanderpaul way cannot and most definitely will not be taught, its efficiency is now appreciated and its numbers remain formidable.
He now needs less than 400 runs to achieve his dream target of 10,000 Test runs and when asked whether he was appreciated for his achievements and contribution, said with gentle humour, " I think so, I am not too sure but I think so." A few months ago, Chanderpaul was involved in a bitter dispute with the West Indies board and had given a ferociously critical radio interview of how senior players were being treated in the drive for youth. On Sunday, he fought his case as he always has - in real terms.
Being West Indies' greybeard he says is not really a burden, that the roles were reversed in Bangladesh where the inexperienced top order had scored most of the runs "I am pretty comfortable with where I am ... The young fellows are there and they have a job to do also. They scored a lot of runs in Bangladesh. Unfortunately they didn't get big scores today but they are very capable of doing that. We have all quality players. It takes the pressure off me, knowing that they can also get the job done. When I am out there, I can just focus on getting my job done."
Chanderpaul's partnership with Brathwaite was dominated by the older man - (73 to Chanderpaul out of 108) even as the 18-year-old, who guarded his wicket like an obdurate, survival-driven 1970s opener, learnt a few lessons of his own. Chanderpaul said they had talked during their partnership. "I was trying to help him through his innings also ... [he] played very well. He played his way, which is very patient. He did his job and unfortunately he got out. It's a couple of times now that he has got past 50 and got out. I hope the next time he goes on to the three-figure mark."
With the younger men, he says, he tries to pass on a bit of wisdom. "Whenever they ask questions, I try to give them answers." West Indies were asked several questions today and fortunately for them, Chanderpaul has hung around long enough to have all the right replies.
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo