Calypso cricket is not part of Shivnarine Chanderpaul's gameplan June 13, 2007

The quiet West Indian

Whether he likes it or not, Shivanrine Chanderpaul is now West Indies' main man

With his front-on "crabby" technique, Chanderpaul horrifies the purists playing late and inelegantly regardless of circumstances. And yet, what would West Indies do without him? © Getty Images

In this age of in-your-face celebrity, Shivnarine Chanderpaul is the ultimate anomaly. This is a man who has been living in the public eye for 13 years - longer than Shaun Pollock, Rahul Dravid, Ricky Ponting and Michael Vaughan. He made his debut as a 19-year-old against Michael Atherton's England way back in March 1994, and announced himself as an instant veteran with half-centuries in each of his first four Tests.

And yet even today, 103 Tests and 6976 runs later, he retains the wide-eyed innocence of the most naïve and unworldly rookie. Chanderpaul has captained his country, Guyana, as well as West Indies in 13 Tests in 2005-06, but eloquence has never been part of his persona. In front of the cameras he is guarded and unassuming; and as this week's epic unbeaten 116 emphatically demonstrated, in front of the stumps he is merely guarded.

And yet, what an innings it was. For seven hours and 257 deliveries, Chanderpaul squared up to the very best efforts of England's attack, nudging 46 singles - mostly off his hips or through the gap at cover - and 12 emphatically selected fours, to grind his side ever closer to what would have been the most improbable Test victory of all time. In the end they fell 60 runs short of a world-record target of 455. "One good partnership," as Vaughan, a relieved England captain, admitted afterwards.

The ultimate accolade was provided by Steve Harmison - a bowler whose efforts had been lampooned all series long. It was his furious post-lunch assault that made the difference between victory and defeat, for the first time this summer England had been given no option but to produce their very best.

"Chanderpaul is under-estimated and under-rated," said his coach, David Moore. "He's a world-class cricketer and teams under-estimate [him] at their own peril." With his front-on "crabby" technique, Chanderpaul horrifies the purists as he seems to play French cricket with his opponents - playing late and inelegantly regardless of circumstances. And yet, what would West Indies do without him?

The answer, in fact, came in the previous Test at Headingley. Chanderpaul was forced to miss that game with an injured knee; and in his absence West Indies plummeted to a new and desperate low. Against an England attack firing on two cylinders at best, they slumped to a record innings-and-283-run defeat. It seemed that nothing remained to salvage the region's pride.

But back he came, and by accident or otherwise, he inspired his side to resistance above and beyond the levels of which they believed they were capable. Runako Morton, a man whose natural instincts compel him to belt the cover off a cricket ball, produced the most disciplined and self-restrained half-century of his career, and even Jerome Taylor - a No. 9 whose average Test innings lasts a mere 19 deliveries - more than doubled that tally in partnering Chanderpaul until the lunch break.

Chanderpaul is a grounded, honest, incarnation of the West Indian cricketer © Getty Images

When Chanderpaul launched his Test career, West Indies ruled the world. Brian Lara and Curtly Ambrose were the guardians of the Caribbean's hegemony, and England were their favourite punchbags - as demonstrated so unforgettably at Trinidad in only Chanderpaul's second Test, when Ambrose instigated that incredible collapse of 46 all out. Now the greats have all gone, Lara included, and all that remains are the merely excellent.

Chanderpaul falls into that category without any question. Calypso cricket could not be further from his gameplan - notwithstanding the fact that he once flailed the Australians, no less, for an extraordinary 69-ball century. He represents instead a more grounded, honest, incarnation of the West Indian cricketer. This is a side that, for the first time since the days of George Headley, lacks a single player who could be indisputably classified as a genius. What better time, then, for the quiet man of the side to step up to become the main man. After 13 years of avoiding the spotlight, Chanderpaul is smack in the centre of the stage whether he likes it or not.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo