West Indies v India, 3rd Test, Dominica July 5, 2011

Dhoni wants runs, Chanderpaul needs them

While both unorthodox batsmen have had a string of low scores, MS Dhoni's position is under no threat while Shivnarine Chanderpaul will be wondering whether he'll go the same way as Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan

You can't take your eyes off Shivnarine Chanderpaul when he is batting. Watching him live at the ground is a disorienting experience; bowling at him must be even more disorienting. His stance reminds you of a batsman at a crowded park on a Sunday in India, where multiple teams jostle for space and where you will often find another batsman standing next to you but playing a different game, on a pitch that runs diagonally across your strip. The present scenario in West Indies cricket, in particular the outlook the board seems to have on the senior players in the side, has made it even more fascinating to watch Chanderpaul bat.

He is at a crossroads in his career. "New direction" is the new buzz on the Caribbean circuit these days. There is a feeling in the region that there are people in power who are almost waiting for Chanderpaul to fail so they can dump him. It's not a great time to be a senior player. Chris Gayle has been sidelined by the board, Ramnaresh Sarwan has just lost his place and the guns are now trained on Chanderpaul.

A couple of months ago, Chanderpaul was involved in a spat with the board and the team management. Chanderpaul had felt his commitment had been questioned and retaliated with an angry outburst in which, among other things, he accused the selectors of asking him to retire, the board of not arranging adequate treatment for his injuries and the team management of trying to micromanage his batting. After meetings with the board, he was included in the team for the Tests against Pakistan and India

Chanderpaul is also, according to people close to him, currently grappling with some personal issues. Overall, he isn't in a great frame of mind. Ironically, cricket offers him the best escape from all his issues. He can shut his critics up with his bat, and earn himself some mental relief with runs. It's the one thing that is under his control. In that context, he must have been gutted when he got a shocking lbw decision in the second innings at the Kensington Oval. He, however, did not throw a fit. He did not even linger at the crease. He just turned and walked away. It must have taken tremendous mental discipline.

But then, discipline is what defines Chanderpaul's batting. Abhinav Mukund, the young India opener, said he learnt a lot by just crouching at short-leg during the Barbados Test and watching Chanderpaul bat. "He was leaving deliveries that were so close to the off stump," Abhinav said. "He always played late. I learned a lot. I also want to leave and play late like that." The runs, though, aren't coming for Chanderpaul. He has spent 852 minutes at the crease in his last six innings, but managed only 165 runs at a strike-rate of 29.41. Dominica may not be the last-chance saloon but it's pretty important that he gets some runs.

Another man struggling for runs is someone who, like Chanderpaul, is known for his unorthodox style of batting: India's captain MS Dhoni. Unlike Chanderpaul, Dhoni is under no pressure. He has been winning everything as a captain and if he wins in Dominica he will be the first India captain to win 2-0 in the West Indies. In fact, India have won two Tests in a series outside the subcontinent only three times: in New Zealand in 1967-68, in England in 1986 and in Zimbabwe in 2005.

Dhoni's scores in this series read 0,16, 2, and 5, and though his position is under no threat it is still an issue he would like to address. He has this knack of coming up with a substantial knock just when you begin to notice his failures. He hit a 98 in November 2010 against New Zealand after going seven innings without a half-century, and followed it up with 90 in Centurion against South Africa. It has since been seven innings in which he hasn't got a half-century.

But these patterns are typical of Dhoni the Test batsman. He is impressively consistent in ODIs but in Tests he often slips into anonymity before coming up with a sparkling knock. He can surprise you sometimes with his poor shot selection: a cut straight to cover point, an uppish drive to mid-off, a tame, lunging push with the bat way ahead of the body. Then, on his good days, that same cut would just clear cover point, the uppish drive would fly past mid-off and the lunging drive would result in an edge past gully. And he would be up and running.

Dhoni would probably take a team victory in Dominica, but some runs, ahead of the tougher England series, won't hurt. Two batsmen, with unorthodox but effective batting styles, will set out on a hunt for runs in Dominica.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jesse on July 7, 2011, 16:40 GMT

    Senoirs players in WI team is under lots of pressure we all can see that. Seems like all that have being said of coach and management have no use for them is true...Like the WICB have not learn anything from the Chappel era in India.

  • Andy on July 7, 2011, 12:07 GMT

    Chanderpaul play spin verywell onething for he is playing as good as he was playing against india vs India the thing is india have a quality fast bowers this tame than any of its tours tht india visited that makes a difference he is falling for fastbowlers everything.thats it!

  • Dummy4 on July 7, 2011, 8:24 GMT

    Dhoni's spot isnt under threat atm BUT if he keeps up his form (averaging just over 5 this series) then it wont be too long be4 selectors want to try Saha or Parthiv. Chanderpaul on the otherhand, he just needs to up the strike rate to near 50 and he will be fine, if he leaves everyball he won't score runs and it is just a matter of time be4 sharma sends down something unplayable. Also does WI actually have anyone better to replace chanderpaul?? no, nash is out of form, simmons cant score a run in tests, kieron powell and kirk edwards failed in thier debut innings and even dwayne bravo seems to lack commitment to anything other then IPL. Gayle could be the man but WI doesnt seem to want him either so i dont think u could drop chanders right now.

  • Dummy4 on July 7, 2011, 7:09 GMT

    Veera .......... He may be having personal diffcultiies. Mind you, he will not be let down by those things in cricket. He is well trained in this regard n the best of hinduism. His Guru ji has mentally strengthened him by giving him essential tips in hindusim. He is a stong shiv baktaha who mediates at a center in gerogetown. He has carried the same into cricket field. He does mediate in the moddle in the tough times with bowles and haas come out with flyng colors. Many have different ways of coping up with the stress. This man's remedy is medtative contemplation in the cricket field/ i am confident ths great westindian will come good aganst the crcketers from the land of his forefathers in the next test.

  • Sundar on July 7, 2011, 6:44 GMT

    Good article about two players who are struggling to find form with the bat. Chanderpaul has been a vital cog in the WI line-up for several years now and has probably been one of their best batsmen over a long period of time. he faces a spell on the sidelines if he doesn;t hit form soon. on the other hand, Dhoni has had moderate success in tests and struggled at various points of time. though he does come up with fine knocks now and then, he has struggled for consistency in the longer version.. his technique or lack of it, shows up at time and he invariably struggles abroad.. hope he can set it right

  • Carson on July 7, 2011, 5:21 GMT

    I cannot help but notice the rush by the WICB to dismiss all the senior players from the WI team. Could this be a ploy in enabling the setting up of the WI High Performance Center to be seen as a masterful idea? Already they are pushing in Powell, a student from the high performance center, who obviously is not yet ready for test cricket with only one first class century and no obvious signs of any special talent. in the space of two series spanning only 5 test matches we have seen the demise of Sarwan, Nash and Gayle. We're also seeing where Jerome Taylor is being kept from the team and Chanderpaul being asked by the WICB to retire. I kno they are waiting on Baugh to fail as well so they can bring in Devon Thomas, another high performance center student. We all saw where they picked him over Baugh after Baugh was once again fit after the World Cup and Baugh only came in because Thomas was injured. This starting to look like a conspiracy from the WICB.

  • Rahul on July 7, 2011, 5:13 GMT

    It is imperative that Dhoni strike some form ahead of England series. There will inevitably some early wickets going down in England with overcast conditions, early swing and potent new ball attack. India's lower middle order and even tail enders need to contribute with the bat as it gets little easier with the older ball to bat. Bating at no 7 it will be up to Dhoni to shepherd the lower middle order and counter attack Swan and co. Make no mistake the below 400 scores will not be enough against England on their home soil in their own conditions. India will need runs on the board to exert pressure on England batsmen.

  • PATRICK on July 7, 2011, 4:41 GMT

    @ranpath Hold on mate. There is Gayle whose 333 means he averaged 91 in his last test series (he batted 4 times) and although he only really performed vs England (not couting the minnows) his average was 42 in the WC. The problem with the openers is inexperience. Gayle should be there mentoring young Barath. When Barath plays a rash shot he just tries again to correct it and gets out - Like yesterday. The senior batsman would walk down the pitch and tell the man to cool down and maintain his wicket. Note also that Chanders had the 3rd best average (38) in WC but was then dropped for Pakistan ODIs. His 44 n.o was the only innings of note vs Pakistan in their last WC match (WI was bowled out for 112). Is this reasonable from management or selectors dropping him then? I truly hope he finds form because this experiment blooding new players and chopping and changing is not working - he still has a couple years left to contribute if totally supported by management to do so.

  • Prasun on July 7, 2011, 1:27 GMT

    guys.. i dont think these two have been compared.. its just that they have been very important players in their team.. both unorthodox.. and both needing runs.. as simple as that.. and anyone asking why dhoni is in the test team.. it's because he is not frontline batsman.. he is more of a all-rounder.. and he does his keeping job effectively and i seriously dont find you can drop dhoni as he is not scoring.. he does need to score.. he cant take his place for granted though..

  • am on July 6, 2011, 21:05 GMT

    Chanders played in 132 tests as a front line batsman for WI coming at no.4 or 5 for many years and yet he is still not comfortable at the crease like he should be even after scoring 9000 runs.and Y compare him with Dhoni who played 56 tests so far??? and Dhoni is not a frontline batsman and people forget he comes at no.7 and he is the BEST n Greatest captain india will ever have and he is very good wicket keeper who does the job so u got 3 dimensional player in ur side and still people whine about it. Compare frontline batsman with frontline batsman.It is job of top 6 batsman to score but in this series totals have been around 250. Top order failed too. And apart from that he got horrendous decisions twice in last two test matches and has to bat according to team's needs bcoz of him being captain. People just want to blame Dhoni for the slightest of opportunities. With 20 half centuries and 4 hundreds he hasn't done badly at all. Team has been victorious in last 3 yrs since sep 2008

  • No featured comments at the moment.