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Feature

Following his father's footsteps, Tagenarine wants to carve a niche for himself

"I've got to try and be myself and I can't be him. Every time I go out and bat, I just try to be me and get some runs"

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
06-Mar-2023
Tagenarine Chanderpaul has played 56 first-class games but no T20s yet  •  Associated Press

Tagenarine Chanderpaul has played 56 first-class games but no T20s yet  •  Associated Press

Tagenarine Chanderpaul does not have the most conventional batting stance going around, except perhaps in his family.
The son of Shivnarine, who was coached by his grandfather Khemraj, is less square on than his dad but there are still many similarities. His front foot starts off well outside leg stump, his heel points towards square leg and he shuffles across just in time to be in line to meet the ball. At that point, Tagenarine looks as regular as any other batter, which is sort of how he sees himself.
"My stance is pretty conventional," he tells ESPNcricinfo, almost chuckling. "But I guess when my trigger starts, I can get a bit square on. My dad, when he came back to Guyana, I was about 13 and we would practice together in the afternoon, so yeah, some of the stuff started to rub off."
Tagenarine was not born when Shivnarine made his Test debut, in 1994, and grew up mostly with his mother, Annalee, in Unity Village in Guyana. His first coach was his paternal grandfather, who taught him to play cricket on the same cement pitch that Shivnarine learnt on. "He was my first coach," Tagenarine says. "Where we lived, he would throw balls at me. We also have a cricket ground not too far from us - Unity Cricket Ground - so we would go there in the afternoon and hit balls. And then he took me to join a club in town. After school, we would go and practice there. It took off from there."
That is pretty much the same journey Shivnarine took, and his presence, albeit not always physical, was keenly felt by his son. "Growing up, if we go about somewhere people would know him or speak about him or talk about a game from the previous day," Tagenarine says. "It was a proud feeling."
"My dad is a totally different person from me, personality wise. He's achieved so many things. I can only do what I can do."
Tagenarine on his father Shivnarine
It was also a source of rising expectation. The talk around Tagenarine was that he would take the same path as his famous father, and when Shivnarine returned to Guyana in 2009, there was hope the pair would walk the road together. Four years later, Tagenarine made his first-class debut, with limited success. He scored 105 runs in his first three matches. In his fourth, he played in an XI alongside his father, who scored a second-innings century, to his own 42 and 29.
"Unfortunately, we didn't bat together as much as we would have liked and it's because I got out quite a few times before he came in," Tagenarine says. "But when we were together, he gave me some advice and ways to score and what shots I can play so it was good to have him around."
All told, the pair played 11 first-class matches together over a span of five years and in the last of them, Tagenarine scored his first red-ball century. Later that year, Shivnarine played his final first-class match and the baton appeared to have been passed. But it would take almost five more years before Tagenarine earned his first Test cap, after a century against the Australia Prime Minister's XI in Canberra. And that's when Tagenarine had to remind himself that as much as there was a reputation to live up to, he is his own player.
"My dad is a totally different person from me, personality wise. He's achieved so many things. I can only do what I can do," he says. "I've got to try and be myself and I can't be him. Every time I go out and bat, I just try to be me and get some runs."
Tagenarine scored 51 and 45 in this first Test and 47 and 17 in unfamiliar conditions and against a strong Australian attack, under the guidance of none other than Brian Lara. "He wasn't a team mentor then but he was doing commentary and he would come to practice sessions and offer some advice," Tagenarine says.
Then, with Lara assigned to the team full time, his baptism of fire has continued with his season ending in South Africa. "Australia and South Africa have very good bowling attacks and the conditions are very different from back home. It was nice to get some runs in Australia on debut. Here, the South African attack is very good. They are very consistent and they don't give you many loose balls. You've got to try and concentrate for long periods."
He has already demonstrated he can do that because in between those two series, West Indies were in Zimbabwe, where Tagenarine scored his first Test century, and made it a double. He spent four minutes short of 10 hours at the crease crafting that innings. "It was a very special feeling - my first century," he says. "I didn't really celebrate too much. I'm not really too much of a party person."
Instead, he is committed to the growth of cricket in Guyana, where significant investments are being made to develop the game. "The government is putting a lot of emphasis on sports right now. They're building a few stadiums and getting some more indoor facilities," he says.
In January, the Guyana government announced a budget of US$4.3 billion for the development of sports which includes the development of a cricket academy.
That, together with a renewed resolve from players like Jason Holder and Kyle Mayers - both of whom left the SA20 to play the Tests in Zimbabwe - to the longest format, gives Tagenarine hope that West Indies can become more competitive in Tests. In particular, he singled out his captain and opening partner Kraigg Braithwaite as someone who has put a particular importance on the red-ball game.
"Kraigg has been a consistent performer over the years. He is pretty tough mentally and accustomed to pressure situations," Tagenarine says. "And we have players who are committed. Jason and Kyle left leagues to come back and play Test matches. Everyone gets along very well and the guys gel together. Guys are very easy to approach and welcoming. Hopefully all goes well for us."
As for Tagenarine himself, the T20 game has not yet lured him and has yet to play a single one, although he'd like that to change. "It's something I could venture into. If given the opportunity, I'll try and get involved," he says. "I've got to work on a few more scoring shots and areas I can improve to try and be well equipped for that type of cricket."
And that you may say, is what underlines his case as the most conventional cricketer, even in his own family.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent for South Africa and women's cricket