In Shiv's footsteps
A chip off the old block in some ways, his own man in others, Tagenarine Chanderpaul is set to be Guyana's next big thing
He removes the bail and drives it into the pitch with his bat when he marks his left-handed guard. He walks forward and brushes the pitch with his bat. He then turns left and takes a few steps towards the square-leg umpire, giving the impression of being ill at ease with his surroundings. Back at the crease, his head is tilted to the leg side. With the right glove, he touches the crest on his helmet, then the right thigh, and then his crotch, before finally resting it in position on the handle. Save for the bail routine, this fidgety pre-ball ritual is repeated almost every time he takes strike. Sounds familiar?
Chanderpaul would be the obvious guess, but the player described above is not Shivnarine. It is his son Tagenarine .
There are more similarities between dad and son, but one they don't share is the stance. With his right foot pointing towards square leg and his chest facing the bowler, Shivnarine at the crease looks like a tennis player facing a return of serve. Tagenarine's stance is side-on and conventional. Both do have high backlifts.
At 17, Tagenarine (pronounced Tay-je-narine) looks as lean and frail as his dad did at 20 during his Test debut against England. Both are economical with words. During his early days as a Test player, Shivnarine came across as painfully shy and diffident in front of cameras. You would be lucky to get more words out of his son. The one-line answers are followed by a shy chuckle. When asked if he copies his dad's mannerisms, he says, "I've not really picked up anything. Just happen to look the same way."
Tagenarine may not be in the senior West Indies team team yet, but the fact that he has made it to the national Under-19 level while his father is still actively playing is headline-grabbing. The two have played together in one first-class match for Guyana, against Trinidad and Tobago in Port-of-Spain, but they didn't get to bat together in it. They have done that in club games, and once shared a stand of 256 in Guyana. Shivnarine is 39 and shows no sign of stopping yet, so more opportunities to bat together at the first-class level beckon.
Tagenarine grew up in the same house as his dad, in Unity Village, Demerara, on Guyana's east coast. Shivnarine's father, Khemraj, a fisherman by day, coached his son like it was his life's mission to get him to play Test cricket. He would take Shiv to the community centre nearby, where the throwdowns would last for hours. They would sometimes go to the Atlantic shore, where young Shivnarine would face bumper balls directed at his body. Taking the blows was worth it in the end, when cricket became a means of moving on from rural poverty and a harsh life at sea.
Khemraj has taken charge of his grandson in a similar manner, preparing a concrete surface by the side of their house for Tagenarine to practise on. The boy also trains at the ground nearby every day after school.
For years Khemraj had to double up as grandfather and dad to Tagenarine after Shivnarine moved to Florida to live with his second wife, Amy. Tagenarine stayed on in Unity, where he split his time between his grandparents and his mother, Annalee, who ran a beer garden in the village.
In the absence of Chanderpaul senior, Khemraj's presence and dedication assumed great significance for the young boy. Shivnarine has since taken a more active role in his son's cricket, having moved back to Guyana in 2009.
By most accounts Tagenarine is a more attractive batsman to watch than his father, and he is capable of innovating with reverse sweeps and the like. Like his father, though, he has the ability to pitch a tent at the crease. The signs were evident early. When Tagenarine was ten, he once batted five hours in a club game against players twice his age and scored 61.
Daren Ganga, the former West Indies and Trinidad batsman, who has known Tagenarine since he was five, says the ability to persevere at the crease could be his biggest inheritance from his father. "He is a player Guyana is depending on to bat for long periods," Ganga says. "He's got good concentration methods, and a wide array of strokes."
In this U-19 World Cup, Tagenarine has given enough proof that he's in the side on merit and not because of his surname, with two fifties, including 93 against Canada.
Ganga says the pressure that comes with the Chanderpaul surname is something Tagenarine will have to deal with. "He will always be in his father's shadow, so to speak because Shiv is second to Brian Lara in terms of batting achievements for West Indies. I don't think he will be able to jump out of his dad's shadow overnight."
The comparisons will be inevitable, and it's a challenge the youngster is well aware of. "I try not to think about it. Just try and be myself," he says.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo