Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
I pen this piece in frustration.
As the cricket world is no doubt aware, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, one of the most beloved cricketers in the history of West Indies cricket, has not been selected for the two-Test home series against Australia. Subsequently, news broke that Chanderpaul's non-selection is, for all intents and purposes, permanent. His career has been abruptly ended - ipso facto.
There is little doubt that, statistically, Chanderpaul has been underwhelming over his past two series. As selection chairman Clive Lloyd indicated in what was essentially a termination letter, Chanderpaul has averaged a mere 16 (compared to a career average of 51), crawling towards Brian Lara's West Indies all-time run-scoring record. Further, Chanderpaul's cricketing capacity has waned - the eyes strain a bit more, the shuffle takes a millisecond longer, the gap-piercing drives pierce a bit less ferociously. These are not contentious observations. Lloyd, new head coach Phil Simmons, et al, have a point.
No one in the current West Indies squad commands nearly as much attention, planning and consternation from the opposition as Chanderpaul
However, to frame Chanderpaul's non-selection on cricketing reasons - the rationale supposedly used to justify his omission - requires a broader outlook. On the field, when he comes out to bat, he comes out with a presence - there is a weight of almost 12,000 Test runs, 30 Test centuries, and 164 Test matches. No one in the current West Indies squad commands nearly as much attention, planning and consternation from opposition teams as Chanderpaul does.
Further, no one has anything close to the volume of knowledge and experience of Chanderpaul. Some have noted that the West Indian batsmen have matured and can take on the Australian attack. But while they have shown considerable development, the test provided by a cock-a-hoop Australian outfit will be an examination of the highest order, and the Yoda-like influence of Chanderpaul can do wonders for the collective batting unit. These factors - mental and tactical - coupled with the fact that, objectively, Chanderpaul has not actually diminished to an absolute disaster (in viewing his batting in the most recent England series, one must recall that he fell to some exceptional displays of fielding in a few innings), calls for him being allowed a final kick at the can.
There is a massive, important, and undeniable impact that has resulted from the poor treatment of Chanderpaul, a West Indian legend. Many among the West Indian and world cricketing public could foresee that his time was coming to an end, but the unceremonious dismissal he has endured has been truly disappointing.
To attempt to sort out the winner of the hearsay battle between Simmons, Lloyd and Chanderpaul regarding the end of his time in West Indies maroon is an exercise in futility. The fact is clear, at present - in the eyes of much of the West Indian public, several past cricketers, and a number of former and current administrators - that the axing of Chanderpaul has been a downright "shame" (Brian Lara's description, not mine). The WICB, under whom the selectors fall, have had far too many fiascos over the past few months and years. This, though, could be one of the worst blemishes of all if left as it is. Recently re-elected president Dave Cameron spoke explicitly about the need to treat our past cricketers better. There's no time like the present, Mr Cameron.
It is important to place things in context. This is not about Chanderpaul surpassing Lara's all-time record (which I wrote about previously). That ship, as they say, has sailed, and whether or not he passes Lara is now secondary. This is about a proper, dignified and appropriate farewell for a cricketer unlike any the West Indies, or the world, has seen. The precedent exists - see Tendulkar's farewell (against West Indies, in fact), just a few years ago. Chanderpaul is no less deserving than Sachin.
To correct this error immediately would not be an emasculation of Lloyd, Simmons and their fellow selectors. In fact, it would be a case of an authoritative body finally being mindful, in a truly exceptional circumstance, of the public they serve. Bad blood and confusion should not be allowed to taint the little legend's final moments on the world stage. Chanderpaul smashed 303 not out against Jamaica in Kingston to register his highest first-class score, all the way back in 1995-96; the powers that be should allow him bid farewell to his adoring public in a manner befitting his outstanding career at that very venue.
Fix this situation, West Indies Cricket Board and the selectors. Let the Tiger roar once more.