There is nothing in his demeanour to suggest he is the bulwark of the side. Or that he is now into his fifth World Cup. No swagger to herald his sheer survival instinct amidst the periodic storms which buffet West Indies cricket. Like his dour, workmanlike but efficient batting, there is something remarkably un-West Indian about Chanderpaul.Only the stubborn glint gives him away. He refuses to accept that the team, led by the inexperienced Darren Sammy, can at best play spoiler in this tournament. He also doesn’t believe he is going through a moderate patch of form.
The Windies haven’t beaten a top side in ODIs in one-and-a-half years but the dogged Chanderpaul says it doesn’t matter. “We’ve been doing a lot of work and have prepared purposefully for this event. I know we haven’t been doing well, but you cannot keep thinking about it. You have to move ahead. We have some experienced batsmen and they must take the responsibility. I know I need to be out there batting with the youngsters for as long as I can. Sometimes it happens, sometimes not.”
The seasoned trio of Chanderpaul, Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan have their task cut out if West Indies are to impress, and coach Otis Gibson on Friday exhorted the seniors to seize the reins during the team’s first training session in Delhi. Of the three, only Chanderpaul has been here before, back in 1996, but that was a bittersweet campaign.
“My favourite World Cup moment remains the 1996 World Cup semfinal against Australia, but we lost that match,” he says without emotion. He had scored a 126-ball 80 but his departure sparked off a Shane Warne-inspired collapse which led to a 5-run defeat. “There have been times when we weren’t strong enough or consistent enough as a team. But it’s good to be the underdogs. We have the material to win the World Cup. We can surprise a few people.”
One hopes it is a sentiment shared by his teammates. If Chanderpaul can increase his tally of only one World Cup hundred so far, they might even roll the good times in.
‘Space out ODIs to make format survive’
Chanderpaul is remarkably reticent when it comes to commenting on the future of the 50-over game, but he downplayed concerns about its survival. “I don’t think ODIs are in trouble. But yes, if you break up the schedule a little bit it might help also,” was his subtle hint to administrators.
Chanderpaul’s former captain and current team manager Richie Richardson shared his sentiments. “The World Cup is the biggest thing in cricket and let’s treat it like that,” he said, “I don’t think ODIs are in any danger. There is a place for every format but Tests should take primacy.”