Thursday December 11, 2008
When New Zealand’s senior cricketers were asked to nominate the West Indian rival likely to cause them the most angst this summer, without exception they cast envious and fearful glances towards Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul gives a smile at training
The 34-year-old left hander from Guyana is enjoying a rich vein of form his counterparts in the New Zealand top order could only dream about.
Leading into the opening test of the two-match series at University Oval Chanderpaul was on the brink of registering significant batting milestones – his 20th test hundred or 50th half century.
Chanderpaul, whose stance and technique defies coaching manuals, eclipsed the 8000-run mark during the West Indies’ last series – a 0-2 loss to Australia which cast him as almost solely responsible for reducing the margin of defeat.
In a remarkable four innings sequence Chanderpaul scored an unbeaten 107, 77 and 79 before eventually being dismissed for 50 in his final innings against the world champions.
His 313-run haul was indicative of his last two years at the heart of the West Indian top order.
Since December 2006 he has amassed 1265 runs at 105.41, 20 innings yielding five centuries and nine fifties. Only once was he removed without scoring.
The gravity of Chanderpaul’s statistics did not escape Brendon McCullum, Jacob Oram and Daniel Vettori, who all echoed admiration for an adversary who never seems to play in the ‘V’, or off the front foot.
Instead he utilises soft hands, deft deflections, and a savage pull shot to maintain a Test average a touch under 50 (49.08).
While opener and captain Chris Gayle is all aggression when facing the new ball, Chanderpaul and his Guyanese team-mate Ramnaresh Sarwan are more often than not the glue which binds the West Indian batting card together.
“He’s a tough customer and a tough proposition,” McCullum said of Chanderpaul.
“The way he’s performed over the last two years has been nothing short of amazing.”
Allrounder Oram added: “When you look at the two years he’s had, there’s not a lot of chinks in his armour. You have to be patient, consistent and wait for the mistake that everyone makes at some time.”
However, although Chanderpaul appears to be in the most imposing form of his 14-year career as an international cricketer, New Zealand does have cause for optimism ahead of his 113th test.
For all Chanderpaul’s success, the Black Caps have consistently managed to limit his influence.
In 11 tests against New Zealand both here and in the Caribbean, he has mustered a mere 527 runs at 35.13. His highest score of 82 was recorded at Bridgetown in 1996 – the last time a West Indian team won a test against New Zealand.
He has surpassed fifty on five occasions but the West Indies’ last tour here in 2006 was a rare low point for the unconventional strokemaker – 74 runs in five innings at a meagre 14.8.
A poor start
This tour has also started in inauspicious circumstances for Chanderpaul.
In the tour match against Auckland last week, played on a perfect batting strip at Eden Park’s outer oval, he laboured for 87 balls before being dismissed for 22.
It is too premature to suggest another lean trot in New Zealand is imminent for the former captain but Vettori and the remainder of the New Zealand bowling attack might be encouraged as Chanderpaul prepares for his first bat at test level since June.
New Zealand are not the most active nation when it comes to test cricket but they at least have had series against Bangladesh and Australia since October to prepare for the first opposition of their home summer.
The West Indies have not played a test since hosting the Australians six months ago, the late postponement of the Champions Trophy in August preventing them from arranging a replacement tour.
That frustration period of hibernation places even more pressure on Chanderpaul, Gayle (4804 runs at 38.14) and Sarwan (4889 at 40.40) to lead the way in the battle between the seventh and eighth ranked test nations.
New Zealand’s top order frailties are well documented, the West Indies are also light on experience outside their three mainstays.
Opener Sewnarine Chattergoon is only playing his third test while Xavier Marshall’s test career is also in its formative stages.
Australian-born batsman Brendan Nash will possibly debut at No 6 ahead of wicketkeeper Dinesh Ramdin – from there the tail is long in comparison to New Zealand, who have the luxury of batting in-form allrounder James Franklin at nine after McCullum and Vettori.