England’s biggest obstacle

Tuesday, 3 February 2009 | Pranav Soneji

Shivnarine Chanderpaul soon after making his West Indies debut

Chanderpaul made his debut against England in Georgetown in 1994

Shivnarine Chanderpaul enjoys long stays, both at the crease and currently at the top of the Test cricket’s world rankings.

The West Indian star sits comfortably above the likes of Graeme Smith, Ricky Ponting, Kevin Pietersen or Sachin Tendulkar. But unlike them, he is the epitome of substance over style.

Considering the West Indies managed only one win in nine Tests in 2008, Chanderpaul’s coronation as the International Cricket Council’s Cricketer of the Year last September is nothing short of a remarkable achievement.

So if 2009 is anything like the previous two years, England’s biggest challenge in the Caribbean in the Test series which starts on Wednesday will be penetrating fortress Chanderpaul.

In his last two series against England, the left-hander has averaged 72.83 and an astonishing 148.67 – even the great Don Bradman could not match the latter over a single series.

In the 2007 series in England, he averaged nearly 12 hours at the crease in total, compiling 448 mostly unspectacular, yet equally priceless runs.

“He doesn’t give anything away,” England fast bowler Ryan Sidebottom has said. “Even when you beat the bat, he still hangs in there.

“Nothing seems to affect him and if you are slightly off line, he will punish you.

“He plays the ball very late, which may be why he plays and misses quite a bit because he doesn’t follow the ball. You have just got to be patient yourself and make him play as much as possible.”

Attempting to describe Chanderpaul’s technique to someone who has never seen him bat without using the word “unorthodox” is impossible.

A graphic of the average runs of Shivnarine Chanderpaul in the past four years

The bail-bashing ritual to mark his guard which greets his arrival at the crease, the tweak of the pad, the doff of the helmet, the periscope back lift with his feet pointing towards mid-on – it’s all so, well, un-West Indian.

He may not possess the savage butchery of Sir Vivian Richards or Clive Lloyd, nor the artistic finesse of Brian Lara or Rohan Kanhai.

But after 20 Test hundreds and and 50 half-centuries, Chanderpaul has become one of the all-time Caribbean greats.

The 34-year-old shares his name with the Hindu God Shiva, but their temperaments are polar opposites.

Shiva is the destroyer, known for his untamed passion which leads him to extremes in behaviour; while Shiv is the creator, known to frustrate opponents with his crab-like stance as impenetrable as it is unique in tranquil and serene fashion.

Yet Shiva the destroyer has had a profound effect on Shiv the creator.

A devoutly spiritual man born to Indo-Caribbean parents in Guyana, Chanderpaul has a picture of Shiva in his right pocket every time he bats.

And occasionally, creator turns destroyer – a 67-ball century against Australia in 2003, the fourth fastest in Test history, or smashing a six to win a one-day match off the last ball against Sri Lanka in Port of Spain in April last year. p>Chanderpaul has always been obdurate, but his adhesive qualities have become almost Superglue-like in the past two years.

And according to former England international Graeme Thorpe, Chanderpaul’s greatest strength is his simplistic approach to batting.

“He has worked his game out – he understands how to build an innings,” Thorpe told BBC Sport.

“He’s patient when he needs to be, knows the areas where he is strong, when to get out of the way of quick bowling and when to take it on.

“He also has an incredible amount of mental strength.

“He is able to clear his mind after each ball – whether he has hit it for four, six, played a horrendous swipe or been beaten by an absolute jaffa.”

Despite his unique style, Chanderpaul is a refreshingly uncomplicated cricketer. Take the two dark patches under his eyes when batting emblazoned with a sponsor’s logo.

An elaborate ruse at publicity from a savvy agent? Not quite – turns out he bought the stickers at a supermarket because he needed something to reduce the glare when he was batting.

Very no-nonsense. Very Chanderpaul.

Source:  BBC Sport

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