Friday, October 16, 2009
By David Clough, PA Sport
When confusion briefly reigned at the start of this month over the staff and status of the Stanford Superstars squad, Shivnarine Chanderpaul was one of the highest-profile possible absentees.
No one ever appeared to seriously fear that the sponsorship wrangle which ended up in the High Court was going to derail the 20/20 for 20 – and it came as no surprise when a compromise was duly agreed.
Had there been a terminal hitch, though, perhaps one of the biggest regrets would have been the opportunity lost to see how the world’s number one batsman might bend his notably adaptable technique and temperament to the demands of Twenty20 in Antigua.
A cricketing oddity, Chanderpaul presumably does not practise to deceive; yet to many eyes, he manages to do just that.
As quickly as temptations have arisen to pigeonhole the little left-hander to any role or format of the game, he has disproved each theory at every turn.
Periodically stoic in the extreme, almost capriciously so it sometimes seems, Chanderpaul has a rare ability to shut out of his mind all but bat and ball.
When the mood takes him in Tests, and at times for Durham in the county championship this past summer, he has appeared as strokeless as he is immovable.
Yet when the situation dictates, or on occasions even when it does not, Chanderpaul is just as likely to clamber out of his shell with a rash of boundaries.
The transformation often seems to come simply as the whim takes the former West Indies captain; whatever his reasoning, though, Chanderpaul’s largely unfathomable gameplan has elevated him above most of his contemporaries and into the realms of all-time comparisons – with an average approaching 50 in Tests and above 40 in one-day internationals.
Chanderpaul was especially prolific in an otherwise outclassed Windies team in England two years ago, when he made 446 runs in three Tests.
England, despite steamrollering the rest of the tourists in an embarrassingly easy 3-0 series victory, simply could not shift him.
After 206 runs for once out in the final Test at Chester-le-Street, Durham duly signed Chanderpaul for the second half of the summer.
He repaid his new employers in the Friends Provident Trophy final at Lord’s but was otherwise short of the standards he has set.
It was a similar story too again this year. But even before Durham came from off the pace in the final round of matches to snatch a maiden county title, the northerners had made it clear they would be re-engaging Chanderpaul for a third season.
It was towards the end of the 34-year-old’s struggles to come to terms with the conditions prevailing in an especially wet English summer that Durham coach Geoff Cook gave a telling insight into what truly makes Chanderpaul tick.
The man himself is disinclined to play any shots off the pitch, preferring the taciturn approach in press interviews.
Cook made it clear for him, though, just how much Chanderpaul cares about his performance.
“Cricket is his life, and it has been since the age of 14,” said the former England batsman.
“He comes and practises every day – and he just lives to score runs.
“When he hasn’t been doing that, he’s been very disappointed – so it’s nice for him as an individual and a smashing person to be making some now.”
It is not so much that there was ever any sensible suspicion that there was anything accidental about Chanderpaul’s standing at the top of his sport.
In the absence of any clues to his motivation from his own words or body language, though, it is still instructive to discover that – underneath the insouciant, inscrutable demeanour – he is flapping around as much as anyone else, trying to produce his best.
England were the unwitting opponents who first found out there is more to Chanderpaul than meets the eye – when he was spirited in, under the radar, for his Test debut on his home ground in Georgetown in 1994.
The word was that the teenager was a leg-spinner who would bat down the order.
He took none for 49 in the first innings, did not bowl in the second – and made 62 from 135 balls at number six as the hosts won by an innings and 44 runs.
A very different batsman will presumably be on show for the Superstars this month.
On the other hand, you simply never know with Chanderpaul.
The likely folly of second-guessing him will be one of the fascinations at the Sticky Wicket.
Source: Sporting Life