Durham director of cricket Geoff Cook is convinced the “unique” talents of Shivnarine Chanderpaul will enable his team to strengthen their grip on the LV County Championship.
By Rob Stewart
Cook, who has insisted the division one leaders will resist the temptation to go looking for a draw in their title showdown with Nottinghamshire that will start at the Riverside on Wednesday, is backing Chanderpaul to drive his opponents to distraction.
“This time last year Chanderpaul was numerically the best batsman in the world,” Cook told Telegraph Sport.
“Quite often you think he is playing at the ball when he actually isn’t. Everyone has a plan to bowl at these people and sometimes it gets very difficult to sustain that plan when someone is playing with such discipline themselves.
“He is a unique player. He has a unique style and is somebody who just really enjoys batting. He lives for batting. That is what really makes him stand out. He has very few other things in his life apart from his family. He sees himself as a professional batsman.
“Shiv brings a bit of experience and quality and he has come back fresh because he hasn’t played cricket for some time due to the problems with the West Indies. He is enjoying the opportunity to go out and bat again with not a new lease of life but with a fresh body and a fresh mind.”
Chanderpaul will certainly go into the contest on good form having scored an undefeated century during his last championship outing against Somerset last week.
“Without exaggeration, Chanderpaul’s innings was world-class,” Cook added. “Somerset are a good team and they have some aggressive batsmen but the other side of the game is that their bowlers because of the surface they play on down at Taunton they have to be really disciplined in terms of what they do.
“A little bit of movement and encouragement from the wicket here at the Riverside made batting difficult. Anyone who wasn’t tuned in and batting well enough was going to lose his wicket. Shiv was up to the challenge. It was an outstanding effort.”
Cook’s team are currently 27 points ahead of nearest rivals Nottinghamshire but he is adamant that the defending champions will be doing their utmost to secure a win that would all but clinch the title when the two sides meet.
“Basically, we are a reasonably aggressive, attacking team who play positive cricket and to start off looking at 360 overs and say we will pay for a draw that is a dodgy policy,” Cook said.
“It would be a wonderful achievement to go through the season unbeaten and if that was instrumental in terms of getting across the finishing line and winning the county championship then that would be brilliant but that certainly does not mean that we will go out and play defensively for draws.
“Would we take a draw against Notts? That’s a tricky question. I don’t look at life like that. We have some attacking bowlers and some batsmen that really lie to put bat to ball such as Ian Blackwell, Michael di Venuto and Phil Mustard at the top of the order and Shivnarine Chanderpaul is very adaptable.”
Cook will also be expecting captain Will Smith to take Nottinghamshire by surprise following last week’s match with Somerset that saw left-arm spinner’s early introduction turn the game Durham’s way as he took five wickets for seven runs after coming on to bowl in place of Steve Harmison.
“There was a lot to be learned from a captaincy point of view in that you can tend to go in a way where the wheels turn in a pretty predictable way and the experienced avoid that,” Cook aid.
“It is interesting listening to Shane Warne on the TV. He would say bring a spinner on after half-an-hour to see what is happening. That’s a bit of sideways thinking that is perhaps disappearing out of the game with the advent of four-day cricket.
“The Riverside wicket is changing and has changed this year and there is a lot more encouragement for spin and that is why Ian Blackwell has been so effective. There was a spell where a spinner hardly got a wicket at the Riverside.”