April 17, 2006
By Sham Samaroo
>The ill-fated captaincy of Shivnarine Chanderpaul came to an end last week with his resignation. Given his quiet and introverted nature, captaincy does not come easy to Chanderpaul, but the circumstances surrounding his appointment certainly did not help matters. In a time of unbridled selfishness in West Indies cricket, Chanderpaul’s decision was a sincere and altruistic step by a player who recognized that his greatest asset to the team – his batting – was suffering because of the burden of the captaincy, aptly described as a poisoned chalice. His detractors will argue that he chose to jump rather than be pushed. More to the truth, perhaps, is the recognition that, under the circumstances, it was a decision that was in his best interest and that of West Indies cricket.
Still, he will feel both hurt and disappointed because he is a loyal and devoted West Indian. I remember our interview a few years ago, and the pride and devotion he showed for West Indies cricket. I recall the love and admiration with which he spoke of Brian Lara while reminiscing about Lara’s record breaking 375, saying to Lara as they walked out that morning, “Brian, you got to do it, man.” Though not the most articulate, the eyes told that he spoke from the heart. Lara must have dearly wanted to repay such unselfish support when he promised to help Chanderpaul succeed as captain. Unfortunately, Lara’s form seemed to have deserted him just when he was needed most.
Chanderpaul would be tempted to look back to the Tri-Nation Cup in Sri Lanka – and the breathe of fresh air that inspired the team for a little while – and wonder, what if? But he should not, for a house divided unto itself could never stand. It is a devisiveness that goes back to the early 1990s. Manager Wes Hall, in his report, revealed this divisiveness in 1994 on the tour of England. At the now infamous Old Trafford meeting, Lara blamed then captain, Ritchie Richardson, for many of the problems on the team. Richardson responded that he had always enjoyed a good relationship with Lara, and was very surprised to find out that Lara harbored such feelings. Richardson further added that if a majority of the players felt as Lara did, then he would gladly resign as captain. He made it clear, however, that he was not prepared “to bow to egotistical people with agendas and ambitions”. To this, Lara responded, “I retire”, and walked out of the meeting.
The divisiveness was further acerbated on the tour to Pakistan in 1997. Into the tour, talk emerged of dissension in the ranks with the team split into two groups – one led by Brian Lara, and the other supporting newly appointed skipper Courtney Walsh. West Indies ended the tour without winning a single game. Manager Clive Lloyd lamenting Lara’s loss of form (129 runs in six innings), said that, “Lara’s highest score was 37, what we needed from a world-class player like him on some of the best pitches I have seen was a couple of big knocks.” Replaced as captain, Courtney Walsh never wavered in his commitment or selfless support of his replacement – something Chanderpaul, given his nature, will certainly endeavour to emulate. Hopefully, the fans will do the same because the new captain, whoever he is, would need all the help and support he can get.
This week, Christians around the world are marking Easter – Christ’s death as the ultimate sacrifice and, with it, His message of Hope for mankind. Chanderpaul’s resignation too is a sacrifice, and with it a hope for a return to form, and for the future of West Indies cricket.