November 2018

Issue Home >>

On March 17, 1994, when Mr. Shivnarine Chanderpaul walked out to the crease in his debut match for the West Indies (WI) against England, many would have been forgiven for thinking that Manager Rohan Kanhai and the selectors had lost their minds. His inclusion was contentious and the sight of this small, frail-looking 19-year old, dwarfed by his helmet and protection, waddling out to the crease and assuming a peculiar crab-like stance, could not have inspired confidence. He was just recovering from the shock of his selection and he was limping from a painful fishbone puncture wound in a toe.

Those more familiar with the story of the skinny youngster from the small fishing village of Unity on the east coast of Guyana would have been more confident. They knew that, thanks to efforts of his cricket-mad father, Khemraj, and uncle Moonilal, who introduced him to cricket when he was little more than a toddler, Shivnarine was already a seasoned, respected veteran of club cricket. At eight years old, he was a valuable member of Unity Village team; by 10, he had faced and gained the admiration of the fearsome fast bowler Colin Croft. He joined the Demerara Cricket Club Under-16 team before turning 11 and played Under-19 cricket at 14. At 15, after a spell with the East Coast Police, he moved to the prestigious Georgetown Cricket Club and two years later, made his first-class cricket debut for Guyana.

Knowledgeable fans recognised the promise of his unbeaten 203 runs for the West Indies Under-19 Team against England the summer before at Trent Bridge. They knew that Chanderpaul would uncoil from his deceptively awkward, crouched posture when it was time to play his shot. So, while everyone in the crowd was thrilled, not everyone was surprised when he made 62 runs from 135 deliveries and put on a century stand with Brian Lara to help the West Indies to an innings victory against England, or when less than four months later, he was 75 not out partnering with Brian Lara for most of his record-breaking 375.

For much of his career, the supporting role often went to Chanderpaul – a measure of his understated doggedness, strength and reliability. Later on, he scored with flair and aggression dominating bowlers with an ease that earned him a new reputation for being unstoppable. In 2003 against Australia, he smashed a century off only 69 balls during the highest successful run chase in Test history. In 2008, he was named the ICC international cricketer of the year following a streak of 819 runs from eight Test matches at an average of 91, including three centuries and six half-centuries, all against the top seven teams in the world. During that time, he also scored 598 runs including a century and five fifties in 13 One Day Internationals at an average of 74.75. He ended his 21-year Test cricket career with an impressive average of 51.37 from 164 Tests including 66 fifties and 30 centuries, the second most of any WI batsman. With 11,867 Test runs, he is one of only two West Indies cricketers to cross the 10,000 run mark. He was also prolific in One Day Internationals, amassing 8,778 runs at an average of 41.60 in 268 matches during which he scored 11 centuries and 59 half-centuries.

Sport pumps the adrenaline and athletes present us with the most stunning range of human emotions. Shivnarine Chanderpaul never revealed his. Unflappable, he remained calm regardless of what was going on around him – a fallen wicket, a dropped catch, a whiplashed boundary, a runout – nothing distracted him from his mission. His former captain and roommate Jimmy Adams described him simply as “tough”. He digs himself in, much like the small burrowing Guyanese reptile species Rhinatrema shiv named in his honour.

Chanderpaul’s contribution to West Indies cricket came at a time when we were sliding down the sad slope of decay. He often single-handedly propped it up with a powerful work ethic and utter discipline that remains undented today. In addition to his batting prowess, he is a useful bowler and at one point captained the WI team. Off the field, he has led community-level projects in Guyana and influenced cricket policy and practice. A tiger on the field, he remains an endearingly shy and humble man who, when asked about his most memorable matches or series, doesn’t speak of his own successes but rather of team performances and instances where he had the privilege of being there when others shone.

Sustained by his strong Hindu faith and belief in a simple life, Shivnarine Chanderpaul continues to be propelled forward by the same thought that reanimated him after the paralysing shock of his selection 24 years ago – the thought of all the worthy cricketers who never had the honour and fortune of being selected to play for the West Indies. His continued passion for the game and determination to give it his all are his powerful dedication to these people and to the long list of family members, team mates, coaches, benefactors, managers and well-wishers who have helped him along the way.

Shivnarine “Tiger” Chanderpaul is the anchor man, the solid man: “a rare cricketer whose career needs to be celebrated forever”.