Celebrating A Guyanese Original
As we commemorate Guyana’s Independence, it is the perfect time to celebrate a Guyanese original, Shivnarine “Tiger” Chanderpaul!
For more than 20 years, greater than half his lifetime, Shiv has proudly represented Guyana as perhaps the finest batsman this nation has ever produced. While we can debate the subtle points of substance over style, there is no question that he is Guyana’s most accomplished batsman.
Moreover, he has been a bastion of certitude and solidity in the middle of crisis after crisis in West Indies cricket for the past 18 years. And like our legendary greenheart trees, his strength, durability, and toughness stands like a fortress against the onslaught of wave after wave of bowlers, critics, and the politics of the game.
Shiv has diligently applied himself to constantly improving his performance as a cricketer with each succeeding year, and he can look back proudly on a monumental record of achievement. He has truly accomplished the ancient Greek ideal of happiness, which is, “The full use of your powers along lines of excellence”.
It is no accident, that now, after his long and dedicated contributions to the cause of WI Cricket, he currently stands again, for the third time, at the top of the global ranking of Test batsmen. And it would behoove the WICB of selectors to once again choose Shiv to play in all formats of the game – Tests, ODIs, and Twenty20 Internationals.
As the worlds top Test batsman, a 2008 Wisden Cricketer of the Year, and the 2008 winner of the ICC’s Sir Garfield Sobers Cricketer of the Year award, Shiv has always been supportive of WI cricket, whether he has been in the team or out of it. Richie Richardson commented in Chennai, at the 2011 World Cup, that even though Shiv was not in the team, he carried drinks to the batsmen on the field like he was an up and coming player, instead of one who had played over 400 international matches. Such is his passion for the game.
Starting with the just concluded Test in England, where he scored almost a third of the WI team’s runs, Shiv is averaging nearly 70 runs per innings since the retirement of Brian Lara from Test cricket, at the end of 2006.
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Additionally, as was generously acknowledged by the crowd in Dominica, which now famously claims him as one of their citizens, he became only the second West Indian cricketer to pass the 10,000 runs threshold, and at an average of more than 50 for his career, there is no doubt about Shiv’s greatness.
A further perusal of the data show that Shiv’s career ODI average, when compared to that of the players in the WI team during the most recent ODI versus Australia, is almost 10 runs better than any other current player and at a strike rate that compares favorably to several of the recognized batsmen: including A. Barath, DM Bravo, and M. Samuels.
Moreover, the only player on the team who is ranked higher than him in the current ICC Player Rankings for ODI batsmen is K. Pollard. As the ICC Player Rankings are a reflection of recent performance, up to when Shiv was on the ODI team at the 2011 World Cup, where he averaged 38 runs, he was clearly performing at a high level, and certainly very close to his career average of greater than 41 runs.
Also, with Shiv less than 1,300 runs away from the 10,000 runs ODI threshold, it would be a real treat to see another West Indian cricketer achieve this mark of distinction. Furthermore, it would be a travesty if it is a lack of inclusion in the team which prevents him for accomplishing this goal, rather than the bowling prowess of the opposition.
In Twenty20 Internationals, Shiv’s career average is greater than 20 runs, with a strike rate of nearly 100. However, after intense preparation and practice for the recently concluded Bangladesh Premier League, he was able to increase his average by 70% to above 34 runs, and to increase his strike rate by 25% to over 123.
This compares very well to any player on the current WI team and should convince the selectors to afford Shiv the opportunity to play for the WI in this format of the game as well, as he has much to contribute, simply based on the numbers.
Shiv is clearly playing as well as he has ever played the game. And while zoologists from UG may try to tell us that Guyana has no tigers in its vast hinterland, we all know of the exploits of the “Tiger” from Unity, one whose passion to keep improving and getting the WI back to winning cricket, still burns brightly.
He has demonstrated, with his excellence over the past 18 years, that he is the consummate professional. Shiv continues to be a good teammate, by helping the younger players to develop and grow into their responsibilities. Additionally, he has served selflessly in furthering the cause of WI cricket because of his love of the game. Lastly, if his style is of concern to some, they should not let that prevent them from admiring Shiv’s constant grace under pressure.
No one knows how much longer WI cricket will benefit from the unique skill and talent that this great cricketer brings to the game, but before Shiv’s career is over, all West Indians, and especially his fellow Guyanese, should take the time to acknowledge and enjoy and celebrate its finest cricketing son.
(Mirza Ijaz Rahman is collaborating with Shivnarine Chanderpaul on his autobiography, which is slated for publication in 2013.)