Older, Fitter, Stronger, Better
Chanderpaul is 39, but over the last few years he has racked up some unbelievable numbers.
While things have crumbled all around him in West Indies cricket, Shivnarine Chanderpaul has managed to not only maintain his standards but also raised the bar consistently throughout a career that has already lasted almost 20 years and shows no sign of ending.
The Mumbai Test is his 150th, which puts him in a select group of seven who’ve played that many Tests.
Chanderpaul made his Test debut in March 1994, which means his Test career is nearly 20 years old; even by the Sachin Tendulkar yardstick, that’s an impressive timespan of top-class cricket.
The fact that West Indies play fewer Tests than other top teams means he has had to play longer to reach the landmark: Ricky Ponting played 168 Tests in a 17-year career, Allan Border played 156 in 16, while Rahul Dravid notched up 164 in 16.
Chanderpaul is 39 already, but quite remarkably has been batting better than ever in the last few years, with his form and his appetite for runs showing no signs of abating.
Splitting up his 150-Test career into three parts further reveals just how prolific he has been in the last third of that period. In the first third of his career, from his debut to the end of 2001, he averaged marginally less than 40 from 49 Tests, and the most striking aspect of his career up to that point was his inability to convert fifties into hundreds.
He had only two centuries, and 22 scores between 50 and 99. In fact, in his first 14 innings in Test cricket, Chanderpaul had eight scores of 50 or more, but the highest among them was 82. By the time he scored his first Test century – 137 not out against India, an opponent he’s had plenty of success against throughout his career – he had already racked up 13 fifties from 29 innings.
The second hundred came reasonably quickly, but only two centuries in 49 Tests was rather poor returns for a specialist batsman, and the period between 1998 and 2001 was quite a struggle, as he averaged 31.43 from 25 matches.
In 2002, though, he ended the rut quite emphatically, and hasn’t really looked back since. It helped also that West Indies played eight Tests against India, his favourite opponents, in 2002: Chanderpaul made full use of that opportunity and amassed four centuries in those eight Tests, thus also dispelling the notion that he couldn’t bat long periods and make big scores. In those five years between 2002 and 2006, he scored 12 centuries from 52 matches and averaged almost 50.
Since then, he has been absolutely unstoppable. From the beginning of 2007, which also coincided with Brian Lara’s retirement, Chanderpaul has averaged a staggering 70.52 from 48 matches (excluding his 150th Test). No other batsman has come close to those numbers during this period.
Chanderpaul’s batting position has been a topic of plenty of debate through most of his career – especially in the recent years, given that he is by far West Indies’ best batsman – but there’s no doubt that the No. 5 and 6 slots have suited him much more than batting higher up the order. When batting at Nos. 3 and 4 he averages only 34, though it’s also true that many of those innings were played in the early part of his career. Batting at Nos. 5 and 6, his average shoots up to 60.
Only Steve Waugh has scored more runs than Chanderpaul at Nos. 5 and 6. Waugh scored 9919 runs in these two positions, at an average of 54.50. However, given the strong Australian batting line-up when he was around, his role was often to consolidate an already healthy position; Chanderpaul’s staple role, on the other hand, has been to resurrect a wobbly innings, often with little support at the other end.
In the 48 Tests he has played after Lara’s retirement, Chanderpaul has averaged 70.52, scoring 14 hundreds, which is as many as he scored in 101 Tests before this period.
Since the beginning of 2007, no batsman has averaged as much as Chanderpaul has. The next-best is Kumar Sangakkara at 64.54, while Hashim Amla’s 57.61 is third.
Admittedly, 21 not-outs have contributed to that extraordinarily high average, but even after excluding those not-outs, Chanderpaul has still scored 52 runs per innings.
While he has averaged 70 since Lara’s retirement, the rest of the West Indian top order has been consistently disappointing during this period: they’ve averaged 31.77, which is less than half the average that Chanderpaul has maintained. Chanderpaul has averaged a century every 5.7 innings during this period; the other West Indian top-order batsmen have averaged a hundred every 17.3 innings.
Hard to dislodge
The aspect that stands out about Chanderpaul’s batting is the price he puts on his wicket, and the length of time he bats almost every time. The scoring rate rarely bothers him, and neither do the fall of wickets at the other end. Since the year of his Test debut, the only batsman who has faced more deliveries per dismissal (with a minimum of 6000 balls faced) is Dravid – he averaged 123.06 balls per dismissal, while Chanderpaul is marginally behind at 120.75 balls per dismissal. Jacques Kallis is the other batsman in the 120-ball club.
Since 2007, though, Chanderpaul is in a league of his own, with an average of almost 165 balls per dismissal. No other batsman comes close: the next-best, Misbah-ul-Haq, is 41 deliveries lower.
Chanderpaul’s stats are consistent in most aspects: he averages more than 40 in all countries where he has played at least five Tests except Pakistan and Australia. The one country he has consistently struggled in is Australia: in 21 Test innings he has a highest of 82, and an average of 30.20. In Pakistan he averages 32.54, but he hasn’t played there since 2006.
His consistency also extends to his stats against different types of bowling. He averages between 57 and 68 against the different bowling types. No bowler has dismissed him more than seven times; Anil Kumble has got him out most often with seven, while Kallis, Angus Fraser and Danish Kaneria have dismissed him six times each.
And finally, Chanderpaul has scored 2321 Test runs since the age of 35, at an average of 64.47, which is the highest average by any batsman who has scored at least 2000 runs since turning 35.
Several batsmen average in the 50s after the age of 35, but Chanderpaul stands alone with a 60-plus average. (Sachin Tendulkar’s average after 35 is 49.57 from 52 Tests.) Clearly, Chanderpaul is still at the top of his game, and is likely to stay there for some time yet.