The Roaring Forties
Milestones are nothing new to Shivnarine Chanderpaul. They have come aplenty in a glittering career that any young cricketer can draw inspiration from.
Just last Saturday, the indomitable, dogged and diminutive West Indies left-handed middle-order batsman celebrated his 40th birth anniversary, and quite fittingly observed the milestone in the land of his birth.
With the West Indies/Bangladesh series looming, Chanderpaul, who has been limited to being a Test specialist ever since Coach Ottis Gibson unceremoniously went on a crusade against the “senior players” after the 2011 50-over World Cup, is destined to be the ninth West Indian and third Guyanese to play international cricket beyond age 40.
The incomparable Jamaican George Headley was the oldest West Indian to have played the game, ending a 24-year career at the age of 44. The legendary spinner Lance Gibbs, who called time on his career at 41 years, 129 days, was the oldest Guyanese to do so, while the inspirational Captain Clive Lloyd of the Land of Many Waters played 124 days after his 40th birthday.
Without a doubt, Headley, Gibbs and Lloyd are not just giants of West Indies cricket, but are also names that would feature in any conversation on the game across the globe.
Chanderpaul can also lay claim to such monumental recognition, given his exemplary achievements and proof of longevity through two decades of brilliance at the pinnacle of the game.
A stranger to controversy, the “Tiger”, as he is affectionately known, has quietly gone about his business like a shrewd tactician, demonstrating a high level of consistency that has placed him alongside the modern day greats.
The promising 19-year-old who walked out at Bourda on March 17, 1994, and announced himself to the world with a classy 62 on debut against England, has evolved into one of the most reliable batsmen of world cricket, achieving numerous records during an illustrious career.
Twenty years after his entry to international cricket, the left-hander from Unity village on the East Coast of Demerara, has appeared in 446 games, scoring over 20,500 runs with 40 hundreds and 122 scores over 50.
With Lloyd being the new Convenor of Selectors of the West Indies Cricket Board, it is left to be seen if Chanderpaul will get the opportunity to add to his 268 One Day Internationals, 8778 runs, 11 centuries and 59 half-centuries.
West Indies have failed to consistently last 50 overs, yet Chanderpaul, by far the most productive batsman of the current generation, has found himself on the sidelines during the 50-over format.
Appearing in the most Test matches by a West Indian, the former captain has amassed 11,414 runs from 156 games, including 29 hundreds and 63 fifties. An average of 51.88 is a clear indication of his consistency.
The Bangladesh series will provide an opportunity for the “Tiger” to leapfrog long-time teammate, batting partner and that mystical genius from Trinidad and Tobago, Brian Lara, who is the leading West Indian runscorer with 11,953.
At the rate Chanderpaul has been scoring over the last decade, overhauling Lara’s aggregate is just a matter of time, unless his Test career suffers a similar fate as the one that has befallen him in ODIs.
Statistically the greatest Guyanese batsman, Chanderpaul is all too aware of the operations of West Indies cricket and what obtains in the hierarchy of the game in this part of the globe, hence extending his purple patch since the exit of Lara in 2007 would be the only sure way of securing his place in the side.
It’s the type of situation that has given the “Tiger” an insatiable appetite for runs, one that seems even stronger than when he started out two decades ago.
It is anyone’s guess how long Chanderpaul will carry on before he lifts the bails on his career. What is for certain, the name Chanderpaul will continue to grace the gentleman’s game as young Tagenarine is keen on following in his father’s footsteps.
Tagenarine’s youth career concluded last Friday, and judging from his sound technique, huge appetite for runs and willingness to learn, there is no respite for bowlers anytime soon.