Shiv is a Special Person
The first time I saw Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the thin, almost frail left-hander was not older than 10 and playing for Demerara Cricket Club (DCC) in an Under-19 game against Malteenoes. He came in number 10 or 11, but even at that tender age the pre-teen from Unity, Mahaica, demonstrated his indomitable will and a matchless commitment to not getting out.
I was playing for Malteenoes and fast bowler Colwin Cort was bowling. I was thinking “What has this kid gotten himself into?”
Protected by a pillow as a chest guard and with his father Khemraj watching, the tiny lad valiantly took everything Cort threw at him, including a few vicious bouncers. He was unconquered for nine overs when the innings ended. That he only made two not out was irrelevant and was testimony to the value he placed on his wicket, even back then.
The only person from the Caribbean to play 150 Tests and second only to the Brian Lara as West Indians to reach 11, 000 Test runs, that fighting quality and value for his wicket is still the hallmark of Chanderpaul’s stellar career. Last year April, against the mighty Australians, Chanderpaul became the second West Indies batsman and the 10th in Test cricket’s history to reach 10,000 runs.
“It was one of the goals… and I believe I have reaped the reward for the hard work I put in over the years. When I go to bat, I know I have a job to do for the team and the people of the West Indies. Test cricket is the ultimate form of the game and this is where you want to perform and give of your best. I will keep striving for more.”
“When I started, I came into a team with many big names and I was able to learn from them and build on what they taught me. Now, part of my role in the team is to help the younger players to try to improve their game,” Chanderpaul, who was given honorary Citizenship of Dominica, reflected.
His father prepared him well, forcing him to fend off concrete balls from the villagers who would turn out to bowl at him. By the end of the afternoon he would be covered in bruises. His father said it was to toughen him.
Maybe his dad’s relentless lessons in teaching his offspring to play the short balls on the Unity beach or have almost the entire village bowl to him, at times on treacherous pitches at the Unity/Lancaster ground on the East Coast of Demerara, embedded in him the type of temperament that has duly earned him the respect of international bowlers the world over.
Some have described his ploy of exposing tail-enders and his large number of not outs as selfish. But stop for a moment to think, if more of the present West Indians adopted this attitude then maybe, just maybe, the once invincible team of the 1980s and early 90s, would not lose Test matches as frequently as they now do.
The 39-year-old son of a fisherman, Shivnarine Chanderpaul has an amazing average of over 50, not the easiest thing to achieve when you have played so many Tests. His record 45 not outs have in some measure contributed to him sustaining such a healthy average for so long but that fact is, his 29 centuries and 62 fifties in Tests make him one of the most successful batsmen of all time.
His latest ‘ton’ puts him level with the great Sir Donald Bradman, and only behind Lara’s 34 on the list of West Indians.
In 316 first class matches the resolute batsman has scored 69 centuries while in One Day Internationals (ODIs) he has contributed 8,778 runs at an average of 41.60 from 268 matches. He was dropped from ODIs, but his record in that format and the team’s weak batting line-up suggests that he is still needed at this level. And ‘stats’ must be criteria when judging a batsman.
Chanderpaul rarely gives interviews and for someone who was an ICC Cricketer of the Year, there is relatively little written about him.
“I don’t like to chat,” he said. While many people can describe Chanderpaul’s playing style or tell you about his records, ask them to describe ‘Shiv’ the man and they would struggle.
“I’m a private person,” says Chanderpaul. “I’m reserved, not outgoing. I had some bad experiences with interviews. I said something and they changed it up and made it look bad. So after awhile I decided, 'To hell with it.'” Since then the prolific Guyanese has basically kept to himself.
Chanderpaul made his entry into this world on August 16, 1974, and at age seven his passion for cricket was already obsessive, with him representing his village team. He had stints with the East Coast Police before joining DCC where he began at the Under-16 level. He later joined the historic Georgetown Cricket Club where his career took off.
As strict as Khemraj was with his son, missing classes at the Cove & John Secondary School to play cricket did not warrant a beating, and Shiv skipped class many days.
“As soon as the teacher's back turned, she didn’t see me again,” he told an English Journalist. “She’d look out the window and see me on the ground playing. My sister used to pick up my schoolbag and bring it home.” By then his parents already knew their son would make it to the highest level of the game. He never finished high school.
In 1992, Shiv scored the only hundred in the rain-ravaged regional Under-19 series in Guyana before making his debut for the West Indies Select XI against Bermuda. A dominating 1993 youth series in St. Kitts resulted in a West Indies Under-19 call-up for the tour of England where he scored an unbeaten 203 in the first youth Test.
He made his First-Class debut as a 17-year-old in the 1992 Red Stripe Cup against the Leeward Islands, and was run out for a duck in the first innings. He responded with 90 in the second. His first First-Class ton came in 1993 for the West Indies Board President’s XI against Pakistan when the ‘Tiger’, as he was fondly referred to in later years, roared to an accomplished 140.
He represented the Windies ‘A’ team in Canada in 1994 before becoming the youngest Guyanese and sixth youngest West Indian to play Test cricket with a surprise selection ahead of Roland Holder on his home ground, Bourda, against England. He was unbeaten on 75 when Brian Lara scored his first world record against England in Antigua, before making his ODI debut later in 1994.
Shiv, who in 2009 moved to live in Florida, USA, with his second wife Amy, recorded his highest first-class score in the 1996 Red Stripe Cup against Jamaica. His unbeaten 303 is still the only triple ton scored in a Regional game since 1966 when the tournament first gained sponsorship.
Despite his consistency, it took him 19 Tests to score his maiden century, a solid 137 against India. His first ODI century was also against India, his favourite Test opponent. He has scored seven centuries and 10 fifties against them in 25 Tests.
Chanderpaul, who has five centuries each against Australia, England and South Africa, has reached triple figures against every Test side except Sri Lanka.
In rare display of pugnacious hitting, he scored the third fastest Test century against Australia from just 69 balls at Bourda. The gutsy left-hander, batting with a broken finger, then ensured the West Indies successfully chased down a world record 418 set by Australia in Antigua in 2003. Shiv scored 104 and fellow Guyanese Ramnaresh Sarwan made 105.
In 2004, following rifts in the team and issues surrounding new team sponsor Digicel, several of the team’s key players were omitted from the team and among the players absent, was then skipper Brian Lara. Chanderpaul too was at loggerheads with the board, but with Lara gone and ‘Tiger’ resolving his problems with the board, he was named Captain for the home series against South Africa.
Watched by an adoring home crowd, Shiv joined New Zealand’s Graham Dowling as the only players to score a double century on their Captaincy debut. His 203 was another unbeaten innings.
The next year in Sri Lanka, nine players, including Lara, were dropped following a sponsorship row and Chanderpaul again led a second-string team. But after nearly a year of leading the West Indies in 14 Tests and 16 ODIs, and with only one Test match and two ODIs wins out of thirty matches, Shiv resigned. He admits it was not a role he enjoyed.
“When I gave it up, it felt like a big weight off my shoulders,” he remembered.
“As a captain you have more responsibilities, you have to say more things, you have to be more open, you can’t be quiet, you have to try and get involved in everything. At times it can stress you out, doing these things over and over.
“You don’t have time to focus on your own game, it’s too much. There was a point where I couldn’t actually focus on my batting. I was worrying about things, not winning, all these things play on your mind and you just can’t get things right,” Chanderpaul confessed.
His batting flourished soon after and he was shortlisted as one of four players in line for the prestigious ICC Player of the Year award which was eventually won by Aussie Ricky Ponting.
In 2008, Chanderpaul continued his tremendous form and after the Sri Lankan and Australian tours of the Caribbean, he was ranked fifth in the Test batting rankings. By the end of the third Test against Australia, Chanderpaul became the fourth West Indian batsman to accomplish 8,000 runs in Test cricket, while rocketing to second place of the ICC Test rankings.
He batted from the West Indies second innings in the first Test and was not dismissed until the final day of the series – occupying the crease more than 1,000 minutes without losing his wicket. It was the fourth time Shiv has achieved this feat.
The same year he won the ICC Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for being the World Player of the Year.
Twenty20 cricket is his weakest link, but while he made limited appearances in internationals for the West Indies, he was good enough to gain selection on the Stanford Superstars team which was chosen to face England in 2008. He also had stints in domestic tournaments like the Indian, Sri Lankan and Bangladesh Premier Leagues.
This year in India, Chanderpaul joined a list of illustrious batsmen including; Sachin Tendulkar (200), Ricky Ponting (168), Steve Waugh (168), Jacques Kallis (164), Rahul Dravid (164) and Allan Border (156), who played 150 Tests or more.
Tagenarine ‘Brandon’ Chanderpaul, the eldest son of Shivnarine, made his first-class debut for Guyana this year. The father/son pair played together for the first time at first-class level in March of this year against Trinidad and Tobago, making it the second time a father and son have played first class cricket together in the Caribbean after Sir Learie Constantine and his 48-year-old father played in 1922.
Brandon spends his time between his grandparents and his mother, Annalee, who runs a Beer Garden in Unity. He is an above average student academically. Last year he achieved outstanding results in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination, obtaining passing grades in 10 subjects – 8 Grade Ones (including 5 distinctions) and two Grade twos.
His father, who has another son (Bradley) with his ex-wife Amy and a daughter with his latest spouse, is keen to ensure his son gets the education he (Shiv) never had and stopped him from playing cricket when his exams were approaching.
Watching Khemraj with Brandon is like an action replay of his days with little Shiv. Brandon, who is much more aggressive than his father was at his age, was introduced to English cricket when his father signed with Derbyshire last year.
Chanderpaul is heading back home soon from the West Indies’ tour of New Zealand before returning to Derby to prepare for the 2014 campaign.
“I’ve really enjoyed my first year with the club,” he said. “Everyone, the players, coaches and staff have all made me feel welcomed, and I’m happy that I am returning for a second year”.
A devout Hindu, Shiv regularly visits the Temple when he is on tour, especially in India. He is a recipient of Guyana’s third highest national award, the Cacique Crown of Honour.
A Street is named after him – Shiv Chanderpaul Drive, in Georgetown – and it would be fitting if one of the Stands at the National Stadium bears his name since his contributions to Guyana and West Indies cricket have made him a truly special person.