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Chanderpaul quietly crabs his way to 150

Farewell Chanderpaul, you'll be missed. AP Photo/Matt Dunham
Roar Pro
19th November, 2013
13

As one of the game’s legends stole the limelight for his record-breaking 200th (and final) Test appearance, one of his adversaries in that game quietly achieved a magnificent milestone of his own.

The most recent battle between India and the West Indies, played at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, will always be remembered as the one in which we said farewell to the little master, Sachin Tendulkar.

Yet as the world came to celebrate the momentous end of a lengthy era, a man by the name of Shivnarine Chanderpaul strode out for his 150th Test match appearance.

The fact that his presence was overshadowed by that of a more revered or classically equipped batsman befits the career of Chanderpaul’s to a tee. The diminutive, softly spoken left hander from Guyana has toiled away tirelessly for years without anyone taking any notice.

In fact, he is now entering his 20th year of international cricket, a feat that not even guys who seemingly held lifelong careers can boast.

He eclipses the likes of Kallis, Ponting, Dravid, Lara and Steve Waugh in terms of longevity. Had the West Indies not had such an empty Test schedule over the years, he may well have been celebrating his bicentennial match with Sachin.

Yet very few, including self-proclaimed cricket tragics, would realise this.

Always denigrated by traditionalists for his peculiar batting technique – a stance that has long been likened to that of a crab – Chanderpaul has never been mentioned in the same sentence as the aforementioned when it comes to quality and legacy.

One could certainly make a case for him belonging among them. As it now stands, Chanderpaul has close to 11,000 Test runs with 28 centuries at an average a tick under 52.

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In a sport in which numbers count for virtually everything, these figures are outstanding.

Time and again we have seen players like Greg Blewett, Mark Ramprakash and Boeta Dippenaar, with flawlessly textbook techniques, fail to endure Test careers that their ability promised. Chanderpaul crafted his own style, and however ugly it is, it is as efficacious as they come.

He possesses a level of concentration that would make a brain surgeon appear flighty and has based his career on the virtues of patience and placing a price tag on his wicket that not even the richest sheikhs could afford.

Yet because of the present generation’s obsession with aesthetics, few have taken notice of his achievements.

I’ve written previously when rating Brian Lara as the greatest modern day player that one of the reasons why he can be separated from Tendulkar is that he was alone in his battle against oppositions.

Tendulkar had four masterful acolytes in Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag and earlier Azharuddin.

Perhaps I was a little unfair on Chanderpaul but in my defence, Chanderpaul had only had a ‘good’ career up until then, with 101 Tests yielding 14 tons and an average of 44.

I also validated this exclusion with Chanderpaul’s poor record away from home, scoring only three of those centuries abroad, which he has since atoned for. Since the prince of Trinidad has retired, it is as though Lara bequeathed him the responsibility of carrying a nation’s batting fortunes solely upon his shoulders.

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Chanderpaul has thrived off this formidable task, generating numbers superior to any other international cricketer.

Since 2007, he has amassed over 4000 runs at 70, with 14 centuries in 48 Tests. Truly remarkable considering the incessant struggles his team endures on and off the field, and that he is edging towards his 40th birthday.

I have traditionally measured a batsman’s quality on their ability to accrue consistent runs on the home surfaces of their top four opponents.

His returns in Australia have been markedly poor, and that has always cast a shadow of doubt over my perspective of him. His record against the Indians, English and South Africans on their respective turfs, however, reads impressively.

He averages above 40 in each of these countries and has certainly played enough cricket there over the course of his 150-match career to warrant worthy inspection.

No matter which way you look at it, when the time comes for him to quietly pack away the Gray-Nicolls for the last time, which the Caribbean islands will be begging isn’t too soon, he will have had a brilliant career.

A modern day great? I am starting to believe he is.