To watch Shivnarine Chanderpaul bat is not exactly what many modern day cricket fans believe is the most exhilarating. He is fondly nicknamed as ‘The Crab’ across the cricket circles for his unconventional stance. The little guy from Guyana made his debut against England in 1994 at his home ground, the Bourda Oval, in Georgetown. His 62 off 135 balls diminished to the background largely because of a magnificent 167 off just 210 balls by Brian Lara in what was his first test hundred. That was the story which went on to be repeated for the next decade or so. Brian Lara was the batting mainstay while Chanderpaul remained the unsung hero.

Today nearly after a decade since Lara’s retirement, Chanderpaul is still going strong. In 21 years of his career he outlasted many modern day giants who came after him. The list includes Ricky Ponting, Jack Kallis, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Mahela Jayawardene, Mohammed Yousuf, Saurav Ganguly, Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist. It was a career that saw it all. From being a part of the number one side of the world he went on to lose 77 of his 163 tests – 14 ahead of the next placed Lara. He was the Lara’s partner when he broke Gary Sober’s record of 365*. He scored a test hundred off 69 balls against a very strong Australian attack after his side was reduced to shambles at 51/5.  His 104 off 154 balls in the last test of that same series saw West Indies chasing a world record 4th innings score of 418. In his first test as captain he scored his first double century. He batted over 1000 minutes between two dismissals four times in his career, no other has done it more than twice. He played a FC match with his son Tagenarine, the only father son-pair to achieve this rare feat in this millennium. His 150th test went largely unnoticed as it coincided with Sachin Tendulkar’s 200th and final test. Of the 2782 players who have played test cricket, only Sachin, Steve Waugh and Ponting has played in more test matches.

Since 2007, Chanderpaul averages 65.46 in test cricket. This is second only to Kumar Sangakkara’s 66.10 among all those who scored 1500 or more runs. He has been West Indies’s go-to man in a crisis even today. But of late he hasn’t been having the best of times with the bat. In the tests since July 2012 against teams excluding Bangladesh and West Indies, he has scored 794 runs at 36 in 27 innings with a solitary century. What is even more concerning is that he failed to reach the double figures in 9 off those 27 innings. Has the age finally caught up with him? Let’s see what the numbers tell.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul – Career split up

Period Tests Inngs Runs Avg SR NO HS 100s 50s 0s
Debut – India @ home 2002 51 85 2934 38.6 40.48 9 137* 2 23 5
India @ home 2002 – Lara’s retirement 50 88 3802 50.69 45.33 13 203* 12 17 5
Lara’s retirement – current 62 105 5106 65.46 43.69 27 203* 16 26 4
Overall 163 278 11842 51.71 43.34 49 203* 30 66 14

The above table clearly shows the evolution of Chanderpaul the batsman as the time passed by. In the initial years he and Jimmy Adams were mainly their grafters around whom the stroke players Lara, Carl Hooper and Sherwin Campbell thrived. It took him over three years to score his first test century and it came against his favorite opponent India in that famous victory at Bridgetown. Within an year he recorded his second test century and his first at his home ground Bourda, a place which witnessed many of his biggest moments in career.

However things started downhill from there for him. In the next 23 tests he averaged only 29.94 in 40 innings with a highest of 89. This period coincided with one of the darkest phases for West Indies. They were whitewashed 5-0 in South Africa and Australia. They lost a series to England for the first time in over two decades.

In the first 51 tests of his career he scored 23 fifties and two centuries – a conversion rate of 11.5 fifties per century. Then came the India series of 2002 where he turned a corner in his career. He amassed 562 runs in the series with 3 centuries and crossing 50 in 6 of the 7 innings he batted.

Over the next four years of his career he began to convert his good starts into hundreds. In this period he also played some of his best innings. The two innings mentioned above against Australia; 128* and 97* at Lord’s against England; double century on captaincy debut (only the second player to do so after New Zealand’s Graham Dowling); and a match winning 153* in the second innings of the Bridgetown test against Pakistan in 2005. The conversion rate changed from one out of every 11.5 to one out of every 1.41. However consistency still seemed to elude Chanderpaul.

After Brian Lara’s premature retirement following West Indies’s disastrous home world cup in 2007, Chanderpaul became the main stay of West Indies batting – a first in his 13-year old career. His scores in the first 5 tests since Lara’s retirement read – 74, 50, 116*, 136*, 70, 104, 8, 65* and 70*. In 2007 and 2008, he scored 1467 runs in 13 test at a Bradmenseque 104.78 with 6 centuries and 10 fifties in 26 innings. Aptly he was awarded ICC Player of the year award in 2008 and he remains the only West Indian to do win it.

The slump

He was on the back of yet another successful home series against Australia. He scored 346 runs in 5 innings with a century and 3 fifties. He scored 87* and 91 at Lord’s. That was his fifth score of over 70 in Lord’s in his last 7 outings there.West Indies won the home series against New Zealand 2-0. It was the first time in over a decade they won more than one test of a series against top nation. Incidentally the last time they did was against India at home in 2002, a series which changed the fortunes of Chanderpaul. He scored 0. 9 and a crucial 43* in the 4th innings chase of 206.

Including this series he averages 36 since July 2012 against top nations. However in the 6 tests against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe his scores were – 203*, 1, 150*, 26, 108, 85*, 84* and 101*. Could this be a sign of age catching up with him and the reflexes slowing down against quality attacks? He is not the only legend who slowed down towards the end. The table below shows several modern day greats who had major slowdowns towards the fag end of their career.

 

Slump Period Since Tests Inngs Runs Avg 100/50 Career Avg Diff
S Tendulkar Jul-11 23 39 1229 32.34 0/9 53.78 -21.44
R Ponting Mar-10 26 47 1519 33.75 2/11 51.85 -18.1
J Kallis Mar-12 16 26 1029 41.16 4/3 55.37 -14.21
R Dravid Jul-10 25 46 1893 45.07 7/5 52.31 -7.24
VVS Laxman Dec-10 17 33 1074 37.03 1/8 45.97 -8.94
B Lara Jan-05 19 35 1859 53.11 8/2 52.88 +0.23

 

From the above table we can see all the modern day legends had a slump towards their fag end of their careers which culminated in their retirements. Sachin had a horrific two years towards his retirement starting from the 4-0 whitewash of India by England in 2011. He averaged 32.34 in this period which was less than his career average by 21 runs/innings.

Ponting had the longest dry run for about 30 months towards his retirement. After his double century against Pakistan at Hobart in early 2010, he played 26 more tests in his career scoring 1519 runs at 33.75, lower by 18 runs/innings to his overall average.  768 of these runs came in the 6 tests against India. Excluding India, he scored 751 runs at 19.76 with just 5 fifties in 37 innings.

Someone who played the Chanderpaul’s second fiddle to Lara in the Indian team was Dravid to Sachin. Even the impeccable Dravid had a torrid run towards the end. If one excludes his best series during this period – the England tour of 2011 where he scored 461 runs at 77 with 3 hundreds – his average during the slump dips to 35.8 from 45.07. But Dravid had an excellent conversion rate – 7 out of his 12 50+ scores were hundreds.

Dravid’s often partner in crime Laxman also had a similar patch before both hung their boots in Jan 2012. Though known for making important runs in crunch situations than piling up hundreds, Laxman scored just one century in his last 33 innings – against a hapless West Indian attack at his backyard Eden Gardens – compared to his one every 13 innings. He averaged 9 runs/innings less than his career average in his last 2 years in test cricket.

Jack Kallis was the epitome of consistency with the bat for South Africa post the turn of the millennium. In the 9 tests preceding to his last one, he scored just 337 runs at 22.46. In his last test against India at Durban, he bowed out of test cricket with a match winning 115 in the first innings.

One modern day great who just carried the way he batted right from his first test and throughout his career was Brian Lara. He scored 1859 runs in his last 2 years in international cricket at an average of 53.11, a tad higher than his overall career average of 52.88 and striking at 64 per 100 balls. Eight of his ten scored of over 50 were converted to centuries including 5 of them above 150.

Highest run scorer for West Indies in tests

Chanderpaul currently has 11842 runs in tests for West Indies, 70 short of Lara (Lara also scored an additional 41 runs in 2 innings for the ICC World XI). He completely deserves to be on the top of ladder which was earlier occupied by the greats like George Headley, Gary Sobers, Vivian Richards and Lara. When West Indies play England at Bridgetown on the final test, Chanderpaul will complete his fifth home series against England. He will be having one eye on the record but he will be more concerned about drawing the series level.

He has played alongside Desmond Haynes to Jermaine Blackwood. He is in the 41st year of his life, his 21st in international cricket. Only one other current Test cricketer made his debut in the 1990s: Rangana Herath, who debuted five years after Shivnarine, and has played 105 tests fewer. He still continues to bat out over after over after over. One just hopes he carries on for at least another year or two for the man is not just a silent warrior with the bat but a bridge to the past which one can attach to the golden age of cricket in 1990s.

The iconic Guyanese musician Dave Martins wrote this about Chanderpaul in 1997 after his first test century, “Come, beta, come and le’ we lick down de bowlin”. One just hopes he carries on like this forever.