When you start to think about the greats of cricket over the last 20 years, it’s the big names such as Sachin Tendulkar, Shane Warne and Jacques Kallis that will spring to mind.
These players have stolen the limelight with incredible feats and fully deserve the stature they have courtesy of the game they play. However, there’s one man who deserves a mention who rarely features in these lists and that is Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
The Guyana-born cricketer was nurtured by his father Khemraj Chanderpaul during his youth and was soon picked to represent his village team at the age of eight. It was evident a star was in the making with Chanderpaul who was a patient batsman from a very early age managing to bat for hours against family members.
Chanderpaul was very different and unique in his style compared to fellow players. His crab-like unorthodox approach at the crease has been with him since he started and been very successful.
With his Test debut coming back in March 1994 against England, the 39-year-old has been a fixed piece of the West Indian jigsaw since then for 19 years and has clocked up over 11,000 runs on the way to becoming the sixth highest Test run-scorer in history.
It wasn’t all easy-going for the left-hander though. Three years in Test cricket without a century prompted criticism and raised doubts with supporters.
During his first 18 Test matches he had already scored 1,232 runs at an average of just under 50 including 13 half-centuries but that magical three-figure score still eluded him. In March 1997 he ended the wait for his maiden-test ton with a knock of 137 against India at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown.
When he first started out he suffered with a few problems which affected his batting and ultimately his conversion rate of fifties into centuries. In 2000 he had a large piece of bone removed from his foot and set about changing the way people perceived him.
Australian legendary spinner Shane Warne once described Chanderpaul as: “a bloke you need to crowbar away from the crease”. He’s always been known as an enduring cricketer who had the potential to stay at the wicket for a very long time and punish a bowling side on a very hot day, sucking the life out of his opponents.
That quote from Warne was one that Chanderpaul was soon to show off in exquisite style as his return to Test cricket during the 2001/02 series against India saw him score three centuries in four Tests to firmly establish himself in the team.
The spotlight turned to him in 2004 when after contract disagreements many of his team-mates were omitted from the squad to face South Africa. Chanderpaul was named as captain of the side and during the series went on to score his joint highest-score of his career with 203 not out.
His quiet nature meant it was role that didn’t really suit him. He won only three games from 30 in all formats and resigned less than a year after getting the job to concentrate on just hit batting. He took a lot of bad press from journalists from his reign as skipper but wouldn’t let that get in the way and his reply was to go out to the middle and pile on the runs.
He is the second-most prolific batsman in West Indian cricket history being only behind former-team-mate Brian Lara and it’s easy to understand why with an accumulation of 40 international centuries including 11 in one-day Internationals.
Chanderpaul has been in the shadow of Lara for much of his career which is likely to be the reason why he hasn’t been idolised upon as much as his compatriot.
Within his 29 Test centuries he has scored 17 of them unbeaten which beats the record of 16 set by the little master of India. There are so many facts and figures about this great which should put give him more recognition as one of the best to ever play the game.
Possibly his greatest achievement has been holding his nation's fragile batting line-up together since the retirement of Lara. He has been one of three senior batsmen along with Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan but when they’ve failed he has always been there to and dug deep to salvage something for his side.
In comparison to other sports which can be won in an instant, cricket is a gruelling effort which takes time and patience which is something Chanderpaul has mastered fantastically.
The argument then comes back around to why he isn’t seen as one of the greats. In India, Tendulkar was seen as a God. He changed the way people lived just through playing the game he loved and becoming a star the public adored. Shane Warne spun his way into the history books as Australian’s greatest spin bowler and Jacques Kallis is one of the greatest all-rounders the world has ever seen.
Chanderpaul has never found himself as part of a side which has been dominated the international arena which makes him different. He has been in tough situations and risen to the challenge on numerous occasions getting his side out of a hole which is the reason why he deserves to be recognised as one of the greatest cricketers ever.
At a current Test average of 51.93 from 153 matches, he has shown that consistency to score runs at the top-level and put his name in the history books with some wonderful moments during his career.
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