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Chanderpaul’s Quest Part II

By Ray Sundar

August 15th, 2008
Entering the first test against Murali and the rest of the Lankans at Providence, Guyana on 3/22/08, The Shiv was firmly entrenched in the number VII position among West Indian Test batsmen (aggregate). Though his stats against Sri Lanka were sub-par, an air of optimism pervades the atmosphere – an expectation that something historic was imminent. More so coming on the heels of superlative performances against England (where he was basically a one-man demolition derby, a lone warrior if you will) and South Africa.

Standing in his way of West Indian immortality? Brian Lara, Vivian Richards, Garfield Sobers, Gordon Greenidge, Clive Lloyd and Desmond Haynes. A veritable who is who in West Indies cricket! Of immediate importance, however, is Mr. Lloyd’s Guyanese record of 7515.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul

And so it came to pass. The 2nd test at Queens Park Oval, Trinidad on 4/3/08 was evenly poised with the pendulum swinging back and forth. West Indies had an outside chance to win the match, thus leveling the 2 test series and eradicating any chance of an embarrassing and humiliating whitewash on home turf. 253 runs were needed with 10 wickets on hand and 2 days to go.

Perhaps to convince himself he is not Vaas’ bunny (he is), Gayle resumed the opener’s slot. Along with Albion’s Chattergoon, they pushed the score to 23, playing some risky shots in the process. Both succumbed under the intense pressure. Gayle went for 10 and Chattergoon shortly thereafter for 11.

Samuels (do you think he will ever put two decent innings together?) joined Sarwan and they stemmed the tide temporarily, putting on 49 for the 3rd wicket. Samuels departed for 11.

Is an all too familiar monumental collapse around the corner? Or will they stand up, show some resolve, demonstrate a willingness and ability to rise to the occasion? Hey, a few days earlier India was blitzed by the South Africans for 76 and ended up losing the test.

As The Shiv strode to the wicket, to join Sarwan, perhaps fond memories of an earlier victory against the mighty, snarling, sledging Aussies in 2003 enveloped his mind. On that occasion, he and Sarwan piloted a rearguard action which led to a highly improbable victory, chasing a mammoth 418. The Shiv scored 104 and Sarwan 105. Now the fans must be murmuring, “Come on man, stand up and fight.” And once again The Shiv delivered. Initially he played second fiddle to Sarwan who went on to score a magnificent century. Their 157 run 4th wicket partnership basically sealed victory.

One by one they fell, like a row of sitting ducks. En route to his 86 not out, Desmond Haynes was the first casualty whose 7487 was left by the wayside. Next to go was Clive Lloyd’s 7515. Shiv is now the proud holder of Guyana’s test record for most test runs. Shortly thereafter, the other Bajan, Gordon Greenidge (7558) succumbed and The Shiv is now at number 4. Three bona fide greats of all time (W.I.) remain standing in his way – the mercurial Brian Lara, Garfield Sobers, the greatest cricketer ever, and the explosive Vivian Richards.

To what do you attribute The Shiv’s improbable run going back to the summer of 2007? He has brilliantly removed himself from Lara’s (retired) huge shadow and has systematically begun to carve a niche of his own. It seems as though the cricket balls are as big as volleyballs. Again he excelled in the recent ODI series against Sri Lanka. In the first match 10 runs were needed off 2 balls and #11 Fidel Edwards his partner. Vaas, very economical up to this point in time, a veteran of ODI, uncorked a full toss. Calmly and irreverently, The Shiv swatted it for 4. 6 runs needed off 1 ball. Vaas took off and again, inexplicably delivered a full toss. Wide-eyed, Shiv deposited it for 6, over Mahela Jayawardene’s head at the midwicket boundary. A focused Shiv followed the trajectory of the ball and as it cleared the boundary he leaped into the air for joy. And all hell broke loose as the fans went wild, delirious with joy. Happy days are here again. They must be saying, “have no fear, Shiv is here”.

Chasing a revised target of 125 from 25 overs, in the 2nd ODI, West Indies got off to a horrific start, as Gayle and Bravo were back in the pavilion for a paltry 15. Sarwan went soon after for 1.

The stage was set for another heroic batting display and some more pyrotechnics. Much to Vaneisha Baksh’s chagrin, for the 3rd consecutive match, The Shiv came to West Indies’ rescue. With an assist from the seemingly revived, but somewhat enigmatic, Samuels, they scored the requisite runs, thus giving the West Indies an unassailable 2-0 lead in the 3 match series. The Shiv scored 52 not out, with 3 x 4s and 2x6s.

From my vantage point I suspect Sobers’ total (8032) will be eclipsed by Spring ’09 and Richards’ (8540) by end of 2009. Of course this is contingent upon him playing against Australia, staying healthy and no political shenanigans emerge as he approaches these revered records. I do not foresee a West Indian scaling Lara’s Mt. Everest like feat (11953). It’s well–nigh impossible. Being number 2 to the Prince of Port of Spain is not too shabby. Maybe he can assume the moniker Maharaja Shiv of Guyana.

In addition to leap frogging the afore-mentioned West Indian greats, he copped the 3 top WIPA Awards in April for 2007. The Coup de Grace? Wisden named him 1 of its 5 cricketers of the year in recognition of his ruthless execution and annihilation of the POMS last summer, pulverizing them into submission.

Unquestionably, I reiterate, for the past 5 years he has been, and continues to be, the best West Indian batsman, including Lara, Gayle and Sarwan. West Indies cricket fortunes and resurgence rest on his slender shoulders.
Editor’s Note: This article appeared in Cricketstar Spring 08 issue.

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