Cow Corner

Who’s Chanderpaul playing for?

Cow Corner

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Two days ago Cowers penned a piece in celebration of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, but watching him in this Test it is becoming clear that there's a downside to Shiv as well.

He's rated the best Test batsman in the world at present, has faced 270 balls in this match without being dismissed. On the face of it, it's perverse to point out any negatives.

Michael Holding was fascinating on the subject of Chanderpaul on a commentary stint in the first innings of this match. When asked where the Guyanan stood in the pantheon of great West Indian batsman, he was less than euphoric.

"How many games has his batting won the West Indies?" he asked, pointedly.

Chanderpaul has been on the losing side 66 times in Test cricket, more than any other player in the history of the game.

Since Brian Lara retired from Test cricket, Chanderpaul has been the team's leading batsman, but has only won five matches of the 40 he has played in that time.

Of course, there's an obvious reason why that would be. In a team that's been desperately weakened in recent years, if you're averaging 68.8 with the willow in your hand (as Chanders has since 2007), perhaps if you're looking for someone to blame, you might start with one of the other ten players on the field.

Similar arguments have been had across the world with the likes of Jacques Kallis or Jonathan Trott, be it for slow-scoring or for batting 'selfishly'.

Of course, the term 'selfish' is slightly misleading because all batsman are by their nature selfish. To score runs for the team, they have to make their innings about themselves.

But, the risk of going into their own little batting bubble is the effect it has on others. Look at the first innings, where Chanderpaul played a large part in the run out of the team's brightest young talent, Darren Bravo.

In isolation, it could be written off as 'one of those things' — but Chanderpaul has been involved in 23 run outs in his career, and it's only cost him his wicket on three of those occasions.

At one point today Chanderpaul had scored just 6 from 53 balls, and went 110 minutes before adding his first boundary of the innings. Is that the mark of a man who is prepared to bide his time and wait for the bad balls, or of a man who is working for himself, impelling his team-mates to keep the score ticking while he plays himself in?

Fortunately, on this occasion, Chanderpaul emerged unscathed, and found some assistance from Bravo and then Marlon Samuels. Had his 54th ball seen him dismissed rather than bringing two runs to midwicket, what slant would that have put on his contribution?

The trouble — the unquantifiable trouble — is what effect Chanderpaul has on the rest of the team. There have been whispers in the past that he is not the type of cricketer to work with the youngsters in the team (though his son Tagenarine is making waves at youth level, now representing Guyana U19s). Interestingly West Indies coach Ottis Gibson says this has not been the case in recent times.

When Chanderpaul departs the stage (and he is 38 years old this summer), will his absence leave a massive hole in the West Indies batting line-up?

Or will the rest of the batsmen, who for so long have come to look at Shiv as their best hope — perhaps their only hope — realise that the responsibility for runs is theirs?

If the West Indies want a recent example of a side who actually improved when their star player moved on, then they should look no further than their opponents.

Andrew Flintoff was seen as the crucial ingredient in England's line-up, the go-to man with bat or ball, the one who balanced the side.

But a stronger team developed in his absence, before leading lights like James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ian Bell truly blossomed.

Cowers is hard-pressed to name a player in any sport who has been so relentlessly brilliant in lost causes than Chanderpaul.

To find the motivation to churn the runs out in trying circumstances for so long is remarkable.

What the legacy of Chanderpaul's career will be, however, remains to be seen.


USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: Bopara, Bell, Barrow, Buttler, Bairstow, Broad, Bresnan, Borthwick, Briggs, Buck, Brooks — Rasta comes up with an England team featuring only players whose last names begin with B — a restriction almost as principled as Athletic Bilbao's 'only Basque players' rule.

STAT OF THE DAY: The Shiv stats weren't enough? How about this? Tim Bresnan's first four balls of his bowling spell cost 10 runs — his next 50 went for two.

TWEET OF THE DAY: 'Do you want a sandwich Darren?' 'Yes, no, wait...' - @theoldbatsman imagines Darren Bravo's run out woes continuing into the tea break.

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