Give Shiv one last bat
In a matter of days, the West Indies selectors will be deciding the fate of Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Coach Phil Simmons has met with him for "talks". My own theory is that things are not looking too good for Shiv. If it was going to be business as usual for the upcoming Australian series, I doubt the coach would feel the need to have a quiet word with Chanderpaul weeks before the first Test. The mere fact that he had such a well-publicised meeting with Shiv suggests to me that the coach and, by extension, the selectors, may well want to call time on his career.
Shiv knows that his days are numbered, but he refuses to ride off into the sunset with his dignity intact. That dogged determination was what typified his batting for more than 20 years. But that same instinctive tendency to want to scratch it out and never give up may come to embarrass him.
If you unceremoniously drop Shiv now, he would be hurt; in fact, he may be devastated. You wonder why he is even running the risk of that happening. They say cricket, especially batting, gives a greater insight into a person's personality than any other sporting discipline. If we accept that, Shiv is not going to throw in the towel. He will defend his career with the same tenacity that he defended his wicket. He will want his career to be prolonged in the same way he always seemed to want to bat forever.
The coach and selectors are, therefore, now in a quandary. The truth is that Shiv has had a lean run of late. That cannot be denied. In his last 11 Test innings, he has made only one fifty, and that, too, was an even 50. In those 11 innings, he has scored 181 all told, which means over that time, he has averaged less than 17 per innings. That tells its own story, but it's not only the low scores.
All great batsmen go through lean trots, but where Shiv once seemed certain of himself at the crease, there now appears to be cracks in his confidence. When in his prime, he is one of the best batsmen in the modern era in determining what to play and what to leave. Knowing what to leave is just as crucial as knowing what to play, and it is this, more than anything else, that shows that Shiv may not be the force he once was.
He has got out several times of late, playing at balls where he would just shoulder arms without fuss when he was in his prime. Where the mind used to be crystal clear, Shiv's now seems to be muddled. He made a brilliant career for himself by effortlessly plodding along, but now it almost appears that he is trying too hard.
The Australians are, as always, going to be presenting a formidable challenge when they reach our shores in the next few weeks. Should Shiv be part of the line-up? Is he still better equipped to take on the formidable Australian attack than whoever we would replace him with? That question is not easy to answer.
Shiv has now scored 11,867 Test runs. He is, therefore, a mere 123 runs away from joining the prestigious 12,000 club. Brian Lara scored 11,912 test runs, which means Shiv is only one reasonable innings away from being the highest-scoring West Indian of all time. Are those enough reasons for the selectors to give him the Australian series, at least? Should we allow him to end with dignity or make him suffer the ignominy of being dropped for good?
Shiv is closing in on 41 years of age. He won't be around much longer. But before we drop him, we must ask, who will replace him? The truth is that there is no obvious candidate. I would still bet that against a great attack, Shiv is a better bet than any rookie who will get his game. There is no middle-order batsman in the region who makes himself an obvious selection, and that is why I'm giving Shiv this last series against Australia. His form has been patchy, but I'm not convinced he has lost his class.
The selectors, though, must protect him from himself. Even if Shiv decides not to go, the selectors should announce that this is his last series, and allow the fans to bid him farewell in a manner befitting his illustrious career. When that first Test team is announced against Australia, the name Shivnarine Chanderpaul should still be there pencilled in at No. 5.
- Orville Higgins is a sports journalist and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.