Tony Becca | Cool it, Shiv Chanderpaul
Every man has a right to expect reward for deeds accomplished, and none better than one whose achievements came in international competition, none better that one who suffered hardships during the early stages of his career, and no one better than Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
Chanderpaul, a Guyanese, played his first Test for the West Indies at age 19, he batted at number six, he scored 62, and he went on to play 164 matches in which he scored 11,867 runs, including 30 centuries, and averaged 51.37 in 21 years.
In terms of runs scored as a West Indian, he finished 87 runs behind only Brian Lara and sixth overall, and as far as his number of centuries is concerned, he is second to only Lara and above Garry Sobers and Viv Richards as West Indian batsmen.
I still remember seeing him sitting in manager Rohan Kanhai's room in the Guyana Pegasus the night he was first selected for the West Indies, and despite what I thought of his young talent at the time, I never ever believed he would end up becoming the West Indies' most capped player of all time, or such a prolific run-getter.
In his early days, and despite his obvious skills and his average of over 50, he was dropped time and time again for a less talented player, and later on when he was down to bat at number six, he would be sent to bat at number three after the captain and the senior players had seen the pitch and decided to protect the senior players.
Many times, he was used as a shield for someone considered a better batsman, and on top of that, he had trouble finding someone to room with him.
His habits were somewhat different and only Jimmy Adams would sometimes agree to room with him.
Chanderpaul had a rough time as a West Indies Test cricketer coming up, but apart for a time or two, his batting never let him down, except to change his style in a fight to keep his place.
Maybe it was because of his diet that he changed his style, and his stance, to the extent that, despite the annoyance to many of his fans, he dropped most, if not all, of his attacking strokes, and became almost a stroke-less wonder.
Those who saw his first one-day century scored against India at Kensington Oval in 1997 when he scored 109 not out off 124 deliveries, his driving during his innings of 83 off 88 deliveries versus India at Queens Park Oval in 1997, his 150 off 136 deliveries versus South Africa in East London in 1999, and most of all, his innings of 100 off 69 deliveries in a Test match against Australia at Bourda in 2003 will never ever forget his stroke play.
I for one will never ever forget the one-day international against Sri Lanka at Queen's Park Oval in 2008 when, with the West Indies chasing victory, Chanderpaul went out, took his own sweet time, and then, with two deliveries to go, smashed Chaminda Vaas, a left-arm bowler of superb skill, as Chris Gayle will support, for a four and a six to win the match.
That, to me, was Chanderpaul at his best, although he did perfect his new style later on to score thousands of runs.
As unattractive as they were, however, they were invaluable to the team.
In England in 2004, he scored 128 not out and 97 not out at Lord's before he was left stranded three runs short of becoming one of cricket's batting "immortals" - two centuries in one Test match.
In 2007, again in England, after putting together scores of 74, 50 and 116 not out, 136 not out and 70, he averaged 142.00, and in 2008, in the West Indies against Australia, Chanderpaul finished with scores of 118 and 11, 107 not out and 77 not out, 79 not out and 50 for an average of 147.11.
After a century innings of 101 not out against lowly Bangladesh in St Lucia, however, he managed only 183 runs from 11 innings at an average of 16.63, and the selectors, after apparently talking to him, decided that it was time for Chanderpaul to go.
For one who dedicated his life to West Indies cricket, for one who answered the bell on every occasion, for one who captained the team in a time of need, and for one who stood, mostly alone, between victory and defeat on many, many occasions, to go out without an appropriate farewell must have been difficult to take, especially for one who trained and practised as hard as he did.
If the selection of a team means selecting the best available, however, as great as he is, or was, it possibly could not have been done any other way, otherwise the board, dealing with West Indies cricketers and their ego, probably would have been setting a precedent.
On top of all that, Chanderpaul falls into the same bracket as George Headley, the Three Ws, Garry Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Wes Hall, Lance Gibbs, Andy Roberts, Viv Richards, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding and many other West Indian greats.
They left without anyone saying goodbye.
When Chanderpaul started out on what turned out to be an illustrious career, I am sure he did not think he would be doing it for the West Indies. It was simply for himself and maybe his family. Now that the end has come, 'Tiger' Chanderpaul must remember the great times he had doing great things all over the world in the name of the West Indies.
Chanderpaul may well deserve a grand farewell, but his accomplishment is what is important. That is what counts, and no one can erase that. It's time for Chanderpaul to put up his feet and enjoy what he has done.