When a limb is fractured, it requires a plaster support to avoid being left as vestigial. It needs the buttress at least till it’s functioning normally once again.
The recent fragility of the West Indian cricket team accentuates the need of a pillar in its brittle-as-glass middle order. What has been overlooked with an aura of complacency after winning the World Championship in the shortest format of the game can no longer be ignored with another promise of procrastination. The only man who can revive West Indies from the dungeon of excuses goes by the name Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
West Indies cricket has hit its nadir, courtesy quite a bit of unprofessional batting, bowling and fielding by the cricketers. Boasting of flamboyance and charisma on the sheet, they have flattered to deceive, being outplayed by opponents every single time in every single department.
The middle order, in particular, has been a real spot of bother. Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons are, no doubt, able batsmen, but with the team reeling under the burden of lofty expectations, none of them seem keen enough to shoulder the responsibility of saving Caribbean cricket from its current predicament. With historical glory adding salt to the present anguish, the misery in the dressing room demands the emergence of a magician – an incident that’s least likely to occur.
The sole way out, therefore, rests on West Indies’s go-to man Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the dogged veteran who has scripted more miracles than he has witnessed. With more than 10,000 international runs and 140 caps for the national side, he is undoubtedly the most likely savior for the West Indies. Enjoying a steady ranking of No. 2 in the ICC Test rankings, Chanderpaul is the most assured Caribbean batsman right now, if one takes into account Chris Gayle’s unpredictability.
The significance of Chanderpaul transcends beyond the mere unorthodox stance that he sports. While Chanderpaul’s persistence renders solidity to the middle order, his calm demeanour and unruffled determination inspires a cascade of assurance inside the twenty two yards. His lazy arrogance and tranquil indifference to fierce spells of bowling by the opposition infuses a soothing amalgamation of resolve and perseverance in the non-striker. West Indies needs this prolific run scorer – an unsung hero of sorts – now more than ever.
While the eccentricity of his front-up stance assists him in amassing runs behind the wicket, the Guyanese is equally comfortable in front of the wicket, playing down the leg-side. The stickers beneath his eyes remain his signature as he walks into the middle to frustrate the opposition and provoke mistakes.
Playing alongside Brian Lara, Chanderpaul was never slated to earn the recognition he deserves. Overshadowed by the greatness of his legendary compatriot, Chanderpaul, slowly and deftly, carved out his path of success as he silently blossomed from a remarkable talent to an extraordinary professional.
Chanderpaul had served as the back-bone of Caribbean cricket for years after Lara’s retirement, and it won’t be too much of a task for him to carry out the job once more. At 38, the veteran cricketer has had a taste of almost every playing condition prevailing on this planet. The experience that he brings to the squad is as priceless as it can ever be.
In direct contrast to the extravagance of the Dwayne Bravos, where enthusiasm and exaggerated entertainment overshadows desperate lack of substance, the 5’8″ Guyanese of Indian origin believes in meditation and concentration. While the extrovert manner of the young West Indian squad never quite amounted to indiscipline, one wonders whether a calming influence and restricted authority would help them to focus more and achieve their true potential.
Lacking the charisma and grandiosity in his guise, Chanderpaul was an artist behind the scenes. He would never wield his willow with the elaborateness of a master, nor would he ever twist his body in the most lavish follow-throughs. He preferred to keep it straight and simple, uncomplicated, yet lethally effective. A typical outcast in the West Indian melodrama, Shivnarine’s beauty lay in the effortlessness of his strokes.
Defeats against India and Sri Lanka in the recently concluded tri-series, followed by another humiliation at the hands of Pakistan goes on to summarise the disappointing run of the islanders since their World T20 triumph a year back. More than the defeats, it’s the nature of the losses that is intriguing.
The inconsistency of Chris Gayle at the top is clearly hurting the team’s chances as they are finding it tough to even complete their quota of overs once the top three are dismissed. It’s not the incompetence but the unprofessional approach of the middle and lower middle order batsmen that is costing them dearly. Lessons are not being learnt and every passing defeat is being disregarded with an air of apathy, as ignominy continues to swallow West Indies cricket.
It’s unfathomable how such a swashbuckling team on the cards turns out paupers on the field. It no less disturbing than disappointing to witness a group of professional cricketers getting anxious and panicking at the fall of wickets. The team is visibly missing the services of an expert who can instill optimism in the middle and infuse confidence in the players. And who better than the Guyanese at this moment.
The backbone of the West Indian line-up is fractured. Bring back Chanderpaul, the heart says. Build a new Chanderpaul, the mind says. And while the heart and the mind drown in the eternal battle of mutual supremacy, somewhere down the back, the spine continues to throb for support.