The one and onlyhttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/print/the-one-and-only-2/

The one and only

Chanderpaul has been the guiding light for this young and inexperienced side

The million-dollar smile still flashes. Post-retirement,however,has seen the inches around his waist flourishing drastically. But Desmond Haynes has remained full of life as always,and 17 years after bringing an end to his glorious international career,the former legend — now the batting consultant — still remains the most popular man in the West Indies dressing-room.

The Eden Gardens too has undergone a sea of change since the last time Haynes set foot at the popular venue. Having surveyed the stadium’s new look,the former West Indies opener couldn’t help but recount his cricketing experiences in Kolkata — which doesn’t count as one of his happiest hunting grounds incidentally.

And while his wards went through the rigours on Saturday,he reminisced about the day 90,000 Indian spectators who turned up at Eden to watch West Indies play Pakistan in the Nehru Cup final back in 1989 — a match in which Haynes’s unbeaten 107 went in vain.

He even managed to recall the exact stands where most of the crowd’s banter used to emanate from but wasn’t the only West Indian scion present on Saturday with happy memories of Eden Gardens.

Advertising

While Haynes continued to keep the small congregation around him in splits,Shivnarine Chanderpaul — arguably the most underrated of all cricketing luminaries from the Caribbean — was busy warming-up.

Unlike the rest of his younger teammates,the customary pre-practice ritual of kicking the football around isn’t up the veteran’s alley anymore. Team insiders reveal that the only times he does indulge in the soccer contest,Chanderpaul stands as rigid as ever in the goal-keeper’s spot and focuses on,“kicking the ball as far away from him as possible”.

The Guyanese left-hander is often the first man out of the dressing-room,ambling towards the practice area in his own measured and slouched fashion. His attitude during practice is not too dissimilar to that during a match — spend as much time as possible with bat in hand. And considering the colossus that he has been in the middle-order for almost 15 years — and especially since Brian Lara’s retirement —it’s not surprising that Chanderpaul is left to go through his own schedules without any interference.

Dependable run-getter

On most days,Chanderpaul prefers to get his aging limbs in as fit a condition as possible to shoulder the burden of being his team’s most dependable run-getter.

It is a role that he has got used to over the years and he’s rarely let his team down when it comes to that. He remained the only difference between India and a convincing win during the first Test at Delhi — top-scoring in both innings. And it was his century — a characteristically made 140 that helped West Indies dominate the last Test they played at Eden Gardens nine years ago — Chanderpaul’s solitary outing here so far.

Unlike Haynes,however,the former West Indian skipper isn’t known for being very popular in the West Indian team over the years. But there’s no dearth of respect for him — from both colleagues and opponents alike. Harbhajan Singh once counted him amongst the toughest batsmen he has bowled to.

And despite his crab-like stance and appearance,Chanderpaul is renowned across the Caribbean as the Tiger.

“He is celebrated as a hero and respected widely as a legend everywhere he plays,including Barbados. And trust me,those Bajans are tough to please,especially with their cricketing history,” says a junior teammate about Chanderpaul.

Though shy and quiet even within the confines of the dressing-room,Chanderpaul is known to be ever-ready with advice for the youngsters in the team. And so far on this tour,he has provided plentiful batting lessons for the likes of Darren Bravo & Co. Saturday was no different.

The practice wickets were slow,with the ball hardly coming onto the bat,much like the pitch for the second Test is expected to be. The spoils might well once again side with the team winning the all-important the battle of attrition,which should remain the theme of the series.

Advertising

And while a majority of the West Indian batsmen looked a tad scratchy against even the net bowlers — especially those of the slower variety — Chanderpaul hardly seemed fazed. And though it will be tough to replicate his nous,West Indies’s future hopes in this series might well rest on the ability of his junior teammates to follow his template.