Is Shivnarine Chanderpaul's career over after Australia non-selection?
Speculation surrounding Shivnarine Chanderpaul's international future has been rife over recent days and the decision to axe him from West Indies' 12-man training squad was a signal that his exit from the national side was imminent, if indeed he hadn't already been shown the door. Clive Lloyd confirmed that he will not be part of the Test team to face Australia, stating that "there comes a time", and with that, the 40-year-old Guyanese batsman's career looks to be over for good.
In retrospect, it seems quite a callous move from the selectors considering it is only six Tests since his last hundred - granted, he had endured a slump, but not one that would usually appear terminal for a player of his status. Notwithstanding poor series against South Africa and England, a glaring lack of alternatives only heightened the argument to stick with Chanderpaul. However, such logic was not applied.
Naturally, West Indies are thinking forward to challenges ahead, but considering they are finding it tough enough to convince youngsters to represent their country instead of becoming Twenty20 freelancers, it's hard to see how they wouldn't benefit from the presence of a few committed old hands like Chanderpaul.
As an elder statesman, the knowledge and experience he brings is something West Indies would have done well to utilise until the fresh crop of youngsters are blooded in. Misbah-ul-Haq has filled that role competently with Pakistan and continues to hold a volatile side together. As indicated in the World Cup, while there is evident talent with the Caribbean hopefuls, they are raw, and in need of guidance. Jason Holder could be their bedrock, but he must be nurtured. Dumping Chanderpaul at this stage strikes as a regressive step.
When Chanderpaul made his international debut in 1994, he was playing in a team that included Desmond Haynes - it was that long ago. It is bound to be a rather painful episode for Chanderpaul to leave not only bereft of an appropriate send-off, but 87 agonising runs short of trumping Brian Lara and becoming the most prolific West Indian batsman in Test history.
In the new age of wham-bam cricket, Chanderpaul often looked out of place. However, as he demonstrated time and time again, he was convinced that his way was the right way. And to the sceptical, well, more fool them.
He exuded practically none of the qualities the greats of West Indian batting had before him, barring an unwavering determination to accumulate runs, runs and then even more runs. No Lara-like flamboyance nor the brutality of Sir Vivian Richards, but his exploits have nonetheless made him easily comparable to both.
Known affectionately as "The Crab", Chanderpaul not only defied bowlers with regularity, but any coaches' manual that insists batsmen must "play in the V". His peculiar front-on stance ultimately brought him 30 hundreds at an average in excess of over 51 in a 164-Test career, a record mighty enough to silence all of his doubters.
A certain knock in Jamaica against Australia in 2008 perfectly captured Chanderpaul's ethos. A typically obdurate showing had taken him to 86 when he was cracked on the back of the head by a Brett Lee bouncer - a blow that sent him worryingly to the ground. Undeterred, he took his time before completing his ton to the delight of a roaring crowd. A born fighter, Chanderpaul had been down, but fittingly, not out.
Few batsmen have ever put such a prize on their wicket as Chanderpaul. His cricketing doppelganger would be either Rahul Dravid or Geoffrey Boycott. While the rest crumbled, you could rest assured that he would be there accompanying tail-enders, painstakingly grafting to usher his side to a competitive score. It is of no surprise that he remained unbeaten in 49 Test innings - the most of any recognised batsman in the game's history.
Yet for all the watchfulness associated with his play, it is easy to forget that Chanderpaul is the joint owner of the fifth fastest Test century - a remarkable 69-ball extravaganza against Australia in his native Guyana in 2003. With his team in strife at 47-4, a quite brilliant counter-attack was launched, as he crunched 15 fours and a pair of sixes to restore some pride. In the bigger picture, it meant nothing as West Indies succumbed to a nine-wicket defeat, but it’s a performance that never fails to boggle minds, even a dozen years on.
An ever-dependable force
How proficient a one-day cricketer Chanderpaul was can also evade the mind - he compiled nearly 9,000 runs at an average of 41.60, with 11 tons and 59 centuries. He memorably pulled off a do-or-die heist to stun Sri Lanka at the Queen's Park Oval in 2008. Needing 10 from the last two deliveries with just one wicket in hand, Chanderpaul proceeded to craft a four past mid-off, before launching a full toss from Chaminda Vaas just over the midwicket boundary. It was a phase where fans were safe in the knowledge that if anyone could do it, Chanders could. Since Lara's retirement in 2007, he has been the main source of middle-order reliability in both formats. His absence will highlight just how important he was.
So, is that the Chanderpaul brand finished forever? Well, perhaps not. Shiv's 18-year-old son, Tagenarine, has already represented Guyana and West Indies' youth teams. A father-and-son combination may no longer be on the cards, but it would be intriguing to see another batsman with the same genes as Shiv make his way.
Whether Chanderpaul Senior has accepted that his services are no longer required is currently unclear. He is yet to announce his retirement and is presumably available for selection should West Indies suffer under the weight of inexperience. However, although stranger things have happened, his final chapter looks to have been written.
Chanderpaul might not be a poster boy, or a name that springs to mind immediately when Caribbean cricket is mentioned, but the respect he has earned over the past two decades will not fade during the next two. And as his era ends, Shivnarine Chanderpaul leaves a void that may never be filled.