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Shivnarine Chanderpaul: The torch-bearer of West Indian cricket in its dark days

Shivnarine Chanderpaul: The torch-bearer of West Indian cricket in its dark days

Shivnarine Chanderpaul © Getty Images

Shivnarine Chanderpaul, born on August 16, 1974, is the torch-bearer of West Indian cricket in its dark days. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the immovable object at the batting crease.

Watching Shivnarine Chanderpaul coming out to bat for the first time can be a treat in itself. The walk to the wicket is the perfect antithesis of Viv Richards; if Richards’s body language reflected an aura of domination and confidence, Chanderpaul’s is full of an unmistakable nothingness. It could well have been a person walking back home from a grocery with dreadful chores like having to cook and doing dishes later that evening playing on your mind.

He takes those steps to the crease for what seems like an eternity; takes guard; removes a bail and nails it to the ground with the handle of the bat with the meticulous diligence of a sculptor; then he stands up and gets his gathers his apparently clumsy self together.

It is now that you notice the black anti-glare stickers under his eyes; if you have very, very good eyesight you will notice the word Mueller written on them; had it been legible it would probably have been a great way of advertising. All that is quite singular, but it is absolutely nothing compared to what is to follow.

He takes his stance. The moment you see it your jaw probably drops. You probably feel like running up to the man and informing him that the bowler won’t be bowling from mid-wicket: you know that this stance cannot work; it would defy all logic if it did. But then, as he says himself, it’s about keeping the head still and maintain the body balance. He makes a mockery of the conventional stance (he must have been doing it right if it has fetched him over 10,000 Test runs) and ridicules the basic tenets while facing the bowler — making mockery of the Marylebone Cricket Club’s coaching manual .

The bowler comes on to bowl: it doesn’t matter if it’s pace or spin, right-arm or left-arm, 20 for three or 200 for three. In all probability his back foot will move an inch or two back; with his front foot acting as a fulcrum he will almost invariably tuck it towards mid-wicket for a single or a two. He is off. He will be there for the next five hours. There will be a hundred against his name. And down he will get on his knees, kissing the pitch — a ritual Jason Gillespie had one called “ridiculous”.

No, he will hardly ever be considered as spectacular — and hence, be considered as a great. Despite having similar numbers his name will never be taken in the same breath as a Brian Lara. While people notice men like Lara, Chanderpaul performs virtually unnoticed. In fact, that is the key to his success.

He is so innocuous, so underestimated that the opposition almost doesn’t mind him scoring runs. For them he’s the man who, despite not throwing his wicket away, never seems to score runs. He almost gives them the feeling “What’s the most he can do?” By the time they realise things were going out of their hand it’s almost certainly too late.

His style is often referred to as ‘crustacean’. If you watch his batting closely you can possibly understand why the approach and movements are referred to as ‘crab-like’. The creeping movement of the limbs, the measured crawl towards each ball — they all justify the adjective. None of that mattered, though: despite his bland style he remains one of the all-time greatest.

As Christian Ryan wrote on The Nightwatchman for Wisden, “[Chanderpaul is] disconcerting to bowl at; funny-looking on TV. Yet by the time the ball’s arrived and he’s hitting it normal transmission has resumed, all appendages and accoutrements present and correct, courtesy of a neither airborne nor strictly earthbound step-hover-squirm manoeuvre.”

Greg Blewett called him “a run machine”; Tony Cozier called him “the most immovable object in the game at present”; David Warner found his six-hour net practice schedule “ridiculous”. And yet — despite all the fascination — it was a simple philosophy on which he had modelled his batting. As he once advised, “Watch the ball, Marlon [Samuels]. If it look fat, attack. If it look fine, block it.”
The numbers

-  Let us get the numbers out of the way first. Chanderpaul has scored 10,830 runs from 148 Tests at 51.81 with 28 hundreds. He is currently eighth on the runs list. Jacques Kallis is the only active one among the seven men above him.

-  With 90 fifties he ranks sixth on the list. Once again, Kallis is the only active batsman above him.

Chanderpaul is one of only three batsmen to have scored seven consecutive Test fifties — the other two being Everton Weekes and Andy Flower.

Chanderpaul holds the record of facing most balls without being dismissed. He faced 1,051 balls against India in 2002 over four innings (though he scored only 362 runs).

-  In the above sequence Chanderpaul had also batted for 1,513 minutes (which is in excess of 25 hours). This is also a world record, well clear of Kallis’s 1,246.

- Chanderpaul had scored 558 runs at 111.60 in 2007 and 909 at 101.00 in 2008. Other than Don Bradman he is the only other batsman to have scored over 500 runs at a 100-plus average in consecutive years (Geoff Boycott and Wally Hammond are the only other one to have done it twice, but not in consecutive years).

- Chanderpaul has scored 2,440 runs at 65.94 batting at number six: he easily averages the most for anyone with over 2,000 runs at that position – way clear of Garry Sobers’ 53.34.

- Chanderpaul had scored the fourth-fastest Test hundred of all time — in only 69 balls — against Australia at Bourda in 2002-03.

- Chanderpaul has now played in most Tests while being on the losing side — 68 — which probably proves how valiant his efforts have been.

- One of the quirkier records that Chanderpaul holds is that he has taken the most Test wickets — nine — without ever taking two wickets in the same innings.
Early days

Chanderpaul’s career began with a more conventional stance. He had modelled himself on Alvin Kallicharran and had been coached for a while by Rohan Kanhai. If one watches clippings of both stances it is impossible to think that the two batsmen are the same. He made his First-Class debut for Guyana against Leeward Islands at Bourda in 1991-92 and scored 90. Thereafter he became a regular member of the Guyana team, fitting seamlessly in a strong batting line-up.

Chanderpaul first came into prominence during the Pakistan tour of West Indies in 1993. Playing for West Indies Board President’s XI he picked up four for 68, and then went on to score 140 not out — his maiden First-Class hundred. By next season (1994) he was playing the second Test against England at Bourda.
Test debut

Chanderpaul came out to bat with his side at a comfortable 315 for four, and scored a 62 before England slumped to an innings defeat. He scored a half-century (50) in the next Test at Queen’s Park Oval where England were bowled out by Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh for 46, thereby surrendering the series.

England won the fourth Test at Kensington Oval, but not before Chanderpaul played an innings of the kind that has been typical of him over the years: he came out to bat at 95 for four and soon found his side collapse to 134 for seven. For the first time Test cricket got a taste of Chanderpaul: he added 71 with Ambrose and 58 with Kenny Benjamin, and eventually top-scored with a 231-ball 77.

To round things off, Chanderpaul was there at the non-striker’s end when Lara went past Sobers’ 365 not out in the last Test at St John’s. He helped Lara add 219 in 264 minutes, and Walsh declared the innings closed as soon as Lara got out, leaving Chanderpaul unbeaten on 75. Perhaps as a consolation of sorts he picked up his first Test wicket — that of Graham Thorpe — caught by Jimmy Adams. He finished the series with 288 runs at 57.60 with four fifties (but at a strike rate of 38.24).

Even after the phenomenal start Chanderpaul found himself in and out of the side — even after scoring 69 at Christchurch and 61 not out at Wellington in 1995. A familiar tale continued: he was picked for two Tests on the England tour (immediately after the fifties in New Zealand) and scored 80 at The Oval.

On his return Chanderpaul scored a strokeful 303 not out against a rampant Walsh at Sabina Park. He dominated every partnership as Guyana scored 559 for five and it took some obdurate batting from Jimmy Adams to save the match. It would remain Chanderpaul’s only triple-hundred in First-Class cricket.

Securing a position

Despite all his performances Chanderpaul was still not a regular member of the Test side. In the 1996-97 Test at The Gabba, where he scored 82, adding 172 for the fourth wicket with Carl Hooper before West Indies lost their last seven wickets for 28 runs and surrendered the Test.

Then came the SCG Test: Chanderpaul had already scored 48 in the first innings. When his side was 35 for three chasing 340 Chanderpaul launched the most furious of assaults on an attack consisting of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, and Shane Warne. It was an amazing counterattacking innings from the frail, short man who seemed more of an accumulator than a destroyer.

He batted like a dream, and in addition to looking invincible, he also seemed unstoppable that day. He drove, he cut, he pulled with brutal power that was not expected of him, and it took an unplayable ball from Warne to stop him that day. On a disintegrating Day Five pitch Chanderpaul had scored a 68-ball 71 with ten fours out of a 95-minute partnership of 117 with Hooper. A collapse followed, West Indies lost their last seven wickets for 63, and lost by 124 runs.

The maiden Test hundred

Chanderpaul eventually made his maiden Test hundred in his 19th Test, having scored 13 fifties in the previous 18. Batting at three and coming out in the third over against India at Kensington Oval he batted through the innings, scoring a chanceless 284-minute 137 on a poor pitch. West Indies scored 298, and the hundred turned out to be a series-decider as West Indies won the Test by 38 runs and eventually won the series 1-0.

His confidence now soaring, Chanderpaul scored a hundred in the series-deciding ODI at the same ground against the same opposition. After India scored 199 for seven (Chanderpaul had Mohammad Azharuddin caught behind) West Indies raced to the target with 32 balls to spare. Stuart Williams was in a race with Chanderpaul for some time but eventually gave it up, and the Guyanese scored a 134-ball 109 not out.
The lopsided scorecard

After a quiet couple of years Chanderpaul found himself as a part of a bizarre scorecard against South Africa at Buffalo Park. He opened batting, West Indies lost two wickets in the first over, and Lara crawled to a 26-ball three before getting out in the ninth over. At the other end Chanderpaul had already raced to forty.

He then added 226 with his old partner-in-crime Hooper (who scored 108) and Chanderpaul eventually fell for what would be a career-best 150 off 136 balls with 20 fours. Other than Chanderpaul and Hooper no other batsman went past eight, and West Indies somehow managed to win quite comfortably.

Dominating the Indians

By the turn of the millennium Chanderpaul was considered a good batsman, but certainly not one to be feared: he was at best an accumulator who could change the pace if he wanted to. At this stage of his career he needed one big series to catapult himself to the next level. That came in 2002 against India.

It was an amazing series where he simply did not seem to be getting out: it was in this series that he set world records for batting the longest periods of time and facing the most number of balls without being dismissed (both have been mentioned above).

After scoring 140 at Bourda he scored one and 67 not out at Queen’s Park Oval. This was followed by 101 not out at Kensington Oval, 136 not out at St John’s (scored in 675 minutes from 510 balls), and then 58 (where he eventually got out) and 59 at Sabina Park. In all he scored 562 at 140.50 with three hundreds. With Hooper also scoring 579 at 82.71 India lost the series 1-2.

He was no mood to spare the Indians, and though West Indies lost 0-2 in India later that year ‘Tiger’ scored 260 at 65.00 including a 140 at Kolkata in the only Test that the tourists did not lose.
Twin records against Australians

The Australians toured West Indies in early 2003 and immediately had West Indies reeling at 53 for five in the first Test.  Chanderpaul then pulled off one of the most spectacular displays of batting Bourda has ever seen. Steve Waugh’s brigade, completely unprepared for such an onslaught, was caught completely unaware.

Chanderpaul blasted a hundred in 69 balls; it was then the third-fastest hundred (now the fourth-fastest) in the history of Test cricket. Not a single bowler was spared: the batting — right from the stance to the strokes — was at times so unorthodox that the Australian bowlers were left clueless. And yet, despite the amazing innings West Indies slumped to a nine-wicket defeat.

With Australia taking an unassailable 3-0 lead in the four-Test series the last Test at St John’s was a mere formality. For once West Indies matched the tourists, with Jermaine Lawson bowling out Australia for 240. West Indies were bowled out for the same score, and after a 242-run opening stand the hosts were left to score a world record 418 for a win.

The highest successful chase at that point of time was India’s 406 for four at Port-of-Spain 27 years back. With 0-3 down in the series the West Indian morale was at an all-time low, but still they set about the chase diligently. The openers took the score to 47 without loss on Day Three.

With the Australian attack now reinforced by the advent of McGrath West Indies were reduced to 74 for three on the fourth morning. Lara then led the counterattack, scoring an aggressive yet cautious 60, adding 91 with Ramnaresh Sarwan in the process. Chanderpaul walked out.

Footages of the innings should ideally be used for young batsmen willing to pull off large fourth-innings chases. Chanderpaul grafted out the innings brick by brick, taking every ball at a time. He also emerged from his usual shell and played some brilliant strokes. His fellow Guyanese provided him with the company he needed, and slowly Chanderpaul began to dominate the Australians.

Then came another twist: in an inspired burst Brett Lee removed Sarwan and Ridley Jacobs in successive balls, reducing West Indies to 288 for six. Things seemed out of reach now as Omari Banks walked out to join Chanderpaul. Chanderpaul, however, kept faith in his partner. Most crucially, he never allowed himself to be bogged down. By stumps Chanderpaul and Banks had added 84 in 135 balls, Banks scoring only 28 of them.

Chanderpaul fell early next morning — but not before he scored 104 of the finest runs. The 154-ball innings, studded with 17 fours and a six, was as good as any a connoisseur of the sport can come across. With Banks playing the sheet-anchor’s role to perfection Vasbert Drakes hit a few lusty blows to pull off the record chase.
The Lord’s epics

Few performances have epitomised the tale of the Guyanese than the Lord’s Test of 2004. West Indies began well after England scored 568, but the usual collapse happened and they slid from 118 without loss to 139 for four. The stage was set for Chanderpaul.

He added 125 with Dwayne Bravo in 159 minutes, 63 with Jacobs in 71 minutes, and 72 with Banks in 95 minutes. The three partnerships meant that the innings defeat was saved, but Chanderpaul still continued, and remained unbeaten on a 270-ball 128 with 15 fours as West Indies scored 416.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul: The torch-bearer of West Indian cricket in its dark days

Shivnarine Chanderpaul cuts on his way to a century on Day Three of the 1st Npower Test match against England at Lord s on July 24, 2004 © Getty Images

No, that wasn’t all: England batted at a brisk pace, Michael Vaughan scored his second hundred of the Test, and West Indies were set 478 in a day and a session. Chanderpaul walked out to bat at 102 for three after a Chris Gayle blitz on the fourth afternoon, and remained unbeaten at stumps. Wisden wrote: “[Shivnarine] Chanderpaul, back to his crustacean best after an indifferent run, nudged and nurdled — and unfurled the occasional bent-kneed belt through the covers”

On Day Five Lord’s was treated to some outstanding batting in a partnership between Lara and Chanderpaul. Both batsmen were playing for a win, and suddenly the English attack looked hopeless. Then, with the score on 172, Lara was bowled through the gate by Ashley Giles, and with him West Indies’ hope sank.

Chanderpaul hung around suffering a lot of blows on his body, and the longer he stayed the more the English shoulders dropped. He battled along, shielding the half-brothers Pedro Collins and Fidel Edwards for close to an hour and a half (after Tino Best had succumbed to Andrew Flintoff’s “mind the windows” sledge), but eventually his partners let him down. West Indies were bowled out for 267, and Chanderpaul was left stranded again on a 152-ball 97 with 18 fours.

He had played two innings in the Test, scoring 225 runs, and not getting dismissed in either of them. In the process he went past Saleem Malik’s 166 (82 not out and 84 not out) against England at Headingley in 1992 — the highest for any batsman remaining unbeaten throughout the Test and yet ending up on the losing side.

Captain of West Indies

Chanderpaul eventually got to lead West Indies in 2004-05 under controversial circumstances. Seven West Indian cricketers had personal contracts with Cable & Wireless, which clashed with DigiCel, the official sponsor of the national side. Despite repeated intimations from West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) the seven players — Lara, Sarwan, Bravo, Edwards, Gayle, Ravi Rampaul, and Dwayne Smith — refused to sever ties with Cable & Wireless. As a result all seven was dropped and Chanderpaul was instated as captain.

He began his tenure with a bang, that too in his hometown: Andre Nel reduced West Indies to 24 for two, and after a resistance from Donovan Pagon, Chanderpaul joined Wavell Hinds at 106 for three. They were still there at stumps, having added 241 in 310 balls. By now Chanderpaul had become the first West Indian to score a hundred in his debut innings as captain. It would also remain his career-best score.

Hinds fell for a 297-ball 213 the next morning, but the captain marched on. He eventually declared the innings closed at 543 for five; he had himself scored 203 not out in 370 balls with 23 boundaries, and became only the second batsman in history to score a double-hundred on captaincy debut (after Graham Dowling’s 239 at Christchurch in 1967-68).

South Africa then folded for 188, and were facing an innings-defeat at 119 for three before a 411-minute 109 not out from Kallis — one of the few batsmen in history to have matched Chanderpaul in terms of sheer concentration — managed to save them.

Lara and his gang returned from the next Test, but despite Chanderpaul’s heroics (450 runs at 90.00 with two hundreds) West Indies lost the series 0-2.

He won his first Test as captain against Pakistan at Kensington Oval, and played a crucial role in the Test: he scored 92 and added 169 with Lara for the fourth wicket; then, refusing to impose a follow-on despite a 201-run lead, he batted through the innings, scoring a 254-ball 153 not out with 10 fours and two sixes. The rest was a blur as Shahid Afridi bludgeoned his way to a 95-ball 122 and Gayle, of all people, won the Test with five for 91.

Two poor series later Chanderpaul stood down as captain to concentrate more on his batting. Lara was brought back at the helm. His tenure had lasted less than a year.
The purple patch

Eyebrows were raised when Chanderpaul was shortlisted for the World Cup squad of 2007, but he managed to respond in a manner as emphatic as only he could. After India scored 338 for three at Nagpur Chanderpaul, opening the batting (“he [Chanderpaul] is our best batsman so he had better open and be done with it”, said Gayle on being asked why he had asked Chanderpaul to open), tore into the Indian attack, matching Gayle stroke by stroke.

There were cameos from Samuels and Lara, but it was Chanderpaul who kept West Indies in the hunt. After Lara’s departure West Indies needed 98 from 57 balls with six wickets in hand, but Chanderpaul’s partners deserted him as West Indies finished at 324 for eight. Chanderpaul finished with 149 not out from 136 balls with 16 fours and three sixes.

Then came the high — the kind that few have matched in the history of the sport. He had 36 and 69 in the last Test at Lahore last season where West Indies was mauled by Mohammad Yousuf. Now he picked up things from where he had left, and sought out the poor Englishmen as his target.

As a sequence it read 74 at Lord’s, 50 and 116 not out at Old Trafford, and 136 not out and 70 at Chester-le-Street — all in the course of an emphatic 0-3 defeat. It was more to that, though: it was the way in which he wore the English bowlers down, over after over, session after session, day after day. In the series he scored 446 runs at 148.67.

His choice as a Wisden Cricketer of the Year was obvious. An exasperated Ryan Sidebottom said: “He [Chanderpaul] is so patient. He doesn’t give anything away. Even when you beat the bat, he still hangs in there. Nothing seems to affect him and if you are slightly off line, he will punish you.”

He followed it with 104 at St George’s Park (which was instrumental in a rare Test win for West Indies on South African soil) equalling the world record of seven consecutive fifties. Then, after a single failure, he was back to business at Newlands, scoring 65 not out and 70 not out in team totals of 243 and 262 respectively. It was déjà vu for West Indies: the opposition was strong, Chanderpaul conquered them, the other ten men succumbed, and West Indies lost.

As Sarwan had said much earlier, “I can’t find words to describe him [Chanderpaul]. He has been consistent. He gets better with age. All of us batters can learn something from him. It is important that we try and take a page out of his book in the way he batted and we got to continue to be positive.”

Early next season he single-handedly pulled off an amazing heist in an ODI at Queen’s Park Oval against Sri Lanka, scoring ten off the last two balls of Chaminda Vaas. It showed the kind of ominous form he was in.

Then came another run. It seemed that the law of averages would never touch him — or rather, it was something way, way beneath him: it wasn’t exactly seven consecutive fifties, but it was six on the trot — and eight in nine innings.

The sequence read: 86 not out against Sri Lanka at Port-of-Spain; 128 and 11 against Australia at Sabina Park; 107 not out and 77 not out against Australia at North Sound (this made him the first batsman to score two unbeaten fifties in a Test thrice); 79 not out and 50 against Australia at Kensington Oval; 76 against New Zealand at Dunedin; and 126 not out against New Zealand at Napier.

After the last innings Lynn McConnell wrote in Napier Sportal: “The patient [Shivnarine] Chanderpaul, Champion West Indian batsman, has often been the bulwark of his side’s batting, a player whose defensive technique is as good as any in the game and who has concentration powers to shut down scoring mode sufficiently should survival be more important for his side. In these days of dash and bash it is an old-fashioned concept but one that still has merit in the longer version of the game.”

The streak left bowlers and captains around the world exasperated: as Ricky Ponting rightly pointed out, “We need to do a little bit more homework on [Shivnarine] Chanderpaul and work out how to dismiss him.” Mitchell Johnson, on the other hand, said that his side “his side does have plans to get ‘Tiger’ [Chanderpaul] out — they just are not working too well.”

It was impossible to deny him the ICC Player of the Year Award. The ICC President announced: “Shivnarine [Chanderpaul] has been a rock in the West Indies batting line-up for many years and he thoroughly deserves this award. His contribution to the game has been immense and he epitomises the sort of dedication, bravery and skill required to excel at the highest level.”
The Holy Grail

Time passed. Champions disappeared from the arena as new ones took their place. Twenty20 became the new obsession. IPL was conceived. Commentators went gaga over DLF Maximums and became keen on promoting Strategic Timeouts on air.

Elsewhere, Chanderpaul walked out to bat at 27 for two Kensington Oval against Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, and scored a 179-ball 71 (yes, not out) as his side was bowled out for 161 and lost miserably; he fought back a 143-run lead at Roseau and scored 116 not out against India to save a Test; and then, on a Delhi turner, he top-scored in each innings, scoring 118 and 47 before India romped to victory.

Then, against Australia at Roseau in 2012, Chanderpaul pushed Michael Clarke to mid-wicket — probably the stroke that characterises Chanderpaul’s batting the most — for his 14th run in the second innings to reach the ultimate dream for a batsman — 10,000 Test runs.

Darren Bravo, the man at the other end during when the milestone was achieved, later said: “Batting with Shiv [Chanderpaul] when he achieved his 10,000th run was a special feeling and really nice to be out there with him and share the moment.”

Of course, the landmark had to come in a Test that epitomised Chanderpaul’s career: he top-scored in each innings with 68 and 69 as West Indies lost.

Accolades poured in. Mickey Arthur said: “He’s certainly thwarted our bowlers. He’s shown why he’s got 10,000 runs in Test cricket. Very uncomplicated technique even though it looks very weird on the eye. He’s been outstanding — to get him right at the end of the day has just lifted out dressing room hugely.”

Viv Richards complimented him as well: “In a team of inexperienced players, Shivnarine [Chanderpaul] has done as much as any West Indian batsman of the past. I have him up there with the very best — [Brian] Lara, [Garry] Sobers. He’s at the top of tree as far as I’m concerned because of the teams he has played in.”

Rodney Hogg chipped in characteristic style: “If [Shivnarine] Chanderpaul had a live grenade in his pocket or a runaway train up his chaminda he would still leave the next delivery outside his offstump.”

Passing on the mantle

Even at this age it doesn’t look like he’s going to give up anytime soon. His last six Test innings have fetched 43 not out, 203 not out (equalling his career-best), one, 150 not out, 26, and 108.

Then, on March 6, 2013 Chanderpaul took field against Trinidad and Tobago at Queen’s Park Oval. Playing along him was his son Tagenarine, who was born when Shivnarine was less than 21. They were the first father-and-son pair playing First-Class cricket together since Denis and Heath Streak for Matabeleland against Mashonaland at Bulawayo in 1996.

The son scored 42 and 29, but once again it was the father who stole the show: chasing 376 he came out at 187 for five and saw his side slump to 194 for seven. He went on add 73 with Paul Wintz and 60 with Devendra Bishoo, but eventually Guyana fell short by 45 as Chanderpaul scored the only hundred of the match.

Will he ever stop? If yes, when?

In Photos: Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s cricketing career

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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