By David Green
Brian Lara is right. As a batsman with 140 Tests and more than 10,000 runs at an average of over 50, Shivnarine Chanderpaul has to bat at No 3 for the West Indies. His continued refusal to do so smacks of self-interest and is a serious disservice to his inexperienced team mates.
There’s no doubting Chanderpaul’s qualities to stick around and bat with the tail, but West Indies need far more than that from their premier batsman. Chanderpaul needs to shape innings, not continually try and revive them by walking to the crease with his side three wickets down for not a lot.
One can only surmise that he is more worried about his average and the risk of stepping out of his comfort zone at five than doing what is required for the team. He has an excellent record in England and has proved before that he can cope with the bowler-friendly conditions that prevail in England in May. He now needs to take on the added responsibility of batting at three so as to provide the platform for the likes of Kirk Edwards and Darren Bravo to flourish when they come to the wicket.
It is bad enough that Chris Gayle’s absence means that West Indies are left with a wholly inexperienced opening pair of Adrian Barath and Kieran Powell, who despite the latter’s hundred against the Lions last week are wholly unprepared for facing James Anderson and Stuart Broad in swing and seam friendly English conditions. The word that most readily comes to mind is mismatch. To compound that by having the talented but inexperienced Edwards at three does not reflect well on Chanderpaul – especially as coach Ottis Gibson has been lobbying for him to move up the order.
Last summer, Rahul Dravid proved once again that he was the ultimate team-man by helping India out of a hole by opening the batting at Trent Bridge and The Oval. He left with his reputation enhanced and three more Test hundreds under his belt. Does Chanderpaul have the wherewithal to do the same and lose the feeling of some observers, that with him it’s Shiv first, team second? The next few weeks will tell us more.
(David Green is the brain behind the irreverent The Reverse Sweep blog and also writes for a number of cricket publications and sites such as World Cricket Watch. You can follow him on Twitter also@TheReverseSweep. David was a decent schoolboy and club cricketer (and scored his maiden 100 the same week that Sachin Tendulkar scored his first Test ton) but not good enough to fulfil his childhood dream of emulating Douglas Jardine by winning the Ashes in Australia and annoying the locals into the bargain. He now lives with his wife and two young children in the South of France and will one day write the definitive biography of Hedley Verity)