Both Rahul Dravid (left) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul are insufferably patient, frequently crossing over to the phlegmatic, with crease occupation being their trump card. Not the most attractive methods, but they deliver, time and again © Getty Images
Both Rahul Dravid (left) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul are insufferably patient, frequently crossing over to the phlegmatic, with crease occupation being their trump card. Not the most attractive methods, but they deliver, time and again © Getty Images

 

By Madan Mohan

 

In the last few months, attention has been on Sachin Tendulkar’s much-awaited landmark of a 100 international centuries. In the meantime, it’s Rahul Dravid who’s shored up the efforts of the Indian batting line-up with an amazing late revival of form. And on West Indies’s return to Indian shores after a gap of 10 years, Shivnarine Chanderpaul continues to frustrate India. Had West Indies prevailed, his century would have been the difference between both sides.

 

And yet, barring such moments of crisis for their respective teams, the contributions of both batsmen often go unnoticed. Theirs seems to be an almost invisible presence. Their consistency and reliability is taken for granted in the same breath as it is heavily banked on for favourable results. Both teams need big runs from Dravid and Chanderpaul, as applicable, but not many fans from either country would be too chuffed about getting to watch either batsman.  Dravid is orthodox and staid. Chanderpaul’s technique is both unorthodox and ugly. They are also insufferably patient, frequently crossing over to the phlegmatic, with crease occupation being their trump card. Not the most attractive methods, but they deliver, time and again.

 

The parallels don’t end there. Both batsmen have thrived in the shadow of more illustrious and flamboyant batsmen in the line-up – coincidentally, the two greatest Test batsmen of their era.   If Dravid has been content to play second fiddle to Tendulkar, Chanderpaul too had to defer to the presence of Brian Lara for a major part of his career. But Lara didn’t quite boast the longevity of Tendulkar.  So, unlike Dravid, Chanderpaul has since slipped unobtrusively into the role of the batting mainstay of West Indies.

 

In both cases, one look at their records would silence those who disdain them for lack of aesthetic appeal. Dravid has compiled nearly 13,000 runs in Test cricket at an average of 53 with an astounding 35 centuries. Most impressively, his average away is slightly higher than at home. While Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly have all contributed at various times to India’s famous away wins, Dravid has been the most indispensable cog in the wheel and rightly earned the sobriquet of “Mr. Dependable”.

 

If Chanderpaul falls short of greatness, it’s not by much. He has scored 9,600 runs at an average of 49.50 with 24 centuries. West Indies have not enjoyed the batting riches of India in the last 10 years. So, after Lara and Chanderpaul, there’s daylight before we get to the next respectable West Indies batsman from the last 15 years. Ramnaresh Sarwan, for instance, has only scored 5,800 runs at an average of 40 and has lately struggled with poor nick.

 

The burden on Chanderpaul is arguably more than that on Dravid, but he has patiently shouldered the responsibility in a manner more easily traced to his native roots than to the nation he represents. He has struck 10 of his 24 centuries from June 2007 onwards, that is, post Lara’s retirement from international cricket. Sadly, West Indies’s results have gone from bad to worse during this period and Chanderpaul’s performances have gone vain more often than not.  It is a situation Dravid only faced in the recent tour of England for the first time as his three magnificent tons on the series were all struck in lost causes.

 

In the ongoing Test match at Delhi, Chanderpaul found a new level and played very positive knocks in both innings, going for his shots rather than hanging around on a difficult pitch. He showed that he has not only attained the maturity to assess match situations well but also acquired the skill to handle the varied batting nuances he is faced with.

 

In the last few months, India has finally gone from quiet adoration of Dravid to fervent admiration of his resilience and temperament. Hopefully, the West Indies too will shower just a bit of affection on Chanderpaul, who couldn’t be any further removed from the Calypso way of cricket.

 

(Madan Mohan, a 25-year old CA from Mumbai, is passionate about writing, music and cricket. Writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake)