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Interview with Shivnarine Chanderpaul: Part 1

TMC Editor Nikhil Puri recently had the opportunity to catch up with Shiv Chanderpaul here in New York, who was travelling on his way to South Africa for the Champions League T20 tournament. In Part 1 of the interview, Chanderpaul talks about the most difficult bowlers he has faced, characters in the West Indies dressing room, and some of his peers…

Nikhil Puri: Shiv, first of all, thank you very much for meeting with us.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul: No worries, it’s a pleasure. Glad to have you guys here.

NP: Are you looking forward to playing in the Champions League?

SC: Yes, most definitely. It should be a great tournament with players from all around the world. I am playing for Uva, a Sri Lankan side and we have our qualifiers this week. We have some good talent, Shoaib (Malik), Jacob (Oram), Gul (Umar), Macdonald (Andrew). We have a good chance in the tournament.

NP: How was the Sri Lanka Premier League in general? Was it fiercely competitive?

SC: It was good fun. It was a new bunch of players playing for a new team, and the cricket was very good. Hopefully we can replicate some of the same cricket in South Africa.

NP: Were you able to catch any of the cricket today? (West Indies had beaten Australia in the World T20 semifinal)

SC: No, I was traveling, so couldn’t catch it unfortunately, but what happened?

The TMC team goes on to tell him about the victory, in particular Chris Gayle’s star performance.

NP: Tell us a bit about Chris Gayle the person then. Is Gayle the biggest character in the house, along with Samuels?

SC:  Yes, he is a character, a very funny guy, very laid back. And an amazing performer for the West Indies. He is always up to something!

NP: And what about the Gangnam style dance?

SC: (smiles) Yes, I’ve been hearing from the boys, I hear it’s become quite a hit with the team.

NP: What about some of the other players you’ve shared dressing rooms with? Virat Kohli, Dale Steyn, Kevin Pietersen?

SC: Virat, yeah he’s a funny lad yeah. In the dressing room, he’s always up to no good. But his batting, man its come a long way since I first saw him. He’s on a golden run right now, everything he does turns to gold. Dale Steyn’s also a nice guy. He’s very focused and intense on the field, but off it, he’s a great guy.

NP: And KP, what do you think of the whole KP situation that just happened?

SC: KP, I think he just wants to play cricket. I think he realized he made a mistake, and everyone makes mistakes, but he will come back from it. I think deep down inside he just wants to play cricket and do well for his country. He wants his kids to grow up watching him play for England and proudly put the England jersey on. I think deep down inside he wants to perform for a long time to come.

NP: What was it like to bat with Brian Lara in his prime: was it intimidating or inspirational?

Lara and Shiv, good mates on and off the field

SC: Brian was a genius with the bat, in a class of his own. I really enjoyed batting with Brian. I have learned a lot from him over the years. He made it easier for you at the other end. He was always encouraging you and I had a grand stand view of him at the crease carving out centuries after centuries. Brian and myself have been involved in several large partnerships for the West Indies.

NP: We interviewed Lara recently and he claimed that although Ricky Ponting is now one of the greatest batsmen to have played the game, at one point in the mid 90s he was on par with you and it was difficult to distinguish between the two of you. Lara went on to say that you could have been a much better player than Ponting, but you were hampered by the lack of facilities and the poor administration in West Indies cricket. Do you agree with this statement? If yes, drawing from your experience, what needs to be done better in the West Indies to help the players be the best they can be?

SC: I do agree with what was said by Brian. In retrospect, it is good to be aligned with a master like Ponting. He is a great player. A complete reorganization of WI cricket is needed. Better coaching, better facilities, better functioning regional boards. The WICB are in the process of making the necessary changes. They have started to develop some very good facilities in the Caribbean and hopefully it will continue in the future.

NP: We’ve seen a small, but gradual resurgence in West Indies cricket over the past year or two with Darren Sammy at the helm. How do you rate Sammy as a captain?

SC: It was a surprise selection as was evidenced by the reaction of the general public. There were other senior players who could have been considered for the position. However, he is gradually growing into the job and the future holds well for him and the team.

Ian Chin: There are times when people say he isn’t good enough or that he is holding up a spot in the team. What do you think about that?

SC: Well, I have heard that too, but for the most part Sammy has done a good job. He always tries really hard and has the best interests of the team in his heart.

NP: Do you believe that West Indies is building towards challenging for the next World Cup in 2015? Will you be around as the elder statesman of the side then?

SC: They are working towards that goal. I am already not even being considered for ODI matches. Chances are that I may not be considered, based on what is going on currently.

NP: Australia tour to the West Indies. This looks like a very promising tour for cricket lovers. Yes, Australia recently thrashed India at home 4-0, but playing away against a West Indies side that is on the up and knows the conditions well should provide compelling viewing. Do you believe your side has a chance of winning the series? Note, this was a question sent to Shiv early in 2012.

SC: In retrospect, we did well against the Aussies. They are always a tough opponent.

NP: Who are some of the youngsters you look to now to carry the batting once people like yourself and Sarwan retire? Darren Bravo? Adrian Barath? Kirk Edwards?

SC: Those names would be some of the leading players to take over.

Ian Chin: What is your take on Darren Bravo? Does he remind you of Brian?

SC: He is really talented man. He is a very good player, and will be for a long time to come. He does look like Brian when he bats a bit, but he has a long way to go before he can match Brian. I hope he does though.

Ian Chin: Shiv, your method to take guard at the crease is very distinct from other batsmen. From whom did you learn to use the bail to mark your position at the crease?

SC: I started off playing on very hard surfaces, and it was very difficult to maintain your guard on these pitches, so I became creative and started using the bail to penetrate the pitch.

Ian Chin: What was your most special hundred ever?

SC: It would have to be my first hundred at Bourda. It was an amazing feeling, your whole home crowd cheering you on, it was special. It was an amazing moment and I can’t quite describe how good it was to score runs in front of your home fans.

NP: Who do you believe is the most challenging fast bowler you have ever faced? The most challenging spinner?

SC: Both Murli and Warne were difficult to negiotate. Kumble was good, too, from India, but we knew he didn’t like bowling to left-handers that much. Swann always keeps it there and thereabouts. He is a very English style spinner, keeps it flat and straight, hard to get away, wicket to wicket. In terms of fast bowlers, Wasim Akram was a challenge. A great swing bowler.

There was a test in Karachi being played once. Hooper was on 80 odd, and I was batting with him at the other end. Wasim was bowling, doing magic with the ball man, moving it both ways. When the ball don’t move he make it seam. Wasim took himself off to change ends. Hooper came to me in between the overs and said, “I’m gonna make my century before Wasim comes back on to bowl.” Next over, Hooper hit Saqlain for two fours and a six. One of the fours, he mistimed it and it dabbled in the air over point, and poor Mushy (Mushtaq Ahmed) had his hands in the air, all flustered, couldn’t manage to catch the ball and the ball rolled away for four. Next over, Azhar Mahmood came on to change Wasim’s ends. Hooper comes to bat, hits Mahmood for four, and makes his century. Next over, Wasim comes on to bowl, and gets Hooper first up! It was brilliant bowling. Wasim bowled a couple of balls that went across Hooper, with the left armers angle. He saw that Hooper had a bit of a gap between bat and pad. The next ball, Wasim pushed the ball a bit wider, drawing Hooper out for the drive. Hooper left the ball alone. The next ball, Wasim sensed his man, and started the ball a bit wider, except this time, he got the ball to dart back in, and the ball went through Hooper’s bat and pad to get him bowled. It was amazing stuff.

Hammad Rana: Three Pakistani fast bowlers: Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akthar, how would you rank them against each other?

SC: Wasim was top for me. He could do magic with the ball. He was really difficult to face in his peak because he could make the ball talk.  Shoaib, when he was on fire, he could run through an opposition. But he was not as consistent.

Ian Chin: Who were some of the other fast bowlers you found challenging?

SC: Steve Harmison. When he was on song, man was he hard to play. There was a series in the West Indies a few years ago where Harmison was getting the ball to rise off a length, bowling around 97 miles an hour. The ball was whizzing past our heads. Was lucky to survive that spell. Brett Lee, he was always at you. No matter what the situation, you always had to watch him because he would come at you hard. I remember in 2008 he hit me in the helmet, I couldn’t eat for days. I had a straw to sip liquid. That was scary! Dale Steyn is another guy who is a great competitor.

“I couldn’t eat for days after Lee hit me on my helmet”

Ian Chin: The West Indies last won a major trophy (Note, this was before Sunday’s Twenty20 final) in 2004 at the Champion’s Trophy. How was it to be part of a winning side?

SC: It was great, we won that at the Oval, against England, so it felt good. I remember Bradshaw and Brownie ( Courtney Browne) were batting. Courtney told Bradshaw, the two of us have to win this, because everyone knew Corey (Collymore) can’t bat to save his life. The two decided they had to bring it home themselves, and they did. Was a great feeling.

NP: Tell us a dressing room story, something you wouldn’t hear out of the dressing room.

SC: Ah, so many stories. Let me think of one. [pauses] Yeah there was this one time in Australia. I was batting on 70 odd against Western Australia. One of the fast bowlers, I think it was Bichel bowled me a bouncer and I played too early, missed it and it cracked a rib, although I didn’t know at the time. I kept batting, ended up scoring 130 odd, came back in the dressing room, and had our physio Dennis Waight check me out. He said I’d cracked a rib and I wasn’t fit to play. I said there’s no way I’m going home, I’m playing on. He said fine, but you have to keep it to yourself, otherwise my job is on the line, so I agreed. The rest of the tour I was holding an ice pack to my rib. All the boys were wondering what happened. So Curtly comes to me and takes a bunch of paper towels, throws it at me and says, You no Chanderpaul, you’re “Paper-paul”.  So a few weeks later, we’re playing a test match, again in Perth. This time, Ambrose is batting, he gets hit on the rib, and he’s really vexed, real angry. Everybody knows when Curtly’s vexed nobody goes near him. He’s the nicest guy, except for when he’s angry. So this time, he’s in the changing room alone, and the changing room had a big table in the center, where he lay down. So nobody was near him, because everyone knew to stay away from Curtly when he was vexed. So I went in there, and Curtly was holding his rib, so this time,  I threw a bunch of paper towels at him. Curtly wanted to laugh but his rib hurt so hard, he couldn’t even laugh, so he didn’t know what to do. We still joke about that many times.

In Part 2 (releasing this Thursday), Shiv talks about West Indies cricket, where it all went wrong, his hope for the future, including the new up and coming Chanderpaul on the block, and his involvement with U.S. cricket…Till next time…


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