This article was originally published on May 23, 2013.
It’s the day before Derbyshire take on Middlesex in the County Championship at Lord’s, and yep, you guessed it, Shivnarine Chanderpaul is in the nets. Phil Walker waits patiently for the hardest-working man in cricket to block the bowling machine into submission before talking parenthood, epic knocks and capital rhymes.
So it’s another season of county cricket for you, Shiv. Why Derbyshire this time round?
It’s a bunch of young guys and I’m excited to be working with them as one of the older ones. Derby is pretty decent for me and the family – a little cold but you expect that! My son is here with me also; he’s playing at Stainsby and he’s played a couple of games already. He’s enjoying it there.
I’ve heard he’s a good player…
Ah, he’s okay, he’s okay! He needs to do a little more work to get better but he’s in the perfect place to do that.
Is he a leftie like you?
He is a left-hander, and he has the ability to bowl the ball with both hands.
Really! Does he bat a bit like you then?
Nah, I don’t think so, he got his own style…
Has anybody ever batted like you, Shiv?
I don’t think so!
So what can Derbyshire achieve this year, realistically? It’s their first time back in the big time for a few years…
They’re young fellas and I think they’ve done really well to get back up there. Now they’ve got to keep believing in themselves. They need to have the self-belief that it’s not that much of a difference from what they were playin’ last year. It’ll be a little tougher, but we’ve just got to work a little harder and realise that every time we step on the park it’ll be hard work, but if we prepare well we should do well when the time comes.
Talking of preparation, is it true that you sometimes net for five, six hours in a row?
Not quite six hours! But two or three hours, for sure. I just finished after two hours in the indoor school [at Lord’s], and that’s what you need to do.
How do you do it? Are you working entirely on the bowling machine? Or is it specific drills?
I work on everything! I do some work against the bowlers in the nets and then go indoor and work on the skills, often with another guy [in this case fellow left-hander Billy Godleman] so we can work on things together. I’m happy to have him in there and if he wants to work on something specific I can help him with that.
I want to talk about your style. I’ve never seen anything like it. Where did it originate, and how the hell can you describe it?
It’s something I’ve been working on over the years. It’s all about keeping your head as still as possible and working on your balance.
So the stillness of your head’s the secret? Because there’s a lot of movement before the ball is bowled but then, when it’s delivered, you’re in the right position?
Yeah, once you’re as still as possible and you’re in a decent position, then you’re ready to play the ball, you know.
Makes sense! I remember watching your debut on the telly, at Guyana in 1994 against England, and your technique has changed almost beyond recognition over the years…
Yeah, I used to walk across my stumps a lot and fall over, and it was because my balance was not quite right. So I’ve worked on staying more upright over the years.
And this thing that you’ve got a crab-like style, do you take it as a compliment or do you not take any notice?
It doesn’t bother me what people say. The main thing is performance. People can label me what they want. All I gotta do is get out there and get the job done…
Do you ever watch yourself back on TV and study yourself?
Sometimes I’ll watch back. Most of the time I have it in the back of my head where I’ve gone wrong in the day’s play, and every mistake is in my head. It’s something I grew up with, I can memorise the day’s play, and everything’s that’s happened is in the back of my head. By the end of the day I have a pretty good memory of what I’ve done, I have a programme in my head of what’s happened, what’s gone well and what’s not gone well.
It’s incredible to watch you, because sometimes when you play for theWest Indies things are going well and everything’s great, and other times wickets are falling all over the place, and yet you’re impassive at the other end. How do you manage to process it all, while batting for hour after hour? And what does go through your mind when the boys are really struggling?
Sometimes it’s pretty difficult when you’re watching the wickets tumble, but you have to get the job done. There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of pressure. You just have to try and focus on the job at hand. Focus on the board. If I’m still there, then we have a chance to get the total. The only way I can help the team is if I’m still there in the middle. You need to keep your head clear and do whatever’s possible to get the job done.
Do you feel a responsibility to help the younger West Indian batsmen?
I think it’s the same with the young players wherever I go. I’ve already done a lot of work with some of the very exciting young guys at Derby, who you can see really want to do well.
Do they come up to you and ask for your help?
A lot of the guys come up and ask a lot of questions but the only way I can help is if I look and see what’s happening, then I can pick up a thing or two and help as much as I can.
When you were over here in 2007 you batted for 1,000 minutes in the Test series without getting out, and that’s just crazy. But I’ve also seen you smash it to all parts, sweeping Harmison over your shoulder in a one-dayer, playing these incredible shots – and then there’s that 69-ball Test hundred against Australia of course. When you’re playing four- and five-day cricket, do you consciously have to rein yourself in?
A lot of times when I’m batting there’s a lot of balls I can hit, but I just shut myself out early doors, and say ‘I’m not going to play at that’, and I say to myself, ‘Have a look, have a look’. I give myself a chance to get in, and even then you don’t want to be playing too many shots because the ball is always going to do something and you have to be a little watchful out there.
That 69-ball hundred against Australia – it was such a change from everything else you’ve ever done in Test cricket. What happened that day?
Ah, it was just one of those days. From the first ball I timed it to the boundary and I just went with it, you know?
Not really, but go on…
I’d come off the back of two good hundreds in regional games, against the fast bowlers from Jamaica and the Leeward Islands, and then Australia came to Bourda, my home town [in Georgetown, Guyana], and after I timed the first ball, everything I hit seemed to run away on that outfield. I just found the gap and it went.
So it was completely natural?
I didn’t think about it, I was just in the zone, and when the announcer say it was 69 balls I was like, ‘What?’
Okay, you’ve made 10,000 Test runs, you average 50-plus in Test cricket: do you see yourself next to the other greats of your era – Lara, Kallis, Tendulkar, Hayden, Ponting etc? Because your record suggests that you should be…
Ah man, I don’t know. It’s not for me to decide…
Oh, come on!
Nah, I’m just focused on playing my cricket.
You must at least be proud of your record?
Well, a little bit. I’m hoping I can be a little better than some of the things I’ve done in the past. There’s still a lot of stuff I want to achieve.
And what of this West Indies side? What does the future hold?
We’ve got some bright young fellas coming through, like Darren Bravo and Kieran Powell.
Any young quicks?
Shannon Gabriel from Jamaica, and Sheldon Cotterrell, also from Jamaica – who hasn’t played for West Indies yet – is pretty sharp as well, so he’ll be knocking on the door pretty soon.
Finally then, you’ve spent a lot of time in England over the years – what do you like about the place?
Ah, there’s a lot of places you can go and sightsee – all the places you be hearing about as a little boy in school, and hearing all these nursery rhymes about London Bridge and all the other stuff you be hearing – and now me and my family have the opportunity to see all these things we see on the BBC News. The Eye of London [sic], we see the Big Ben, all these things we knew from a long time ago, from when we were ruled by the British. I was really happy for my son that he got to see these places because he listened so keenly to the rhymes at school!
And what about the music over here?
We listen to all the music! The beauty about the Caribbean is that we listen to everything so you get accustomed to all of it, and we enjoy it.
Do you dance?
Man, I would love to, but I can’t!