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JEFF BROOMES: Hold your head high, Shiv


JEFF BROOMES: Hold your head high, Shiv

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I FIRST MET Shivnarine Chanderpaul in 1991 at Up Park Camp in Jamaica when he, as a teenager, batted through two innings against the Barbados Youth team without being dismissed in either of them.

Indeed, he eventually retired ill in the second innings suffering from a severe case of dehydration. He batted that long with immense determination in extreme heat.

To me, a star had been pitched.

During the course of that match he celebrated his 17th birthday. The decency in him came shining through as he ensured that his birthday cake was shared among the players of both teams. Indeed, for the following three years, I was the welcoming recipient of a slice of cake on each birthday. On one occasion, it was sent up from Guyana to me here in Barbados. That was the manifestation of the close bond that we began then and have continued unabated.

When Shiv played in his debut game for the West Indies, I travelled to Bourda to give him the support consistent with a commitment that I had made to him that I would be in attendance whenever he played his first Test match. I sat in the Kenny Weishart Stand and proudly observed him strut his stuff against England.

All told, I believe that I have seen him play in excess of 50 Test innings. I met him as a tiger and I supported him and his development as a mature and determined individual with all the traits that define that animal.

I last saw Shiv at the Grantley Adams Internatinal Airport in March when he passed through with the Guyana team from Dominica. He informed me that he would be leaving home soon to attend the pre-series training in preparation for the England tour. He extended his best wishes to my wife and daughter, to whom he had a definite affinity. We gave each other a manly hug and parted as he went on to board his plane and I left to head home. I saw the same strength of character and determination of spirit. The Tiger was unbowed and unbroken.

This was important to me because of what I had seen on television from the series in South Africa. This giant who had played in excess of 160 test matches and scored more than 11 500 runs, was showing signs that I had never seen before. He was late in getting in line and doubtful in shot selection.  His focus and commitment to success and the good of the team were still there and were the traits that were carrying him. I was concerned.

I committed myself to watch almost every shot that Shiv played in the matches against England. I was hoping and praying that what I had seen against South Africa was a result of a lack of form or a lack of consistent cricket. These, I said to myself, would be easily archived once he stepped on to the fields here in the Caribbean. 

Unfortunately for me, I was wrong. What I saw in South Africa was even more prevalent against England. Failure for this outstanding West Indian batsman was not acceptable for me.

While at Kensington Oval, I recalled the many great innings he played and the overwhelming satisfaction he had given me and true lovers of the game. I accepted that what I knew would come some day had come just too soon for me. 

Shivnarine Chanderpaul, one of the great West Indian batsmen, was no longer the same. Maybe age had caught up and slowed his reflexes or maybe his eyes had just blurred that tiny little bit, thereby giving the ball the edge over him. Time had caught up with this Colossus who had so often carried West Indies cricket on his back.

During that same week at Kensington, I had the privilege of having a short conversation with Clive Lloyd. I commended him for his approach to rebuilding the West Indies team. I supported the youth policy as opposed to the usual recycling. Of course, some of the experienced players who were kept as mentors had not lived up to expectations.

The decision that was eventually made by chairman Lloyd and his panel upset many.  That is to be expected and will get louder when the embryonic failures come as part of the development process. That is a consistent reaction to change!

Leaders, however, must take actions and make decisions consistent with their strategic focus. Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s time has come, and I am in total support of the decision to go forward without him at this time.

Go with your head held high, Shiv. You did your part and history will be extremely kind to you.

We thank you for your selfless commitment to the good of this game and our region!

Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator, principal and community organiser who also served as a vice president of the BCA and director of the WICB. Email: [email protected]