Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s love affair with India, seemingly a distant memory, was renewed here yesterday. Chanderpaul, of Indian descent, who at the age of 20 played the Nagpur Test in December 1994, had to wait eight years to revisit the country in 2002, and another nine years, after battling doubters, at the age of 37, to once again go down on two knees and kiss an Indian turf at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium.
It’s perhaps a shame that the ongoing Delhi Test is only his sixth on Indian soil in almost 17 years, and 23rd overall against his favourite opponent. His seventh ton against India yesterday comes just five months after a face-off with West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) threatened to end his career. In June this year, he said in an interview that the board tried to force him to retire. The following month, ‘Chanders’ created history in new Caribbean venue, Dominica by becoming the most-capped West Indies player. In the same Test, he scored a match-saving knock of 116 against India that he rated “as one of his best innings”.
In an indirect attack on WICB, Chanderpaul, who en route his century yesterday became the second highest run scorer in the Caribbean after Brian Lara, said he has never been given the credit for scoring 9,604 runs. “I think so ¦ I’m not too sure… but I think so. I was just playing my game and focused on that,” he told reporters after stumps were drawn. On the selection controversy, Chanderpaul, who scored an unbeaten 121, said: “I stick to what I think and what I can control. There is stuff that I cannot control. I don’t think about them. I am only focussed on scoring runs.”
Chanderpaul, who made his debut at hometown Guyana in March 1994, had to wait for exactly three years, and a small matter of 19 Tests and a tally of 13 fifties, to finally achieve the magical three-figure mark, against India at Bridgetown in March 1997. The love affair that began in Barbados culminated in the Indian capital yesterday. “This hundred means a lot to me because in the beginning I never really used to convert half-centuries into hundreds but now I have been able to do so. I am happy,” he added.
Pragyan Ojha (3-58) couldn’t stop admiring “the legend”. “More than his stance, he brings a lot of experience. We had a couple of half-chances while he was sweeping the ball. I enjoyed bowling to the legend,” the left-arm spinner said.