Sunday, 24 January 2016

A tale of two left-handers

Tonight's blog recognises the talent of two very different left-hand batsmen, both of them, as they say, formerly of this parish.

First up is a warm well done to Usman Khawaja, for steering what had previously seemed the ironically named Sydney Thunder to their first Big Bash. They had previously been seen as the competition's version of Derbyshire, with only eleven wins in 41 matches. Nine of those have come under the now retired Michael Hussey, who skippered the side with a fine combo of flair coupled with common sense.

On present form, Khawaja could pick up a plank and caress boundaries. His timing is sublime and he played three innings in that competition that were as good as any I have seen. He will never be a bludgeoner, like Gayle or Pollard, but when you time a ball as well as he does, his modified technique and improved musculature sees the ball race away. I was wrong about him never being a one-day player and am happy to admit that.

I watched a good bit of the competition and can say without fear of contradiction that Derbyshire do not have a monopoly on batting collapses and naivety. What surprised me throughout was the number of sides that collapsed when a relatively easy run chase was in hand, or who threw wickets away in playing big shots when only working it around the field was required.

It is a pressurised game, without doubt and separates the men from the boys. The number of big names who have given it away when there was no real need has been remarkable, yet the same has happened at international level this week.

How India lost - rather threw away  - their fourth one-day game against Australia is beyond me. Yet they are increasingly a side where the top four bat like film stars and the rest like novice amateur dramatics volunteers. The brilliance of Dhawan, Kohli and Sharma is undeniable, yet after Dhoni the rest buckled and played ridiculous, expansive shots when all it needed was a little common sense.

Finally tonight, Shivnarine Chanderpaul is now retired from the international game, 45 runs short of Brian Lara's international record for the West Indies. Regular readers may recall my writing two years ago that he would never be allowed to pass Lara, and so it came to pass. Politics run high in the Caribbean and an attritional batsman like Shiv was never going to be allowed to be number one over the flamboyant, diametrically opposed Lara.

There will always be those who will say he was overly protective of his average, or that he batted too negatively. Truth be told Shiv was often the only way that the sides he played for scored big runs, so he did what he had to do. There were times when perhaps a Guptill-like blast may have served him and the team better, but you cannot argue with eleven thousand and counting Test runs.

We didn't see the best of Shiv in Derbyshire colours, although the work ethic of the man impressed all who worked with him. He batted for hours in the nets, reckoning it the only way  to prepare for doing so in the middle. His comments and insight into batting will have been precious for young cricketers.

For supporters, like me, there will always be something magical in casting the mind back to the voice announcing his arrival at the wicket. The best days had gone, but even in his later days, it was a privilege to watch his unique style and steady accumulation in Derbyshire colours.

In my dotage I may forget the minutiae of games, but never forget seeing Shiv Chanderpaul bat for Derbyshire.

Thanks to those that made it happen.

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