STEADY BATTING When Shivnarine Chanderpaul announced his retirement from international cricket recently, it just confirmed what everyone already knew – he would never play cricket for the West Indies again. The selectors had forced his hand by making it clear that they wouldn’t pick the little man again. It’s a pity because ‘Shiv’ has been obliged to walk away from the Test arena just 86 runs short of the all-time Test record held by Brian Lara. The position is that ‘Shiv’ couldn’t be picked just to chase a personal milestone. Underlying that position, one supposes, is a belief that he was long past his best. For those who treasure statistics, Shiv ends his Test career so near and yet so far. As a batsman who has scored almost 12,000 Test runs and nearly 9,000 runs in One Day Internationals, he surely would have gotten past the record had selection not been denied to him. In an era when fans of West Indian cricket have little to cheer about, Shiv’s approach to the record would have given them something to talk about. Interestingly, it is Lara who has said Shiv’s departure from the realm of international cricket has not been well handled. Shiv’s steady and productive presence in the maroon cap may yet be celebrated with pomp and ceremony, but so far, it has dropped as loudly as a feather floating down to a surface covered in carpet. The little Guyanese wasn’t perfect for all situations. Safe to a fault, there were times when the team needed him to press on and to accelerate his rate of scoring. That’s one thing he seems unable, or some say, unwilling to do. Of all the statistics his career heralded, his 49 not outs is probably the one that will bear the most analysis. To say he valued his wicket greatly is an understatement. He scored 30 Test centuries in his international career. Statistically, his highest test score, 203, also tells a tale of steady batting. For him to score 11,867 runs without a triple century or any totals over 250 is remarkable. The corresponding measure is that he passed the 50 run mark 66 times in his career. You can’t avoid thinking that this former West Indies captain, who has a Test average of 51.37 runs, would have found 86 runs had he been selected more in these last few years. Besides that, his experience might have aided young debutant captain Jason Holder as the tall Barbadian seeks to find his feet in a challenging arena. That’s all moot now. At 41, Shivnarine Chanderpaul has taken the step all sportsmen face at some point. Perhaps, when the tales of West Indies cricket are told, the storytellers and coaches will pass on the lessons of batsmanship to be learnt from the Headley, Three Ws, Sobers, Greenidge and Haynes, Viv, Lara and Gayle. Hopefully, those tales will include a chapter on Chanderpaul as well. – Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.