The scene is a nondescript Fort Lauderdale hotel conference room, where about 20 coaches from around the USA are gathered during a lunch break at a ten-hour-long coaching seminar conducted by Tom Moody. The former Australia allrounder is imparting wisdom gained during his experiences coaching Sri Lanka, as well as in the IPL with 2016 champions Sunrisers Hyderabad, about the challenges of bringing together different sets of characters and how it has moulded some of his philosophies. For most of the coaches in the room, the insights are a rare glimpse into the inner workings of professional team structures. One stands out, though, both for his stature as a player and for his seeming determination to fit in and be one of the guys.
“In the coaching area, all the knowledge that you gain over the years playing international cricket, it’s good to pass that on to the younger fellas,” says Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who has been a decade-long Florida resident in the greater Orlando area. The 42-year-old may still be churning out runs in the West Indies domestic scene, but international retirement has got him thinking about another career path.
“Since I’ve been living out here for over ten years now, I’m trying to get involved in cricket out here and help out as much as I can,” Chanderpaul says. “I think in the US it’s a good place where the young fellas need someone like me with the knowledge and experience I’ve gained over the years to help them out with cricket.”
Chanderpaul sits down to have his lunch among a group of five other local coaches, finding out about their experiences. The next day he sits with the whole group in the Central Broward Regional Park east grandstand in basic chairback seats – rather than sneaking off to the cordoned-off VIP marquee tent – to take in a Caribbean Premier League match with his fellow coaches.
As much as he is immersing himself in the seminar experience with an eye on a future coaching vocation, part of him still believes he shouldn’t be in Florida at all but rather back in the West Indies. Instead, and from afar, he watched the Test side get humbled inside four days by India in Antigua.
Chanderpaul’s last appearance came in May 2015, against England, where he made a nine-ball duck. He was dropped ahead of the home Test series against Australia, drawing curtains on apoor run of form that saw him make 183 runs at 16.63 in the 11 innings that followed his 30th and final Test century the previous September at home against Bangladesh. He finished 86 runs short of Brian Lara’s mark for most Test runs made for West Indies. But he remains defiant that his axing was premature. Regardless of any records at stake, if he had his way, he’d still be playing for West Indies today at age 42 had he not been pushed out the door.
“I just finished the first-class season, my average was close to 50, it was 49 point something [49.83],” says Chanderpaul, who played five games – sandwiched between a February stint in the UAE at the Masters Champions League – helping Guyana defend their first-class title in the WICB Professional Cricket League. “I had a torn calf and batted with it in the last innings to save the match [against Leeward Islands]. I batted at No. 10.
“Alzarri [Joseph] was [bowling] under the lights. It was overcast all day. The lights came on, it was dark and we’re batting after six under the lights. The shadows were all around and I pointed it out to the umpires. They say they’re not gonna call off the game, they wanted the overs to finish. He was bowling all kinds of short balls and I was thumping it all over the park.
“I still think I have a lot to offer, I had a lot to offer them. My average proved that. But mind you, the selectors have already moved on.”
So they have, and the way Chanderpaul’s exit was handled was less than ideal. Six months after his formal retirement announcement – more a concession that he would not be recalled than a willing departure – the manner of his leaving still clearly rankles. For Chanderpaul, it comes down to the lack of gratitude and respect he feels he was due for all the he gave West Indies cricket over the years, though he realises he’s not alone in receiving an undignified farewell.
“I don’t think [the selectors] handled it properly,” Chanderpaul says. “It was not the way they should have done something. They should have done it better. This is something that happened way back in the past, when I started my career with some of the senior players, maybe like [Courtney] Walsh and other guys, Desmond Haynes. These are things that happened to those guys and it was not handled properly.
“At this day and age, you expected it to be better but it was not and I ended up getting the same treatment in the back end of it, where you are totally disrespected and you were not treated right, and you’ve given so many years of service to the Caribbean and there’s nobody there to properly honour you and send you off properly, maybe like what Sachin [Tendulkar] got in India or some of the other players I’ve seen got a proper send-off. It was nothing like that. It hurt in the end because you’ve done so much for the West Indies.
“You’ve put in so many years. A lot of times you’ve been injured and you still go out and play. A lot of times I went back home to Guyana injured from tours that I’ve been on for West Indies and go back home and play, and you give so much service for your country and to West Indies and on the back end you were not properly honoured for it.”
For all the frustration that lies just underneath the surface, Chanderpaul sounds somewhat at peace when talking about life after West Indies. On the one hand, he says that playing nowadays has “been much more relaxing, not much stress anymore”, almost as if the selectors really did do him a favour by taking the decision out of his hands. The dual challenge of taking on the world’s best bowlers while dragging along a weakened West Indies batting unit took its toll.
“There’s nothing much I can do about that now,” he says of being dropped once and for all. “You have to move on and put that in the past, put it behind me and just move on and just look ahead and see what there is to do now. That’s why I’m here [attending the coaching seminar].”
Though he may not be doing it any more for West Indies, Chanderpaul still relishes the challenge of facing the region’s best bowlers and gains satisfaction from being able to share his wisdom while acting as a player-coach of sorts out in the middle.
“I think that’s one of the reasons why the [Guyana] chairman of selectors, Rayon Griffith, keeps me around the Guyana set-up, because he feels once I’m there, I would help the younger batters,” Chanderpaul says. “A lot of times maybe it’s not technically – they might not need technical help but they might need help with the mindset and the way they’re thinking, and how to bat and how to go out and do certain things, and the way they think, sometimes that is what we need to clear up and help them with.
“I remember one instance, the last game I played with Guyana in Antigua, Alzarri Joseph was bowling, the wicket was green and Raymon Reifer came in to bat. Alzarri bowled him a few short balls and he was ducking. The wicket on the first day wasn’t as quick as it was supposed to be and I said to him, ‘Raymon, stop ducking and stand up and hit the ball.’ Then he listened to me and then he started to stand up and started hitting it, and he felt good about himself, that I’m there to help him and I’m telling him certain things he can do.
“Throughout his innings I was able to help him through and tell him certain areas and certain situations, ‘This is what you do and that is how you think about the innings, that is how you play the ball, look out for this, look out for that.’ I keep talking to them and try to help them through the innings. Whoever comes to bat with me, I’ve done the same thing.”
Another motivating force for him to keep playing is the opportunity to bat alongside his 20-year-old son, opening batsman Tagenarine, who Shivnarine refers to by his middle name Brandon. Father and son have been room-mates on tour in the domestic scene and it has allowed dad a sharper window on how his son is developing.
“He was talking to me about bowlers. ‘This guy’s bowling very fast.’ I was listening and saying, ‘Really? Was he bowling fast?’ I was pretending like I didn’t know. I was listening to him. ‘Shannon [Gabriel] was coming down fast.’ I said, ‘Really? It didn’t look so, but if you say so,'” Chanderpaul says laughing.
“I know Shannon was bowling fast. I just wanted to hear what he was saying. I just wanted to have a feel of how his innings was going, how he was pacing his innings, what he was thinking, what he was doing. Just the feel of everything by just listening to him, I didn’t have to say much, just stand there listening to him talking about it. Then is when I can help him and tell him what to expect, what to do and not to do.”
Chanderpaul is also encouraged by other young talent in Guyana’s PCL title-winning side, such as Shimron Hetmyer. The captain of the victorious West Indies side at the 2016 Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh scored his maiden first-class hundred this year for Guyana in the title-clinching victory over Jamaica, and though Hetmyer’s opportunities in the CPL were limited – he played just one match for Guyana Amazon Warriors – Chanderpaul doesn’t hold back his praise for the emerging batsman.
“In the Under-19 tournament he didn’t score much in the beginning, but in the back end he was always getting runs, chipping in at times when the team needed some scores, but he’s a very good player. In the last first-class game in Guyana, he scored a hundred against Jamaica and we won that game. I was injured the game before that one, so I did not play, but we won that game and were able to win the competition. He’s a very good young talent and he’s pretty much got shots all over the park.”
Chanderpaul says he wants to play at least one more first-class season for Guyana, shepherding the younger players along, and then sit back to decide if the itch to get into coaching needs to be scratched. Until then, though, his main itch continues to be for scoring runs, whether it’s for Guyana or just a casual game of club cricket in Sarasota, Florida.
“You have to actually put in the work if you want to get better. If you want to be one of the top players around the world, you have to put in the extra work in different areas you can improve in and get better. I spent hours and hours and hours in the nets, batting and batting and batting trying to work on my skills.
“I just came over and played two games in Sarasota because I play for Sarasota Cricket Club. I go down there and play two games over the weekend. Yes, it’s a friendly game, but I still take them seriously. I had gone and made 160 and 140. That’s how I focus. I don’t need to do too much because I can remember everything I’ve done. My legs remember what to do, my body remembers what to do, my mind, my eyes. It’s just to hit a few balls and I’m good to go.”