Chanderpaul finally earns another turn

Tony Cozier on an overdue Test recall for a determined young batsman
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When asked by a Caribbean journalist after the Old Trafford Test why Shivnarine Chanderpaul continued to be left out of the West Indies team, Richie Richardson positively bristled.

"He'll have to wait his turn," the captain replied. "I had to wait mine and even Brian Lara had to wait his even though he was making heaps of runs. His turn will come."

Chanderpaul's turn comes again in the fifth Test at Trent Bridge today, a few days before his 21st birthday and following the fractured cheekbone that ruled out Jimmy Adams. It is long overdue.

Even if, as Richardson indicated, it has been the West Indian way of late to make young players, however gifted, serve their apprenticeship, Chanderpaul's omission from the past eight Tests, in which the West Indies have not once totalled 350, is difficult to explain.

He was selected, out of the blue, for the second Test against England in his native Guyana last year. At 19, he was only the 10th teenager and the first ethnic Indian to represent the West Indies for over 10 years. Baby-faced, a frail 10 stone and waddling to the wicket, he seemed out of place.

But the Guyanese knew betterand, in his seven Tests since, he has passed 50 in six of his 10 innings and averages 61. That compares to the low thirties for Keith Arthurton and Carl Hooper, who have been preferred to him.

As Lara's partner through the last 100 of his 375 in Antigua, Chanderpaul kept summoning his illustrious team-mate and helping him to his record. "Whenever I was losing my concentration, he'd immediately come down and tell me to keep batting, that it's in front of you, that it's going to happen," Lara said afterwards. "He's a very mature cricketer for his age."

Inevitably, racial bias has been advanced as one of the reasons why Chanderpaul has not maintained his place. It is an ironic twist.

When first picked, instead of the Trinidadian opening batsman, Phil Simmons, his inclusion was condemned as a sop to the home crowd and, especially, to the majority Indian sector. Now, his prolonged omission has generated charges of some anti-Indian conspiracy.

The more plausible reason was his problems against Shane Warne, who dismissed him three times in three innings this year. Anxious to protect their prodigy, the selectors chose to shield him from Warne in the Tests.

Like Adams, Chanderpaul lacks the left-handed fluency of a Lara or a Gower. His stance is crouched and ungainly, his back lift minimal, his bottom hand prominent in his strokes, the most productive of which are the square cut and the on drive. He has filled out in this year, gaining weight and more power in his play and adding the hook to his repertoire. It is, however, unlikely to be a stroke that features much over the next week.