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Zimbabwe v West Indies 2023

In Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Kraigg Brathwaite finally has an opening partner worthy of the name

Tagenarine Chanderpaul, opening partner of Kraigg Brathwaite for West Indies in Tests
Ben Gardner by Ben Gardner
@Ben_Wisden 3 minute read

A month shy of ten years.

That’s how long it has been since Kraigg Brathwaite heard the applause for a Test century by a West Indies opener and wasn’t the one taking off his helmet and raising his bat. Back then it was Chris Gayle, a man who belongs to another era, an era he shared with Shivnarine Chanderpaul, West Indies’ last great Test batter. This time it was Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Shivnarine’s son, who it is hoped will found the next. Between then, including today, Brathwaite has made 12 hundreds, the only man standing in the path of oblivion.

For West Indies, hopes of Test dominance have gone, Chanderpaul Sr. and Gayle the last two who can remember what it was like to play with the champions, the likes of Brian Lara and Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose that made West Indies a side to be feared. Now, after years of underperformance, they will settle for competitiveness.


Competitiveness, quietly, is what they have been achieving under Brathwaite’s watchful eye. They outperformed South Africa when both sides toured Australia recently. They beat both England and Bangladesh at home, going the whole of 2022 without tasting defeat in the Caribbean. Series draws in 2021 against Pakistan and Sri Lanka count as other credible results. They retain slim hopes of qualifying for the World Test Championship final.

Even if they don’t achieve that – and a whitewash over South Africa still wouldn’t guarantee a place at The Oval – Chanderpaul’s arrival signals the start of something. Plant the roots and the tree can blossom.

A century against Zimbabwe, and a Blessing Muzarabani-less Zimbabwe at that, might not be the time to get too excited. With time lost to rain, the Test looks headed for a draw, and after 90 overs across days, West Indies are only 221-0. He left it late on the second day, blocking out four balls in the penultimate over before finally tucking the single to take him to three figures. There was a wide smile but nothing showy – that’s not his style. That style, with the front-on stance before stepping into a more conventional position, is eerily reminiscent of his father, as is the tempo – though in the latter category, he can count Brathwaite as an equal. And Chanderpaul showed what he was about in Australia too, with 160 runs and 335 balls capably seen out across four innings. Now his Test average stands at 65.25.

It is also hard not to get carried away because of the sheer paucity of any support for Brathwaite. This is the first stand of 150 or more that he has ever been involved in. He and Chanderpaul have opened together five times, and they are already the first pair of West Indies openers with two century stands since Daren Ganga and Gayle. Ganga’s career ended in 2008.

Despite his birth-given status of Guyanaese cricketing royalty, Chanderpaul’s story isn’t one of a player always marked out for the very top, and in a way, that is fitting. As a player, like his father, he looks to eke everything possible out of any situation – there are no easy runs, and no easy dismissals. Up until the start of the 2022 season, he averaged just 28.52, with just two hundreds in 86 innings. From then on, he has been relentless, with three hundreds and an average of 176.66 across five games for Guyana and West Indies A to earn him a spot as the beneficiary of a drugs ban for John Campbell, and now this extraordinary Test start.

For now, a start is all it is. But one thing Tagenarine Chanderpaul has shown is any starts won’t be squandered easily.

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