Mortimer: Shiv can be top signing
This Is Derbyshire article.
DERBYSHIRE, ENGLAND - By engaging Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Derbyshire have brought one of the best cricketers in the world to the County Ground, writes Gerald Mortimer.
The West Indian arrives at a stage in his career when it suits him to play county cricket and his reputation is based on a formidable record.
It will be interesting to see how, as time progresses, he ranks among Derbyshire’s overseas players, some of whom made magnificent contributions.
When I pulled a few strings to wangle my way into a job with the Derby Evening Telegraph in 1970, cricket being my main activity, Chris Wilkins was in his first year.
He was an engaging South African, a middle-order batsman capable of hammering bowlers round the ground and an occasional bowler of unquenchable optimism. He expected to take a wicket with every ball but it never worked out that way.
In those days, it was much easier to engage top overseas players for a variety of reasons and to see England’s best in action for their counties between Tests.
There was not so much international cricket and, therefore, no call for central contracts. Zimbabwe and Bangladesh had not attained Test status, in the process ensuring ICC votes for the Indian power base, and for many years South Africa were exiled because of their apartheid policies.
As a result, stars were associated as much with their counties as their countries, such as Clive Lloyd with Lancashire, Mike Procter with Gloucestershire, Lance Gibbs and Alvin Kallicharran at Warwickshire and many more.
Opening bowlers wondered what to expect when Barry Richards and Gordon Greenidge walked out to open the Hampshire batting. A later combination there was Greenidge and Malcolm Marshall, one of the finest of the West Indian battery of fast bowlers.
Nottinghamshire prospered with Clive Rice and Richard Hadlee, two all-rounders making it feel as if they had four overseas players.
Derbyshire had strange moments as well as successes. They tried to lure Dennis Lillee, the Australian fast bowler, but his back trouble torpedoed the deal. Instead, they signed an Indian off-spinner, Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan, or Venkat for short.
Eddie Barlow, one of a great South African team limited to a brief taste of Test cricket, galvanised Derbyshire in the 1970s.
He soon took over the captaincy and showed players how to win games. It was not so much that Eddie’s example was infectious, more that he demanded a similarly positive attitude from those under his command.
Dean Jones, more abrasive, had a similar outlook and, in 1996, came closer to winning the Championship than any captain since Arthur Richardson finished top in 1936, making for the best watching in my time covering Derbyshire.
Unfortunately, Jones upset his predecessor, the hugely successful Kim Barnett, and threw in the towel the following year after a bout of Derbyshire politics.
For an instant fix, there were none better than Adrian Kuiper, a key man in the 1990 Sunday League triumph. The South African gave the ball fearful hammer and would have made big money in the Indian Premier League.
The most enduring batting partnership was between John Wright, who stayed long enough to earn a benefit, and Peter Kirsten.
Wright had no international reputation when he joined Derbyshire but became one of New Zealand’s finest players. He was brave, like Barnett: they were men you would pick to bat for your life.
Kirsten was a top batsman, one of those who had 30 on the board before you realised he had started. When set, he could shred any attack and, happily, was around to feature in South Africa’s return to Test cricket.
I found it an emotional moment when he completed a century against England at Headingley.
The best batting I ever saw from a Derbyshire player was Mohammad Azharuddin’s 2,016 at 59.29 in 1991. His style was captivating, all wrists and timing, but there was also steel running through it.
Like Barlow, Jones and the best of the others, he knew how to win matches.
I cannot end this ramble without mentioning another great professional, Michael Holding.
He arrived in 1983 with an injury sustained in the World Cup final at Lord’s but was determined to play, even if unable to bowl at anything like full pace.
Michael was moving into the late stages of a great career but never gave less than full value and was often quick enough to spread alarm through the opposing dressing-room.
Unless standing 50 yards away with his fingers wrapped round a new ball, he was the most charming, gentle and courteous of men, totally unaffected by respect he had earned throughout the world of cricket.
Chanderpaul has some good men to match and will probably do just that.