Chris Gayle, the tall Jamaican left-hander known for his power hitting, is currently the star of the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the 2012 Indian Premier League. Meanwhile, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the Guyanese left-hander known for his crabbed stance at the wicket and his ability to grind out major score after major score, is once again protecting the West Indies Test team from imminent collapse (this time against the Australians). Gayle is the Achilles of West Indies cricket—a mighty force who is only one of four men in history to 300+ twice in Tests—and yet whose conflict with the West Indies Cricket Board has left him sulking in his tent for two years, when he’s not bashing and bludgeoning the ball for hundreds of thousands of dollars in the IPL.
No one would consider Shiv Chanderpaul big box-office (he’s Andrei Tarkovsky to Gayle’s Sergei Eisenstein)—but his record is undeniable. In the course of 138 Test matches for West Indies, he’s nearing 10,000 runs at an average of nigh on 50. He’s passed 100 runs 25 times, and 50 56. He’s also not necessarily a slow-poke at the crease. In 268 one-day internationals he’s hit almost 9,000 runs at a mightily respectable average of 41.60, with 11 centuries and 59 fifties.
Chris Gayle, meanwhile, has hit only 13 centuries and 33 fifties in 91 Test matches, with an average of 41.65. His one-day international average is less than Shiv’s. In other words, Gayle for all his flash and dash, lacks the discipline and dedication of Shiv. Gayle is earning the big money, Shiv the respect and (one hopes) the gratitude of all West Indies cricket lovers. Chivvied run by chivvied run, Shiv has ended up becoming the second greatest run-scorer for West Indies (behind the immortal Brian Lara, and six places ahead of Gayle).
Of course, there’s a larger issue here: whether you see your sporting career as a dash for the cash because you’re flash, or the slow accumulation of a record for eternity. If you see cricket as all about fast-food entertainment, then Gayle’s your man; if you see cricket as a feast for savoring, then Shiv is the head chef.