By Cosmo Hamilton
‘Newsprint is sacred.’ That is what my late father Cleveland Hamilton used to say. He disliked the sight of newspapers strewn around on the street and elsewhere. This profound opinion was born of the fact that he strongly thought that the newspaper is a vital source of information and education and should therefore be treated with respect. His theory is that yesterday’s newspaper is not simply old news but intrinsically represents a historic dimension of life.
My father’s thought process regarding newsprint would likely have been influenced also by the fact that he was a highly regarded journalist and poet and would rather not have seen his precious words stepped on and defaced after they had been consumed. And so I venture to think that he would have been somewhat appeased today that environmentally, recycling of newspapers is an integral part of the disposal process in this age of sustainable development.
I am greatly influenced by my father and like so many of the words of wisdom that he shared with me, I have viewed them with merit and have tended to retain some newspaper articles and publications that I consider of significant value. So fortuitously browsing through some of these old papers recently, I discovered a tabloid news eight page special publication designed and published by Guyenterprise Advertising Agency in 1997. The colorful front page caption read in bold print – ‘Guyana Cricket Board Salutes Shivnarine Chanderpaul on his Maiden Test Century’. Needless to say the Guyana Cricket Board in better days 15 years ago would have been commended for its initiative. And having scanned this publication already yellow with age, reviewing the articles embodied in it composed by acclaimed journalists with prescience rather than presumption, retrospectively it was an enlightened endeavour. Who knew that Shivnarine Chanderpaul, whose illustrious career co-incidentally has been underpinned by his father’s strong influence and advice, would not under-achieve, burdened by the weight of such immense expectations. Rather his career has blossomed exactly as they predicted it would. Now 15 years later Tiger as he is affectionately known, is the number one Test batsman in the world and is only the tenth member of the exclusive 10,000 Test runs club, bolstered by 24 more centuries since the maiden one celebrated in the cricket special. Cricket historian Winston McGowan wrote in the publication back in 1997, “If Chanderpaul maintains the quality and consistency of his current performance and is blessed with good health and a long life, it is very likely that in his entire Test career he will score more runs not only than any previous Guyanese but also any other West Indian.” Only Brian Lara now retired with 11,953 runs stands ahead of the evergreen Chanderpaul now with 10, 055 runs.
In a typically incisive commentary in the news special, Ian McDonald mentioned the three batsmen that at first glance gave him ‘a leap of heart’ – Rohan Kanhai, Carl Hooper, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Confounded yet convinced about Shiv he wrote, “What was it, therefore caught the eye as he batted on and made you think he would be one of the great ones? I could not make it out, yet I was sure.”
McDonald went on to say that he was not the only one that noticed something special about Chanderpaul. “I remember standing next to an old man in the GCC pavilion watching Chanderpaul bat in a club match in the very early days. The old man was a veteran who had watched great cricketers come and go for fifty years. He shook his head. ‘This one’, the old man said, ‘this one going to make bowlers cry’. “
Neil Kumar perceptibly opined in his piece about the emerging Chanderpaul captioned ‘Batting Towards Greatness’ that – “1997 seems to be the beginning of a year for greater achievements for this young cricket hero who seems set for greatness”. Sean Devers who in his article referred to Shiv as ‘the golden child of Guyana’s cricket’, wrote “His temperament and concentration belies his age and is the main difference between himself and other players” – an analysis that is partially pertinent now as it was in 1997. And the ‘golden child’ is now worth his weight in gold for the West Indies.
In a ‘Face to Face’ interview that I conducted with Chanderpaul for Tony Cozier’s Red Stripe Caribbean Cricket Quarterly in 1996, in response to the question – “Who played the most important part in your early development as a cricketer”, he replied: ‘I would say my father. He is the one who encouraged me and told me that if I wanted to play this game, I should play it the hard way. That is why I am not scared.’ Undaunted, and with a tenacity befitting his nickname, Tiger rolls on. Father indeed knows best.