Coach Krikken welcomes a batsman still at his peak at the age of 38
IT is not only fine wine that gets better with age. At 38, Shivnarine Chanderpaul is still at the peak of his powers as a batsman.
At the stage of his career when most of his contemporaries are piling up coaching qualifications or finding other things to do with their lives outside cricket, Chanderpaul's star shows no sign of dimming.
Last summer, with the West Indies in England, he frustrated the best seam attack in the world with 87 not out and 91 in the first Test and though they took his wicket for 46 and 11 in the second, you can bet England's bowlers were not disappointed a side strain ruled him out of the third Test.
Chanderpaul's latest Test outings for the Windies, in November, brought him 150 not out in the first Test in Bangladesh and 203 not out in the second.
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You can say that was "only against Bangladesh" but as an illustration of how the player's appetite for scoring runs is as strong as ever, it is undeniable.
It is hard to believe that, not so long ago, Chanderpaul used to be accused of lacking the physical strength to convert 50s to hundreds but the problem was found to be a bit of floating bone in his foot.
Since that was surgically removed in 2000, the left-hander has proved there is nothing wrong with his stamina.
In fact, in the six years since 2007, Chanderpaul has hit 25 of the 64 first-class hundreds he has to his name so far – and that is impressive.
That is certainly the sort of record which leaves head coach Karl Krikken with few fears about signing a 38-year-old to a two-year deal which may turn into a three-year stay.
"He's still banging out the runs and he's still number two in the world. Until very recently, he was number one," said Krikken.
"Obviously, some players are retired at 38 but he's very fit and, with playing for West Indies and Guyana, it's not as if he's playing day in, day out. Plus, he's a batsman, so it's not as if he's running in full steam to bowl.
"I've no fears at all about signing Shiv. The bloke's a legend. It's an unbelievable signing, not only for the weight of runs he will be carrying but for the dressing room presence.
"I've heard so many good things about him as a team-mate.
"We've still got a developing batting side and to be able to learn from one of the greatest players to grace the game in this generation is superb.
"We've got Dave Houghton, who is one of the best coaches in the world, and now one of the best players in the world to show them how to do it.
"I don't think this year we'll go without any batting knowledge and this will be a good place to learn."
Chanderpaul was identified as a potential Derbyshire target shortly before the end of last season but the club only started pursuing his signature in earnest in early November.
"We found he was going to be available right at the end of last season but, at the time, we thought we might have Martin Guptill or Usman Khawaja back because they had done so well," added Krikken.
"Then Guppy's decision was that he was definitely going to have a rest after the New Zealand tour here and though Ussie said he wanted to come back, I was hearing that he might be involved in the Ashes party to come here next summer.
"I think he will tour, especially with Ponting and Hussey retiring, and that would rule him out for a large part of the season.
"I would have them both back. They were magnificent but it wasn't going to work out for us and the dates have fallen into place nicely with Shiv.
"When we originally made the inquiry, he was not going to be here for the twenty20s. The reason for that was there was going to be a Test series with Sri Lanka in June/July time but that's gone now and they are going to play a triangular one-day tournament.
"Obviously, Shiv's not in their one-day side at the moment.
"If he is called up, we'll have to do without him for that time but, other than that, we are hoping he'll be available for the full six months.
"When we were deciding whether to make an approach we had a sit down to think if he still fitted into our plans and it was a resounding 'yes'."
After that, it soon became clear that an extended spell with Derbyshire – longer than he previously had through his time with Durham, Lancashire and Warwickshire – suited Chanderpaul too.
"Shiv wanted a decent time in county cricket, a couple of years, and we could offer him that," said Krikken.
"He'd also heard a few good things about what is going on here and I think Simon (Storey) and Chris (Grant) sold him the ambition of the club. He wanted to be involved in that."
Chanderpaul, currently representing Guyana in the Caribbean t20, said in a statement: "I'm excited to be joining an ambitious club with a talented young side.
"I was impressed with Karl Krikken's vision for the team and am looking forward to linking up with them at the start of the season."