“Hope is no anomaly to the trend. He is scoring runs, but they need to come at a better rate for it to have any value”
When Shivnarine Chanderpaul made 80 in 126 balls in that edge-of-the-seat thriller at Chandigarh in the semi-finals of the 1996 World Cup, he was anchoring a broken West Indian innings. Even when the Windies lost their way and succumbed to a shock 5 run loss, not one person placed any kind of blame on Chanderpaul’s strike rate. They didn’t have to. The target was 208 and the opener had every right to take his time, settle in and then make a surge. The rate of his scoring barely changed – his 80 came at a rate of 63.49 – during the course of his innings but then again, he didn’t have to.
22 years later, in a series decider at St.Kitts, Shai Hope played a sheet anchor role against Bangladesh in a run chase. His 64 from no.3 came off 94 balls, a rate of 68.09. This time, though, there were a few changes. West Indies were chasing nearly 100 more runs than they were in the 1996 World Cup semi-finals.
This was 2018, the age of soaring run rates, bludgeoning sixes and cheer girls. If you scored at a rate less than 80, you had no business being in the limited-overs side. If you couldn’t hit through the line and across it, play a few fancy scoops or at least keep the scoreboard ticking, you just weren’t good enough.
Hope was part of a West Indian side, known for their flavour-filled, flashy cricketing style and this knock, in every sense of the word, was un-West Indian. Of course, he would have escaped from too much criticism had this been a one-off incident. But Hope’s career in ODIs is fraught with such ill-paced knocks.
In his overall ODI career, Hope strikes at a shocking rate of 66.32 after 36 matches. That he played so many is in itself attributed to the fact that West Indies have suffered from a middle-order collapse syndrome. They needed Hope to shore them up in case of a crisis; hold together the innings, rally together with their big hitters and force them to stick around.
What Hope did, or has been doing, is holding them back. Not just with a string but throwing them off balance with a kick from behind. When Hope walked in, West Indies were 53/1 in 10 overs, moving along at a fine rate of 5.3.
At the time of his departure, the rate had gone down by a point – 5.2 after 43 overs – which isn’t really worse unless you consider the fact that the Windies needed a miracle from there to win the game. So what exactly was Hope doing?
It is worth noting that in his duration of stay at the crease, Rovman Powell walked in swaggered along to 74 in 41 balls which brought Windies closer than they would have managed without him. Forget supporting Powell, Hope, if anything, was holding him back with his pathetic understanding of the situation. When Powell had walked in to bat, Hope was already on 50!
In the next six overs, as Powell went berserk, Hope ambled along to 64, adding 13 in 15 balls when the required rate was hovering around 10.
In fact, this has been Hope’s habit. Not once in his last 9 innings’ in ODIs has Hope scored at a rate of 80-plus, a shocking stat if you consider modern times and the team he represents. What is even more stunning is the kind of bowling quality he has faced in these games. Hope has played against Papua New Guinea, Ireland, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Scotland and Bangladesh in these nine games!
Right from his first innings against Sri Lanka when he made 47 in 81 balls to his bizarrely subdued 49* – this at a rate of 42.60! – against Papua New Guinea in the World Cup qualifiers, Hope has shown no kind of intent or urgency.
Dropping him isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Since his debut in November 2016, he is not only the highest West Indian run-scorer in ODIs, but also the only one with over a 1000 runs. Curiously, in this time frame, the only Windies batsman with a strike rate of over 100 (minimum 50 runs!) is Chris Gayle (101.40). Even the usually aggressive Evin Lewis strikes at a rate of 82.53.
It isn’t uncommon for batsmen to score at less than run a ball in ODIs over the course of two years but we are talking about West Indian batsmen who rock the big hits in the shortest format of the game. Somehow, their fancy shots and massive strike rates take a soft blow in this format of the game. Hope is no anomaly to the trend. He is scoring runs, but they need to come at a better rate for it to have any value.