“It hasn’t been even a year since Shimron Hetmyer made his ODI debut for West Indies. However, within this short time period, he has become their most dependable player in a batting line up that is fragile otherwise”
Over the period of 10 months, since his ODI debut back in December last year, Hetmyer has continuously shown his talent and potential. His centuries against UAE and Bangladesh, both coming in this year, showed how good a player he is. And the kind of innings he played today, against India at the Barsapara cricket stadium in Guwahati, showed that he is only getting better with time.
Hetmyer notched up his third ODI century, against an experienced Indian bowling unit, walking out to bat at a stage when his team had lost three wickets inside the first 15 overs. He began cautiously and tried getting a measure of the pitch before playing his naturally aggressive game.
However, once he settled down, there was no stopping him. He picked the gaps to perfection and never looked uncomfortable at the crease. At a time when India was in the driving seat, Hetmyer’s counter-charge helped the visitors to gain control back in the match. Even though he saw wickets tumbling at the other end, he continued with his positive approach. The 21-year old looked extremely determined and temperamentally strong in the course of his innings of 106 runs off just 78 deliveries.
It is quite amazing how he has nailed his place in the side within such a short period of time, whereas there are other players who haven’t been able to do so, despite arriving at the international scene before him.
He was dismissed for just 29 runs in his debut innings against a good kiwi bowling unit. At that time, it had looked like he was again one of those Caribbean players with enormous talent but still had a long way to go.
A couple of years before his ODI debut, he had also led the West Indies U19 team to claim the U19 World Cup title. He had already shown his mettle as a young colt with back to back fifties in the quarter-final and semi-final of that tournament. But it seemed like he needed to grind some years more at the domestic level to become mature enough for playing at the highest international level.
However, the feud between the senior players and the West Indies Cricket Board saw Hetmyer being fast-tracked into the national side. The pressure of playing at the international level, against established players and teams, often does more bad than good to young players not having the luxury of getting guidance from a senior player in the team.
But Hetmyer dealt with the pressure head on and what followed afterwards has been nothing short of sensational. In the last 10 months, he has grown from strength to strength as a player, rising up against all odds stacked against him and Caribbean cricket.
He has the most runs among West Indies batsmen since his ODI debut. In 13 innings, he has amassed 585 runs at a healthy average of 45. Moreover, he has the most number of centuries (3) to his name among all West Indian batsmen, and he beats his fellow teammates by a fair margin in terms of runs scored during this period as well.
Table: West Indies batsmen with 300 or more runs since December 2017
As can be seen from the table above, none of the other Windies batsmen have crossed the 400-run barrier since December 2017. Only Hetmyer has done so, that too, leaving players like Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis way behind in the race.
Hetmyer’s at Guwahati carried more significance than the sense of personal achievement. West Indies were coming into the series on the back of a Test series whitewash against the same Indian team. So, they needed a special performance from at least one of their players to change the momentum of the tour and set the tone of the ODI series for them. And Hetmyer’s innings did exactly that.
Moreover, West Indies have been criticized a lot, in recent times, for their inability to put up a fight. On most occasions, their batting has lacked the spine and temperament to stick around. But the 21-year old from Guyana ensured that it wasn’t the case this time. At a time, when his teammates were finding it difficult to stick around on a good batting deck, he not only held the innings together but also kept the runs flowing at the same time.
His innings was completely flawless, despite those big shots he kept playing from time to time. The slog sweep, which led to his dismissal was probably the only false shot that he played in his entire innings. However, he had already helped his team to a fighting total of 248 runs by that time.
The crowd greeted him to a standing ovation as he walked back to the pavilion. Even some of the Indian fielders came running from their positions to congratulate and shake hands with him. And that was truly a wonderful feeling, not only for the Caribbean fans, but also for all of us in love with the game.
This 21-year old has now made a place for himself in the heart of the fans. Only time will tell if he can go on to become the ruler of the Caribbean hearts, the King of the Caribbean nation. For the time being, we should just enjoy his calypso beats!