“His performances in the last three Tests have not been great and he will have to make up for some horrendous shot selection in the next Test. Hetmyer needs to ensure that he does not fade away. If he does, he will have only himself to blame”
Shimron Hetmyer in the last couple of months has garnered a lot of praise and some criticisms for his attacking, and at times, over-attacking nature. The 21-year-old’s approach, especially in Tests, is baffling at times. While there is a need a play a counter-attacking innings especially with wickets falling at regular intervals, Hetmyer sometimes goes overboard with at and as a result it costs him his wicket. In the recent Test at Chittagong, Hetmyer played a swashbuckling innings in the first innings, scoring a 47-ball 63, but in the second innings, when he should have taken more responsibility and held the innings together, he perished looking to clear the fielder at long-off, which put the Windies on the back foot even further.
Responsibility is something Hetmyer knows very well. He led his side to a win in the ICC Under-19 World Cup in 2016 and given his talent, it was just a matter of time before he made it to the senior side. He made his Test debut in April 2017, but it is in the ODI format that he has really shown his prowess. He scored his maiden ODI hundred in only his third match and in 14 innings after that he has struck two more hundreds and two fifties. His hard-hitting hundred against Bangladesh at the Providence and his best hundred till date – 106 off 78 against India – clearly indicate that he is a free-flowing batsman, who does not shy away from taking risks.
However, transforming limited-overs style of batting into the Test arena is never going to be easy. We have seen players like Virender Sehwag, who had a strike rate of over 100 in ODIs and more than 80 in Tests, but players like these are going to be difficult to find on a regular basis. Sehwag had two triple centuries to his name which is not something many have. Yet, it is to easy to make comparisons for Hetmyer, but if he is going to go all out even in Tests, regardless of the situation, it would extremely difficult to see him succeed in the long run. Yes, he will score a few sparkling fifties and quick-fire thirties, but that in no way is going to help the team’s cause.
AB de Villiers is someone who could change gears at any point in the match, be it any format. He can score 20-ball fifties and at the same time, he can block 200 deliveries without scoring many. Playing according to the situation is always going to be key, especially in Tests. When you are chasing a target of a little over 200 and have more than two days left, you know time is never going to be a problem. So, the batsman has enough time to get his eye in, adjust to the pace/spin of the pitch and play the ball on its merit. At Chittagong, the only way Bangladesh could have won is to pick up all 10 West Indies wickets. For the West Indies, that challenge was to put a price on their wickets and make it harder and harder for the Bangladesh bowlers to pick up wickets.
Credit to the Bangladesh bowlers for the way they bowled, but the West Indies batsmen too played their part in throwing away wickets. Lack of footwork and poor shot selection led to their downfall.
Even in the Test series against India, Hetmyer in a bid to go over the top against the spinners has often perished. He is someone who does not like to get bogged down and his only way out is to play an attacking shot over the top, which has in the recent past been the reason for his dismissals. He is still just 9 Tests old and has played just 31 internationals overall. He still has a long way to go. Hopefully, he looks back at these shots and learns the importance of curbing your instincts.
Even the great Sachin Tendulkar curbed his instincts of playing those magnificent cover-drives for which he his known during his marathon innings of 241 against Australia at Sydney in 2004. he realised that it was that shot, which was getting him out throughout the tour. After batting for over 10 hours, Tendulkar had not played a single cover-drive as India went on to post a huge score on the board. For a youngster like Hetmyer, it is important to learn from such legends. He has the skill that is needed to survive, but it is the temperament that is lacking at the moment. The more matches he plays, he will surely improve. He does not need to look too far for temperament. His vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite has often set examples of batting long. Or he can also look up to some past West Indies players like Brian Lara or Shivnarine Chanderpaul as well.
Hetmyer is, without a doubt, a talented, graceful, powerful and hard-hitting batsman, he needs to know which shot he needs to play when. There is nothing wrong in being aggressive in Test cricket, but it is important to choose the right moments. When you score a 70-ball ton in Tests, the world appreciates, but at the same time, you throw away your wicket after scoring 25 off 10, you will obviously be criticised.
His performances in the last three Tests have not been great and he will have to make up for some horrendous shot selection in the next Test. Hetmyer needs to ensure that he does not fade away. If he does, he will have only himself to blame.