India vs West Indies: Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer deserve praise, but failure to win from positions of strength still plagues Windies

While Hetmyer and Hope deserve praise, don’t let them off the hook for mistakes that the now-banished senior West Indies players made in the 50-over cricket

Colin Benjamin, October 25, 2018

Let's get all the superlatives out now describing the positives of West Indies' performance in Vishakhapatnam.

It’s been proven by the best one-day international teams post-2015 World Cup that 350 is more of a par score in modern ODIs. The 400-barrier is also very attainable as well, with England breaking the highest ODI total twice in last three years.

So even though West Indies didn’t attain this benchmark, considering the team hasn’t won a one-day international series since 2014, scoring consecutive 320 totals against India is a solid effort.

Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer forged a crucial 143-run partnership in the second ODI at Vizag. AP

Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer forged a crucial 143-run partnership in the second ODI at Vizag. AP

Even if one can objectively argue about the due factor effect on the game and that India didn’t have two of their main limited overs quick bowlers, Bhuveneshwar Kumar and Jaspreet Bumrah, playing, we can't negate this basic accomplishment.

Shai Hope played an almost perfect innings for a number three batsman and Shimron Hetymer has continued his brilliant 2018 white-ball batting form.

There will soon be a point when Darren Bravo returns to join them, and Windies will have its most dynamic middle-order batting trio since the days of Brian Lara, Carl Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

Young left-arm quick Obed McCoy also had an encouraging debut despite his figures, which could have been better if captain Jason Holder hadn’t dropped Virat Kohli shortly before the latter brought up his half-century.

However, the harsh reality is this young West Indies team displayed the same unfortunate qualities that previous teams post-1995 have done across the longer formats, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory — because the team does not know how to win when on top.

Therefore one cannot praise Holder’s team for a performance that sides consisting of the likes of Lara, Chanderpaul, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Daren Sammy etc were regularly chastised for, failing to beat better teams from winning positions.

One can check the litany of 50-over tournaments and bilateral series West Indies have played in last two decades, and one will find many such efforts.

The Vishakapatnam game is almost identical to events in Bridgetown 2005, when West Indies lost to South Africa by one run thanks to a Charl Langevelth hat-trick, as they collapsed from 213-3 chasing 285.

India fans will also remember their 1996 World Cup semi-final collapse versus Australia in Chandigarh. In a more recent instance, during abandoned tour of 2014, when on the verge of going 2-0 up in the series, the visitors were bundled out for 215 in pursuit of 264 after being 136-1 at one stage.

Looking back at Hope’s innings, one of the things he faced criticism for during the home loss to Bangladesh was his below-par strike rate of 70, which negates his solid average of 40.

His innings of 32 in Guwahati, where his strike rate was 62 before his dismissal, once again raised concerns over his long term place in the side, with the exciting young former Mumbai Indians wicket-keeper batsman Nicholas Pooran turning heads with his free flowing batting in the ongoing Caribbean domestic 50-over competition.

So while it’s very hard to really pick holes in any player who plays such an innings as Hope, or even think about dropping them, it won’t be the first time a player lost his place after a major performance.

Of recent vintage, India's Karun Nair barely got opportunities in Test cricket after his triple century at Chennai, nor did Australia's Brad Hodge after registering a double ton.

Thus, in hindsight, Hope has to ask himself two questions. First, could he have tried to score more boundaries during his partnership with Hetmyer, and second, whether he accelerated well enough while closing in on his hundred?

His batting is notably resembling that of former England international Jonathan Trott, who averaged 51.25 with a 70-plus strike rate. England, of course, did not win anything with him around until the current Eoin Morgan-era of destructive top order batsmen.

Hence, with Bravo and much more fluent scorers for the number three position around, and other strong keeper options in Pooran and Denesh Ramdin, the West Indies selectors will have to decide whether they can afford a top-order batsman with below par strike-rate, or follow the footsteps of some of the more successful teams, and make the hard decision to let him off at some point before the World Cup if he cannot improve.

Before the 2014 T20 World Cup group stage clash between West Indies and India, Suresh Raina and Sammy had a pre-game media comments exchange that encapsulated the Achilles heel of Windies batsmen in 50-over cricket, that has inversely made them dominant in T20s.

"They are a completely different team, they have players who can hits sixes," Raina said. "They do not know much of rotating the strike against spinners, with ones and twos. It is important we put early pressure."

Sammy's response to Raina's opinion was one of casual indifference: "We don't care much about what Raina thinks. If he thinks we are only six-hitters, then stop us from hitting sixes."

The way Hetmyer was batting, he could have, in partnership with Hope, did to India with Rohit Sharma and Kohli did in game one, which would have stunned the cricket world because during his innings, the much-vaunted Indian spinners did not know where to bowl to him.

But he perished after failing to control his aggression, and his dismissal was more out of a bad shot than a special delivery.

Hetmyer’s dismissal was a deja vu moment to the many instances where Gayle and company would get dismissed, the way Raina suggested, to spin.

Thus as aforementioned, while Hetmyer deserves praise, don’t let him off the hook for mistakes that the now-banished senior players made in the 50-over cricket, which led to them being heavily criticised for and eventually removed from the team for the perception and belief that they couldn’t or didn’t want to correct that flaw.

Updated Date: Oct 25, 2018







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