Following the meek surrender in the Test matches, the Windies batting unit has made a huge statement by making Indian bowlers sweat in the white-ball leg of the tour thus far. In both Guwahati and Visakhapatnam ODIs, they crossed the 300-mark and raised quite a few eyebrows. And it is the 21-year old swashbuckling southpaw from Guyana, Shimron Hetmyer, who has been the flag bearer of this batting resurgence from the visitors.
A 78-ball 106 while batting first followed by a 94 off 64 during a stiff run-chase – two counter-attacking knocks against a quality bowling attack — have suddenly put the limelight on the young batsman. After all, a significant performance against India doesn't go unnoticed, especially with all the T20 scouts around looking for new talents.
In fact, since his recent heroics in the Caribbean Premier League (457 runs across 11 matches at a strike-rate of 148.14, the most by any Windies cricketer in 2018), the left-hander has already been under the scanner. And now, with the Indian Premier League (IPL) player auction just around the corner, such an outing against the Indians is bound to make franchises more interested towards this new kid on the block.
It is not just about the onslaught. The way Hetmyer has stamped his authority on this versatile Indian bowling, especially on the much-talked-about spin-trio, vouches for his high skill-set, immense maturity and most importantly, solid temperament as a batsman. Instead of over-attacking like some of his other teammates, the left-hander showed controlled aggression, chose the right balls to go for expansive shots and when he hit it, he cleared the boundaries with ease.
It is rare to see spinners like Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja and Yuzvendra Chahal being dealt with such authority, especially by a non-Asian batsman on Indian pitches. And let's not forget that Hetmyer is currently in the middle of his maiden tour of the sub-continent with the senior team. After struggling to pick Kuldeep's variations in the Test matches, the youngster has looked a completely different batsman in the ODIs. The limited-overs format has provided him the liberty to express himself in the middle, and this change in approach has had an instant impact on his game.
Batting at No 5, Hetmyer had to deal with the slow bowling right from the start in both games. But it did not peg him back. Against spin, the left-hander picked the length beautifully. In fact, it has been the key aspect of his success against Kuldeep and Co. His leg-side hoicks frustrated the spinners as they couldn't find the right channel to bowl to Hetmyer. And nearly every mistake on the part of the bowlers was maximised. Also, the lack of balls turning away helped his cause as well. Furthermore, when the pacers targeted him with short-pitched bowling, the youngster was up to the task with his horizontal bat.
Nevertheless, for those who have seen Hetmyer coming through the ranks, this batting prowess is hardly surprising. Back home, since his age-group days, he has been considered as one of the future batting stalwarts of Windies cricket. In 2016, he led the West Indies Under-19 team to its maiden World Cup victory. It was the fist time Hetmyer's talent was on display at the world stage. Though as a batsman, he did not have a huge run in the tournament, but following that successful campaign, the left-hander started to tick the right boxes.
Former Windies legends like Viv Richards and Brian Lara have spoken highly about this youngster and it is because of their push, Hetmyer has been fast-tracked to the national team. In Test matches he might still be considered as a work in progress but from the small sample we have seen, the southpaw looks like one of those typical Windies white-ball batsmen with a lot of flair.
Interestingly, batting with such an elegance when the field is pushed back is ideally suited for a tournament like the IPL, where we mostly experience high-scoring matches. And a lot of teams, which are top-heavy, are always in search of quality overseas middle-order batsmen. Hence, if everything falls in place, we might see a bidding war over Hetmyer in the upcoming player auction. Harbhajan Singh had recently predicted him to be the next "million-dollar baby in the IPL", and at this juncture it doesn't sound like an exaggeration.