How Shai Hope, Named In ICC ODI 2022 Team, Has Got A Deserving Career Lift?
From the outset, Shai Hope being chosen in the 2022 ODI side of the year may seem a strange decision, perplexing even. How’s that?
The West Indies batsman actually took 21 innings to compile 709 runs. After all, can a batting average of 35, that can, at the most, be considered decent ever be considered staggering?
Yet, there’s a certain depth to the decision taken by the powers that be at the revered ICC that make Shai Hope’s enlistment a fine act.
Last year, Shai Hope struck not one or two but three international tons, thus taking his collective tally to 13.
He fired a hundred against India in the Caribbean while the two other centuries were struck in The Netherlands and Pakistan, respectively.
In facing extreme pressure from quality attacks that comprised bowlers of admirable skill and dexterity, whether Siraj, Shaheen, Logan van Beek, Chahal or Naseem Shah, Shai Hope exhibited composure and usual technical solidity, skills that have allowed him to be in a league of his own.
It’s a shame that despite firing each of his centuries, he ended up on the wrong side of the result, which truly goes to show the vast amount of legwork that the rest of the batsmen in the West Indies team need to cover if they are to turn a corner in their cricket.
To a team comprising quality big hitters, whether one thinks of newly elected captain Rovman Powell or his predecessor Nicholas Pooran, Shai Hope is an antidote to the slam-bam wham-bamming West Indian prototype.
Here’s a batsman who guards his wickets. He’s someone who likes to spend time in the middle; a man who’ll identify the possibilities and avenues for the twos and threes and wouldn’t irrationally fall for the misguided love for hitting the big boundary or the wild heave.
Strokes in the air and Shai Hope haven’t really been in a relationship and there’s no lust whatsosever for blind hitting.
That Hope can up the tempo of his innings in the one-day game was firmly evident by the fact that 7 of his 21 outings (in 2022) came at a strike rate that was north of 80.
That’s actually an impressive feat for a batsman often termed ‘slow’ given the manic pace of the modern international game.
But again, Shai Hope’s cricket isn’t based on ludicrous acts of harakiri; it’s utility based and has a purpose. You are compelled to think that had he been playing at the time of a Dravid or a Younis Khan or Mahela, he’d have been closely watching the legends bat from the opposition camp and may even have sought out their time to engage in some cerebral talk.
At the risk of portraying the right-hander as some freakish massiah, it ought to be reminded that the present-day West Indian side doesn’t always believe in preserving their wickets, which is exactly Hope’s modus operandi.
This isn’t some miscalculated punt; it’s a fact as evidenced upon reading the scorecard of each of their three ODI’s in India, played during early 2022.
Sad that it may read, the West Indies failed to play a full quota of their allotted 50 overs in each of the 3 ODI’s they played in India, getting bundled out for a shabby 37.1 overs in the third and final contest that was played at Ahmedabad.
The sort of batsman who seems to be giving himself small targets, such as- opening the account, getting the next 10-20 runs, then entering the forties and eventually, a landmark score, Hope did miss out on the India assignment.
But he’d cover lost ground quite efficiently, hitting an emphatic hundred against the same opponent, where the three-figure-score turned up in his 100th One-day international.
Surely, there are flaws in his game too; consuming one dot ball too many early up the inning does lead to Hope putting extra pressure on himself. But his sheer class allows him to find that odd boundary, often on a good delivery that you feel another batsman would’ve gently let through to the keeper.
With the elegant nudges and the gentle clips off the legs, Shai Hope, at least, for now, is standing tall for the Caribbean side. But things could- and one hopes do- get better if the others- think Holder, Mayers, Pooran, Powell too stand firm amid duress and counter pressure instead of becoming a prey to it.
Wouldn’t the most dependable batsman in the West Indies side like that?