CPL: ‘I was just hoping to get pick’- Hemraj
By Avenash Ramzan
In 2018, it’s hard to believe that Chandrapaul Hemraj had taken a self-imposed exile from the game, staying clear of competitive cricket for a year, due to being sidelined by the national selectors.
That break was during the 2014-2015 season, and with just 131 runs in 10 First-Class innings for Guyana, it seemed a promising career had taken a downturn, and Hemraj would fall off the radar like so many players after their stint at the youth level.
But the talented left-hander from Strathavon rose like a giant above his adversities, and today his name was sounded loud and clear in London at the Hero Caribbean Premier League Player Draft. The St. Lucia Stars made the shout, deciding they would throw some cash behind the talented youngster.
“I’m just really excited at the moment to be picked up by the St. Lucia Stars. I didn’t really look at the Draft, I was just hoping to hear I got pick. I’m looking forward for this year CPL, but for now my focus is on the West Indies A team,” Hemraj told News Room on Thursday.
This week has provided a double stroke of good fortune for Hemraj, as his CPL call-up came days after he was named in the West Indies A team to face England Lions in three One-day games.
In the Stars line-up, Hemraj would rub shoulders with the likes of global T20 stars Kieron Pollard, Lendl Simmons, Darren Sammy and Mitch McCleneghan, an opportunity he is eagerly looking forward to when the tournament comes around from August 8 to September 16.
“I’m really looking forward to that, because those guys have a lot of experience and I will try to learn as much as I can from them,” the 24-year-old said.
Four years ago, not even Hemraj thought this day would come. His career was not going the way he wanted and he opted to give it a rest.
“I was going through a bad patch and I felt I needed a break. But my family, they were the ones who kept supporting me you know- that I should still continue playing cricket, and I’m thankful for the break that I got in the last tournament,” Hemraj told this writer in 2016.
That last tournament was the Jaguars Franchise League Three-day, a competition that replaced the tradition Inter-county tournament. He ended as the leading runscorer for the East Coast Demerara franchise in the seven-round tournament.
Hemraj belted 566 runs, the fourth most in the tournament, behind Tagenarine Chanderpaul (635), Kandasammy Surujnarine (607) and Jonathon Foo (580).
He was also one of only six batsmen to score over 500 runs in the eight-team, round-robin competition, the others being Bhaskar Yadram (547) and Assad Fudadin (531).
“I think the break that I took helped me. I went away and then at the start of the [Jaguars Franchise League] tournament, I didn’t have a good start. I think the first three games I didn’t get much runs. But just the way I think, that helped to improve my cricket, and I did some technical work on my batting. That was basically it,” Hemraj further stated.
In that tournament, Hemraj had a slow start where he had scores of 0, 12, 4, 34 and 24, before ending the tournament on a high, racking up scores of 81, 91 and the competition’s highest individual score- 250 not out.
“That was an amazing feeling you know. I always wanted to score a double century and I think I scored it at the right time,” he pointed out back then.
Such levels of consistency and productivity once again placed Hemraj on the selectors’ radar and since then it has been nothing but success for the free-flowing batsman.
The last 12 months especially have been extremely rewarding. Batting out of position as a opener, Hemraj piled up 623 runs from 10 games, a contribution that played a significant role in Guyana Jaguars winning the Four-day championship for a fourth year in succession.
He made five fifties with a highest of 90 and his tally of runs was the most by a Guyanese and fifth most in the competition. That form earned him a List A debut and he impressed in the Super50 last month in Antigua, scoring 227 runs from nine games with two fifties, including a highest of 80 against Jamaica Scorpions.
It’s been an amazing turnaround for Hemraj. Four years ago the local selectors were looking beyond him; today his talent is sought beyond these shores.
It’s anyone guess where these opportunities would take him. What’s for sure though, he’s not going to take a break anytime soon.