Change of format brings change in fortunes for Hetmyer


22.1 Is he really their most promising batsman? That’s a terrible, terrible shot to play. What was the need? I don’t know. Did they need 20 runs in two overs? No. The situation demanded he bat, bat and bat. Instead, he looks for an ugly slog and slices it to short third man. The turn does him in as he looks to slog across the line, the dip ensures the ball takes the edge. Catches like those won’t be dropped most times. This is terrible batting from West Indies and as a coach, Stuart Law, even if he is going to resign after this series, has every right to ask for accountability. Very, very poor. Kuldeep trusted himself to deceive the batsman in flight, kept at it and has now been rewarded with two wickets.

This reaction from ESPNcricinfo’s ball-by-ball commentator during the second innings of the Rajkot Test both put a finger on the pulse and unwittingly turned into a premonition. Coach Stuart Law was visibly displeased by Shimron Hetmyer swinging across the line against Kuldeep Yadav, and he would be again in the second innings in Hyderabad where Hetmyer got out the same way, against the same bowler – this time when West Indies were looking at setting India a challenging target.

Every time Hetmyer was dismissed during the Test series, he looked out of sync. It began with a mix-up that culminated in that Ravindra Jadeja bait-and-troll run-out in Rajkot, and in the middle of his two injudicious slogs, he was lbw shouldering arms to a Kuldeep googly.

It could just have been one of those situations where a bowler has you for the entirety of the series, because the moment Kuldeep was left out of the team for the first ODI, Hetmyer produced the kind of devastating innings that has already become a trademark in a very young career. In 13 ODI innings, Hetmyer has now made three centuries and each of them has been scored with a strike rate hovering around 135.

“It was good to see him get back to form,” captain Jason Holder said after the match. “He had a lean patch in the Test series and pretty innocuous dismissals as well, so it’s good to see him get a score on the board. He has been doing pretty well in the limited-overs format for us, so it’s good to see him put up his hand and score a hundred today. A bit unfortunate, the stage he got out, I thought he could have gone a bit deeper, probably take us a little further into the innings. But credit to the young player coming and scoring his third ODI century.”

The Guyana batsman was identified as one of the most talented young players in the Caribbean in 2013-14 when he played in his first Under-19 World Cup. In 2014, he was named their Junior Cricketer of the Year before captaining West Indies to the Under-19 World Cup title in 2016. And there was enough in Sunday’s innings to understand why he was rated like that.

On a bouncy pitch, where even the settled Kieran Powell before him was struck in the body many times while trying to play with a horizontal bat, Hetmyer brought out a ruthless collection of pull shots against India’s fast bowlers.

There was a noticeable plan to bowl short to him from the quicks who, until then, had preferred to hit a length and get the ball to rise at the batsmen. Having settled in after their initial examinations, Hetmyer capitalised. And while the lack of balls turning away from him contributed greatly to his 65 runs on the leg side, his two best moments came against the fast bowlers.

The first one was a six against Khaleel Ahmed’s rising offcutter in the 28th over. The variation was meant to follow him into the leg side and Hetmyer could have been entangled if it weren’t for his fast hands. What ended up happening was that the ball was slapped over wide long-on with a horizontal bat.

The next one was his most picturesque six of the afternoon, and this was the one that took him past a hundred – a front-foot drive extended to lift the ball over extra cover against Mohammed Shami. It was a majestic hit and fully deserved the standing ovation that followed.

But even on a day of such magnificence, the end of Hetmyer’s innings had elements of inexperience to it. Once again, he was out top-edging a spinner with just over 11 overs and only four wickets in hand. So while the 21-year-old might be a completely different player in ODIs, at least from the small sample we’ve seen, some more tempering is needed anyway.

“Hetty was quite aggressive,” Holder said. “Fortunately for us, it worked out and it was really good to see him get as deep as he could. But against a team like India, you’re never quite sure what the par score is.

“In hindsight, 320 was probably par score and we needed to kick on a little bit further. Having said that, I was pleased to get at least 300 and bat out all the overs. Inexperience did show when we batted as well as when we bowled. So probably just a matter for us to learn quickly and hopefully correct one or two mistakes that we made today.” (ESPNCricinfo)

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