Frustrating to miss out, but experience was great- Hemraj

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By Avenash Ramzan

“Mohammed Shami to Hemraj, FOUR runs, a bit too full on middle, 144ks, Hemraj goes over the top. Lovely flow of the arms as he chips it straight over Shami’s head.”

A shot of confidence from the Guyanese left-hander Chandrapaul Hemraj as reported on ESPNCricinfo’s live commentary- his first boundary in international cricket off the ninth ball he faced on debut in Guwahati.

The very next ball, short and wide outside off-stump, and Hemraj cracks it over backward point for another boundary.

It would be his last scoring shot though as Shami gains revenge in the next over; Hemraj is bowled for nine, playing on to a back-of-a-length delivery.

Add nine more boundaries and two sixes in the next three innings, and you get the picture- Hemraj was not afraid to play his shots. However, 70 runs from four matches against India in the just-concluded ODI series represent miniscule returns for a man of such tremendous talent and promise.

Scores of nine, 32, 15 and 14 will not rock the world, and Hemraj knows it.

“It was a bit frustrating because I didn’t get the runs I wanted,” the 25-year-old strokemaker told News Room on Monday.

“Playing against India, you know it won’t be easy, but it was a great experience. One of the things I learnt is that you really have to adapt and learn quickly in international cricket.”

Hemraj was not short of on-field inspiration, even though it came from the opposing side. The Indian captain Virat Kohli reeled off centuries in the first three matches, and he provided a great example of top-class batsmanship for the young West Indian to soak in.

“He has an unbelievable hunger for runs and understands his game really well,” Hemraj said of Kohli.

Those are qualities Hemraj himself embraced this season, topping Guyana Jaguars batting chart in the Regional Four-day tournament and following up with a maiden List A hundred before heading off to India. In between, he was West Indies A leading runscorer in the 50-over Tri-Series with India A and hosts England Lions.

Making that transition from domestic to international cricket is always a huge leap, but Hemraj is assured and confident in his own ability. “I was hitting the ball really well in India; it was coming off the middle. It was just a matter of carrying on after getting past that difficult phase.”

Playing in front of massive crowds that are synonymous to Indian cricket was also a whole new experience for Hemraj: “The crowds were really energetic; it was really hard to communicate in the middle.”

With West Indies squad still unsettled six months from the World Cup, it’s anyone guess who those 15 players will be.

What’s for sure, Chris Gayle will need a partner at the top of the order, especially with doubts over Evin Lewis, who opted out of the India tour and declined a Cricket West Indies white-ball contract for the 2018-19 season.

The experienced Kieran Powell, who was drafted in as Lewis’ replacement, did little to stake a claim, managing just 94 runs in five matches.

West Indies next series is against hosts Bangladesh later this month where they will play two Tests, three ODIs and one T20.

The openers selected for the ODI leg would have another opportunity to push their World Cup case. Would Hemraj be among that lot?

Time will tell.

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