Hetmyer’s chance to come of age

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(Reporting and Photography by Akeem Greene in Barbados, compliments of News Room and E-Networks)

“He is an explosive player; I am really excited for him and hopefully he can bat us into a good position. As a side, guys like Shai Hope and Chris [Gayle] can all help him around,” were the words of captain Jason Holder when questioned on the possible impact of young batsman Shimron Hetmyer.

Holder was speaking on the eve of the five-match One-Day International series against England, which starts on Wednesday (February 20) at the Kensington Oval.

While Holder was reserved in his facial admiration for the blockbuster middle-order package, Hetmyer was quite calm and relaxed ahead of the massive series. From running around chirping during fielding drills to learning the art of taking pictures from Randy Brooks, his persona alluded he was in a fantastic place mentally.

The mood quickly changed when Assistant Coach Esuan Crandon called him to do the ‘Six-hitting’ drill.  From stepping out of the dressing room with his gear to walking beside the pitch, it was a different Hetmyer, one who was intent on getting the job at hand done.

Some juicy lobs sailed into the stands; some he belted powerfully all along the surface. Clearly, it won’t be that juicy in the match, but rather spicy given the rapid pace of Mark Wood and company.

Despite just 20 matches into his ODI career, the expectations have risen immensely since the Guyanese led the Windies to the Youth World Cup title in 2016.

Shimron Hetmyer practices his six-hitting

In 2018, he was the senior team’s second highest run-scorer in ODIs with 727 runs, inclusive of three tons at an average of 40.38 from 17 matches. Shai Hope led with 875 at an average of 67.30.

All things being equal, you can describe the bloke as having a fantastic year which is fair, but there were numerous opportunities to enhance to those numbers had it not been for a rush of blood.

On the flip side, he effectively has only played 16 regional 50-over matches and only made one ton, which makes a practical case of learning on the job. Success on the job has already been rewarded with an IPL purse of US$588,000 to play with the star-studded Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Despite a squash-buckling 78-ball 106 against India, critics have waded into him for not further maximising on opportunities. Once again, the 22-year-old was out top-edging a spinner with just over 11 overs and only four wickets in hand.

The team will demand greater, which is harsh given his lack of experience, but understandable due to the world-class talent he possesses. Hetmyer knows he has to understand and conquer situational awareness.

“In situations, it is knowing when to go and when to hold back and just tick it around and try to build a partnership and as the game goes on then you can probably take it a step higher from there,” he told News Room Sport in an exclusive interview.

“I don’t try and think about it [the pressure] too much; I just try to play my game gracefully. If it does come off a day and I do get a 100 or I do get a 50, well that is just a bonus for my team. It [international cricket] has taught me a lot about the patience of bowlers, the different type of fielders who you can take on, trying to be patient as possible and wait until the ball in your area to put it away. With these better pitches it is easier to do, but you still have to wait.”

Touted as future leader, he is relishing the time under the leadership of Holder, picking areas to fuel his success and maturity.

“He (Holder) is very inspirational, he is a fantastic captain, fantastic leader…as time goes by I learn different stuff from him.  He helps me always when possible, even with my batting he gives me some small pointers in the field.”

His goal for the England series is simple: help the hosts win. It is left to see whether he makes a concerted effort to be hungry for more than just a hundred than could define a most promising career.

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