May 22, a battle of nerves for Chandrapaul Hemraj

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By Avenash Ramzan

It’s May 22, 2019; a day of scattered showers in Strathavon, East Coast Demerara.

The precipitation is most welcomed by farmers; a break from long months of searing heat.

Sitting at the edge of his couch, his eyes and ears fixed on the television, Chandrapaul Hemraj is sweating profusely. Strangely so, given it’s a relatively cool day.

It’s his body’s direct and uncontrolled reaction to an event happening hundreds of miles away in the land of Guyana’s former colonial masters.

“To be honest, I was very nervous,” said the 25-year-old batsman, as he reflected on the Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) Player Draft in London.

The CPL is viewed by every young Caribbean player as a launch pad to international stardom, and quite rightly so. So the anxiety that enveloped Hemraj with each passing round and his name not among the picks was understandable.

With glimpses of promise in the few opportunities with St. Lucia Stars last season, he may have been harbouring thoughts of being retained, but the Stars were looking to rebuild after a horrendous 2018 campaign in which they finished in the penultimate spot with just three wins from 10 games.

It meant therefore, Hemraj was left out in the open, and the options were clear- the Stars would have to re-purchase him; another franchise could snap him up; or he could go unsold.

The thought of totally missing out would instantly lead to hypertension, but that fate was averted in Round 13 when the Guyana Amazon Warriors drafted the West Indies ODI opener as the fifth local player behind Romario Shepherd and retained IPL trio Shimron Hetmyer, Keemo Paul and Sherfane Rutherford.

“I’ve never been so worried like today,” he said of May 22.

Those words aptly demonstrate what the CPL means to Strathavon’s first West Indies player. More than ever, its presents an opportunity for the dashing left-hander to work his way back to the top.

West Indies cricketer Chandrapaul Hemraj plays a shot during the second one day international (ODI) cricket match between India and West Indies at the Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium in Visakhapatnam on October 24, 2018. (Photo by NOAH SEELAM/AFP)

He was sidelined after 82 runs in six ODIs against India and Bangladesh in late 2018. His replacement, John Campbell, and later Sunil Ambris have since been making strides at the international level, pushing the Guyanese down the pecking order.

“I knew I would have gotten picked (for CPL 2019), but I wasn’t sure which franchise,” he related.

“It’s a great feeling to represent my home country; I know most of the guys and I’m really grateful to be part of the Guyana Amazon Warriors.”

In St. Lucia Stars’ final match of 2018, Hemraj lit up Kensington Oval with some bold strokeplay, hitting three fours and three sixes in a free-flowing 37 off 26 balls, even outscoring David Warner in a partnership of 56 as they chased down Barbados Tridents’ 136 with ease.

“It was an amazing feeling to bat with him (Warner). He actually helped me through the innings because the wicket wasn’t really conducive to certain shots,” Hemraj reflected upon return to Guyana after the 2018 season.

Now with the experience of CPL and international cricket, Hemraj is looking to transfer his worth to a Warriors side still searching for a maiden title, despite making the playoff on every occasion and the final four times.

“I have learnt that no matter what situation you’re in, you have to keep supporting and believing in each other until the end.”

“I’m privileged to be part of the Guyana Amazon Warriors because they have been one of the most consistent team, so you never know, we could get over the line this time around.”

The anxiety and perspiration of May 22 have since dissipated.

The next bout of sweating will signal the start of conditioning for the September 4 bowl-off of the ‘Biggest Party in Sport.’

After all, his role at the top of the order could be a crucial factor this season.

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