Toby Radford: ‘Hetmyer entertains, but he needs to find balance’
By Akeem Greene
Shimron Odilon Hetmyer.
It’s a name that conjures varying emotional commentaries by fans, especially those with West Indies cricket at heart.
From a congratulatory message after an astonishing knock to utter disbelief over a mode of dismissal, Hetmyer has somehow managed to remain topical whenever West Indies take the field.
But, from his swivel to the leg side, a thumping blow over mid-wicket or a piercing cover drive, there is always one consensus- he is talented.
Talent, which is natural aptitude or skill, is just one facet of the gentleman’s game though; application and developing that talent to succeed is what makes some elevate to the level of greatness.
In 2016, Hetmyer broke new grounds, captaining the West Indies to a maiden Youth World Cup title, in the process announcing himself to the world.
A classy 127 against the United Arab Emirates in just his third One-Day International and the headlines again praised him as the great hope for revival. Runs kept flowing in 2018 and three ODI centuries were followed by a blitz (104* from 83) against England in early 2019.
But as the senior World Cup approached, runs began to dry up and pundits and fans alike were now questioning whether he was ready for the rigours of international cricket.
Fans had their say, many via social media platforms, and sometimes it didn’t make for pleasant reading. Understandably, public pressure began to build on the young shoulders of the Berbician.
Sixteen ODI innings later from the onslaught against England, he reached his fifth ton via another jaw-dropping performance (139 from 106) against India in India. It was a timely reminder as IPL franchise Delhi Capitals drafted him for an approximate purse of US$ 1.1 million for the 2020 season.
That’s after he was released by Royal Challengers Bangalore after they gave him only five games last season in which he scored 90 runs. He was snapped up for US$588,000 in 2019.
In a matter of three years, Hetmyer moved from a boy who could smack a cricket ball to one of the biggest overseas earners in the IPL. It was really a case of swift and commendable movement, but consistency, like with so many West Indian players, had been lacking.
In 20 ODI innings in 2019, Hetmyer managed just four scores of 50 or more, and the two thus far in 2020 have yielded 14 runs. His average, which was hovering in the early 40s, has dropped to 36.66.
In Tests, it has dipped to 27.93, with the last major score being 81 against England.
The frustration has never been about him getting out, but rather the manner of dismissal on most occasions.
According to former West Indies batting coach, Toby Radford, the 23-year-old is still maturing, but he needs to develop a balance to his aggressive approach.
“I think with ‘Hetty’ and like a lot of young shot players, they want to play shots and they love to entertain. He is an entertainer and has a great personality and I think it is that balance now between when to do that [entertain] and when you can’t,” Radford told News Room Sport in an exclusive interview.
He added, “It is about his maturity in reading situations and playing the right innings for the right situation and I am sure it is going to get there because he has had that message since from us and I am sure he is getting it from coaches now. He loves his batting and I am sure we are going to see consistency because what you get [right now] are bits of brilliance, but in between the bits of brilliance you get bits of frustration.”
To enforce his point, Radford, who had close to eight years at different intervals serving West Indies cricket, highlighted the chase of 419 against England in Grenada last year.
Hetmyer entered with West Indies 220-3 and needing 199 from 26.5 overs. He struck Mark Wood for six over mid-wicket first ball, and a similar attempt by the left-hander next ball brought about his demise.
West Indies eventually were bowled out in 48 overs and lost by 29 runs with Chris Gayle making 162 from 97 balls.
The coach felt had the Guyanese played second fiddle to Gayle, he is most certain West Indies could have won that match.
“It is reading those situations and at times, be able to play second fiddle, he does not always have to be the big entertainer. It has got to sink in that he is an undoubted talent and he can play shots a lot of people can’t play.”
Hetmyer, who spent his elementary years at Young Warriors Cricket Club, is seen by Radford as one the best against spin, but again, it comes down to reading the situation.
“I can honestly say in 25-odd years of coaching, I have not seen a better young player against spin, he is an outstanding player against spin, he picks lengths quickly…he has got this array of shots especially against spin which is absolutely brilliant.’’
“Within a game, [it is about] reading a situation [and] saying actually what the team needs is for me just to bat and consolidate and be here for longer in the game…there is a time on a flat wicket when bowlers are tired you can play shots and he has got everything in his armory.”
The pressure of expectation will always follow Hetmyer, but, as Radford alluded, game awareness and balancing his approach could make him much more than just a talented cricketer.