Hope silences strike-rate critics, with bat and words

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“Who doesn’t like to play shots, man?”

Even in a good mood, Shai Hope is not quite impressed with questions about his strike-rate. Perhaps the questions are due because this was only his fourth innings in 111 T20 games that went at better than two a ball and lasted for at least 15 balls.

Perhaps Hope is justified in being a little prickly about it because three of those four have come in the last year alone. Since the start of the 2022 CPL, Hope has gone at a strike-rate of 137.77, which is a big improvement from 117.24 before that.

Hope smashed 82 off 39 against USA. Looking effortless while doing so, his innings also helped West Indies go past the net run-rate of other teams in their group, leaving them a more straight-forward task of just beating South Africa in their final Super Eight match rather than keeping an eye on the run-rate too.

At the press conference that followed, Hope took an exception to this being called an innings out of character when asked if this was the best he had batted in a T20 game.

“I would like to throw that question back at you,” Hope said without ever getting around to whether this was indeed the best he had batted. “Why is it out of character in your eyes?”

It is understandable that he doesn’t like not getting due credit for turning his game around. Especially when you consider he is going at 147.35 this year even though it has probably meant he has scored only one half-century.

His numbers are all the more impressive because he plays a lot in the CPL, which tends to be lower-scoring. His strike-rate is about the same as the overall strike-rate in the matches he has played in the last two years.

While these are all signs of an improved game, and perhaps a better understanding of the format, Hope said it has always been about batting according to the situation.

“To be honest, it’s just the situation, man,” Hope said. “It’s whatever is required. There’s some games where the conditions may be challenging and you have to fight. You can’t just go out there and try to smash every ball for six or four. Someone has to stick in and play along. I don’t think people realise that.

Shai Hope got to his fifty in 26 balls•Jun 21, 2024•ICC/Getty Images

“We understood what’s at stake here. We know that in this situation run-rate could play a part. So, 105 strike-rate wasn’t going to be the play today. So again, just playing the situation. That’s the one thing that I pride myself on as a batsman, as a cricketer.”

Hope also said they hadn’t calculated exactly how soon they needed to finish the job to go past South Africa on net run-rate. It was just about being mindful of finishing early while letting the natural instincts take over.

“Not entirely,” Hope said when asked if they hadn’t made the calculations even at the start of the chase, which – for what it’s worth – was 14.4 overs. They finished much quicker in the end. “We didn’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves because sometimes that can play on the negative side.

“So yes, we understood the importance of getting the game finished quickly, but we didn’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. The aim was to play the powerplay as normal as we could, put away the bad balls, put the guys on the pressure at the start of the over, stuff like that, and then we assess after the powerplay and then decided that we wanted to finish by a certain stage.”

We might never get to know whether Hope would even have played had Kyle Mayers, the replacement for the injured opener Brandon King, been available for selection.

For the only match Hope has played so far this World Cup was at No. 4 in what was a dead rubber for them.

He was tried as a replacement for Roston Chase, the one designated batter in the side to play the role of the anchor should the need arise.

It is possible that, entirely by accident, Hope got this one chance in a role that suits him much more than the middle order, and he displayed all his improvements. No. 3 is where he flourished in the last CPL.

Getting to start in the powerplay is perhaps the ideal role for him. West Indies earlier didn’t have a vacancy there, and now he has made an irresistible case for himself when he got that one chance.

Bigger opponents await, but Hope has form on his side. He might have a big part in making sure his next chance – which looks like the next game – is not West Indies’ last in a home World Cup. (ESPNcricinfo)

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