Is Shai Hope, the next big thing for West Indies cricket?

“I saw him when the president (of Cricket West Indies) asked me to come down and do some coaching with the team for four or five weeks. The first time I saw him (Hope), I said, ‘Pfft, this is class! This is class’.”  said the legend, Garry Sobers to skysports about the incredibly talented young West Indian.

When West Indies Cricket Board was searching for the next-gen cricketers to bring back the glory of their team, the arrival of the young trio (Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran) has given sunlight to the darkness.

Chiefly, the Shai Hope’s effect is getting inflated because of the uncommon orthodox style he has for a West Indian batter.

Within a short period, the Barbadian batsman reached a spot to be compared with the legends of Windies.

Too many eyebrows get raised when someone is compared with the legends.

So let’s delve deeper by finding answers for the common questions on the young Shai Diego Hope.

Why is Shai Hope, important for Windies? 

For an aggressive team like the West Indies, a batter who can take the responsibility and show temperament is a mandatory element. Most importantly, Hope does the anchoring role, which is what the Windies required for a long time.

The Windies team batting was like a ship that had been run by the crew, but the arrival of Shai Hope had fetched them a captain for the ship to navigate.

The Windies team has always been filled with hard hitters. Even their No 8 and 9 can produce some nightmare innings to the opponents. But what lacks the most in them is ‘stability’. Even their top order batsmen find it difficult to have the temperament to stay on the crease for a long time.

Therefore the orthodox Hope’s effect makes it easier for other unconventional batsmen in Maroon. Besides, it helps the other batsmen to behave themselves, playing their aggressive shots independently, and they don’t have to find ways for defending, which is not their cup of tea.

Hope of Tests

Admittedly, we knew the remarkable capabilities of Windies in T20 cricket and the influence that T20s have among the Windies fans. But what about the ODIs and Tests that are losing the grip of Windies fans.

Cricket was more prominent in the West Indies soil when both of their batting and bowling departments were too tough to handle. It was their legendary batsmen; namely, Garry Sobers, Gordon Greenidge, Everton Weekes, Clyde Walcott, Vivian Richards and Brian Lara, who created the passion for fans towards Test cricket with their batting.

Speaking of quality batters, Shai Hope has slightly got into the path of the greats with his highly rated techniques and performances.

The undeniable truth is, unlike other legendary batsmen, Hope is not only responsible for the Windies team but also for the survival of Test cricket in the Caribbean land.

As a matter of fact, Test cricket hadn’t been easy for Shai Hope. His statistics in Test cricket is not so impressive; he has made only two centuries out of the 31 matches he played.

But the way he brought in those two centuries to the kit showed his character as a Test cricketer.

Excellence in British land

Test cricket in England has always been exceptional. Because of the swinging conditions, England grounds became onerous for any batsman to perform. One reason why Virat Kohli’s century at Trent bridge is rated so high, though it came in a losing cause.

In fact, in the cricketing world, the quality of a batsman is assessed with their ability to score in England. Especially in red-ball cricket.

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Shai Hope’s maiden Test century in the first innings of the second Test (Headingley,2017) lifted the team from a great downfall while the heroic second innings ton won the match for Windies.

Eventually, the twin centuries of Shai Hope gave a test victory for Windies in the England soil after 17 years.

With that brilliant Test performance, he has already shown us the indication of what he can do to the West Indies Test cricket.

“I am elated. We have worked really hard as a team to get over the line. I never doubted my ability – I made my way to Test level and always believed in myself.” said Hope on the historic win.

The Stupendous Niche for ODI

More than any other format, the one-day format suits Hope’s style of batting. Moreover, he was given the license of opening the innings for WI, which in turn gave him more time to spend in the ground. And at times, he gets the chance of being precious No 3 for his team. His persuasive techniques have let him find no difference in the change of slots.

“Hope is very versatile. In some games he will open, in some games, he can bat at three. That’s the versatility of our team.” says the Windies coach Floyd Reifer.

ODI cricket gives him time for settling. The Barbadian batsman is blamed for his slow strike rate, but he plays the scarce anchoring role for Windies. The Windies batters can score more than their desired score when someone pulls the innings from the other end.

Hope’s fondness of running between the wicket has helped him much in the anchoring role.

Fifty overs format is different for Shai Hope. Right from the beginning, he was able to pull the limelight on him. While it took two years for Hope to bring in his maiden century in Tests, it took only two matches for him to score a ton in ODI.

“Presently, I think Shai Hope is the best option We (WI) have in terms of a batsman who can play all formats. He is not a bad attacking player, pretty much a decent Test player. He will stand out.” says Brian Lara on Shai Hope.

Achievements in ODIs so far

As the results of his technical influence, Barbadian produced some remarkable performances in demand for Windies cricket for a long time.

  • Shai Hope became the second-fastest in ODIs to reach the 3000 runs mark, taking only 67 matches
  • He became the fastest West Indian to reach 3000 runs surpassing the great Vivian Richards milestone of 3K runs in 69 ODI matches.
  • The Barbadian batsman is the fastest Non-Asian batsman to score 1000 runs in Asia.
  • Asian countries became his home, where the Barbadian batsman has the whopping average of 112.36.
  • Out of his 17 innings in the Asian subcontinent, Shai Hope has made six centuries and five half-centuries to his name.
  • Out of the six centuries, three came in India, two in Bangladesh, and one in Sri Lanka.
  • Etched his name in the highest opening partnership in ODI contributed 170 (152) in the mighty 365 runs stand against Ireland.

“The last 12, 14 games he has played he has batted really well and scored about four hundreds and about four half-centuries as well. To see him batting here is a dream, and he played well – he paced the innings really well, played some beautiful cricket shots and accelerated the innings at the end. I thought he read the game very well, and he’s definitely one for the future in terms of scoring a lot of runs for West Indies cricket.” says the Windies coach, Floyd Reifer.

The Take Away

Even though Shai Hope is giving out his best for the team, the WI team wasn’t finding ways to capitalize on this talent to win matches. We saw what happened to the Windies in the World cup 2019 when Shai Hope was groping for his form. In the end, cricket is a team game. It requires equal contribution from the other Windies players, to come off from the downfall in longer formats.

The time, I think, has arrived for Windies to make a comeback in longer formats. They have got players who got great exposure to international cricket through their presence in domestic tournaments in different countries. So it won’t take so much time to correct their shortcomings in Tests and ODIs.

With Shai Hope, it’s time to rise for the West Indies.

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