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Shai Hope - the lone ranger

Last updated on 28 Jun 2023 | 01:59 PM
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Shai Hope - the lone ranger

The WI skipper will have his task cut out for him, as he and Daren Sammy look build a team for the future

"We are trying everything to turn it around" - Shai Hope seemed upbeat about West Indies’ chances of featuring in the ICC ODI World Cup to be held later in the year. 

He had every reason to be. He’d scored an unbeaten 128 on captaincy debut to help his side beat a formidable South African unit in South Africa. 

From wanting to embrace the responsibility to take his side to new heights, to losing back-to-back games against Zimbabwe and Netherlands in the World Cup Qualifiers, the WI skipper has been dealt a rough hand early on in his captaincy stint.

Not that he hasn’t done enough for the team. Since being made the ODI captain, he’s been the team’s highest run getter, and has done so at an average of 74 and a strike rate of 101.

Of course, the numbers might also be a consequence of having played the likes of UAE, USA, Nepal. But we can take nothing away from Shai Hope the batter.

Since making his ODI debut in Nov ‘16, only Virat Kohli has scored more than his 4751 ODI runs. To have been able to score more than the likes of Babar Azam and Rohit Sharma over an extended period speaks volumes about his ability.

What makes his current numbers more encouraging is his gameplay in the past. Between the last ODI World Cup and the World Cup Qualifier, Hope had the lowest strike rate of any batter (74.9) who had a minimum of 1000 runs. 

The welcome change has coincided with additional responsibility. Since 2020, Shai Hope had only opened for the Caribbean Islands, a role he seemed comfortable with. Post captaincy, he moved himself down the order to give chances to lesser known names like Shamarh Brooks.

Shouldering responsibility is not something new to him. Since his ODI debut, no one has scored more runs in the marron jersey than the Bajan. Further, his numbers in WI wins illustrate how central he is to their plans.

Shai Hope in ODI wins: R - 2148, Avg. - 74.1, SR - 79.9

Shai Hope in ODI losses: R - 2373, Avg. - 37.1, SR - 73 

Before his captaincy stint, a lot was made of his strike rate (or the lack of it). It’s important to understand that in a lineup filled with strokemakers, he has played the crucial role of a sheet anchor.

Throughout his ODI career, he has scored at an average in excess of 50 and a strike rate of 76. The corresponding numbers for other WI batters stand at 27 and 91.

“It's a ticklish one, but I'm happy to bat wherever the team needs me to. Going forward, I think No.4 would give us a bit more stability. In the past, we've had some tough times in the middle overs, especially against spin.

“But, you may see a bit of a change; the batting line-up may be a bit different to what we're accustomed to. Yeah, I think No.4 is the position that I'll stay at for a period of time and hopefully that continues to work for the West Indies."

That he moved away from his natural position and gameplay to give more opportunities to fellow players is a testament to his leadership. And the fact that he has excelled outside his comfort zone is a testament to his skill.

“I’m trying to be a bit more aggressive in my strokeplay, and it’s something I want to stem down to the team as well and want to focus on trying to find ways to score,”  Hope said on the eve of the first ODI between West Indies and UAE.  

With only two wins in the first round of the World Cup Qualifier, West Indies stand fifth in the cumulative points table. It doesn’t help that points get carried over to the next round, giving them very little chance to qualify to the main event. 

Their most recent encounter against Netherlands ended in a heartbreak. After posting a daunting 375 for the Dutch to chase, they squandered multiple chances to allow the opposition to take the game into a Super Over.

And some baffling calls were made in the Super Over battle; giving the ball to Jason Holder over Alzarri Joseph, Hope promoting himself over the destructive Nicholas Pooran when needing 31 runs in an over to win and stay afloat in the tournament, to name a few. 

Add their off-field selection choices, and it wouldn’t be entirely wrong to say that Shai Hope, the batter, has been let down by Shai Hope, the captain. 

“We just let ourselves down. I can't see us scoring 375 and losing. Honestly, I thought it was enough. I expected the bowlers to do the job. Just unfortunate we lost.

“The picture is right in front of us now. We need to do better," Hope said at the post-match presentation after losing to Netherlands. 

So far, Hope has captained the West Indies in nine ODIs. Of this, only three have come against a Test-playing nation, including one against Zimbabwe in the ongoing WCQ.

This means that the onus will be on Daren Sammy, the WI Coach, to help WI bounce back from this “rock bottom”.

“Sometimes you have to reach rock bottom to climb back up. I am aware of the obstacles that lay ahead, as well as the fact that change will not occur quickly. It accurately reflects where our cricket stands,” Sammy said. 

The WI coach has summed it up perfectly for us. While it’s easier said than done, acknowledging their dearth of resources is not the worst place to start from.

High on top of their priority list would be to get some of their T20 globetrotters to wear the maroon jersey. Lack of communication, changing managements, foreign leagues - all these external reasons have contributed to so many of their superstars not being a part of their current setup.

But, Sammy has assured the WI fans that efforts are being made to get all their favorite players back to play together. 

The task is only going to get tougher, as they brace themselves to play the touring Indians after the Qualifiers. Shai Hope will be falling back on the passionate  Sammy to help them chart their course correction. 

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