By Sam Sooppersaud
Like other cricket fanatics all over the globe I am excited that the Indian Premier League (IPL) is once again upon us. The IPL is the premier of premier cricket leagues in the world. Nowhere in the world, in any cricket tournament, do you find such an assembled array of superstars from the major cricket playing countries, particularly the Big Ten full-members of the International Cricket Council (ICC). There are also a few representatives from the ICC’s Associate membership ranks. For the next two months cricket lovers will be sitting on the edge of their seats while they feast on being tantalized by some very, very, and I say, very, exciting Twenty20 cricket.
The opening game of this 2019 edition of the IPL was played on Saturday, March 23 and the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) literally steamrolled over the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). RCB took first knock and was rooted out for a paltry 70 runs. CSK knocked off the 71 runs required for victory with seven wickets in hand. It was indeed a dismal display, or rather non-display of batsmanship from the likes of Virat Kohli, AB DeVillers, Shimron Hetmyer and company. But, in fairness, this was the first game of the 2019 IPL season. Players still have that feeling of nervousness, despite the fact that most are seasoned veterans of the game. But, take heart cricket fans, things will definitely get better. It always has in past IPL’s.
Talking about getting better brings me to the main reason for penning this article: the lack of performance from Shimron Hetmyer. This is not to “knock” him for not contributing with the bat. I write with the hope that he will turn things around and perform at the level that he has when he first burst onto the scene during the 2016 ICC Under19 World Cup. To remind all, he led the West Indies to that tournament’s championship, with his bat and astute captaincy. Let’s consider this piece to be a kind of a “jump start”. You know how sometimes your car battery “runs” down and needs a boost. At this time Shimron’s battery needs a boost. I am giving it to him here.
I have spoken to several persons who knew Shimron since he was in elementary school. From what I gather, he is one of those cricketers who have that “natural” ability. Let me explain. One gentleman, who lives just a few doors from Shimron in the Canje District of Berbice, Guyana, gave me an interesting story of how Shimron came about his cricket. He has an elder brother whom I was told was a “far better batsman that Shimron “. Sean Hetmyer and my informant played together for the famous Young Warriors Cricket Club based in Cumberland, Canje. Sean was always in the runs and was a hard worker at his game. He was very disciplined, but having the responsibility of raising a family forced his cricket to take a back seat. He still plays, but only when time permits.
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, Sean Hetmyer took his training seriously since he was “pint sized” cricketer. Shimron used to attend cricket practice with his brother, according to my informant, but he was literally “afraid of the hard ball”. However, he kept going to practice with his brother, although for a long while he “did not even touch the bat”. He was afraid of being hit by the ball and getting hurt. But as time went by Shimron built the courage, and “now and again picked up the bat”. His initial action of protecting himself, his defense, was to be on the offensive. Simply put, he was swatting at the ball. He was just “firing” his bat. He was not making much contact with the ball, but whenever his bat came into contact with the ball, it simply sailed into the beyond.
With success in hitting the cricket ball, and not getting hurt, Shimron built his courage. He continued going to cricket practice with his older brother. The elders around him, especially Anil Beharry and Hubert Evans noticed that ability in Shimron to “go after and smack the ball,” so they took him under their wings. These two gentlemen, along with his brother Sean, nurtured his “God given” talent. Shimron was no longer just “accompanying” his brother to practice, he was going to practice, because he was now part of the Young Warriors club.
But one thing Shimron was not able to master, and that is to subdue his inclination to go after the ball, a particular trait of his aggressive batting style. His coaches at Young Warriors worked tirelessly with him, but he was never known as a batsman who “has patience”. He believes that the ball is there to be hit, and he will smack it around. I gather from talking to folks, that Shimron got over his fear of the hard ball by his aggressive style. This is how he defended himself; by going on the offensive.
Yes, Shimron Hetmyer has shown rare signs of patience and has played some great innings so far in his cricket career. His recent outstanding inning for Cricket West Indies against England was a mere month ago, when he scored a century. In the second ODI of that tour of England to the West Indies, he proved that he could harness his batting style and be more productive. In the past two months I have watched Shimron bat in close to twelve innings, and almost 80 percent of the time he got out making rash and injudicious shots. He would blast a boundary or a maximum, then the very next ball he would pounce on it, regardless of where and how, and what kind of a delivery it was. He has to be more selective in his hitting. He has to play a ball on its merit. This is where his coaches and his peers come in. He needs help if he is to blossom into the genius that he promises to be.
Shimron Hetmyer has made the people of the Canje District very proud. He is the first from the village to go on to international cricket. I learned and played my cricket in Canje. I have seen and played with some very talented players, none of whom “made it,” to name a few, Vic Harnanan, Ancel Hazel, and Cobra. Those talented cricketers went as far as representing British Guiana. Then, there were the likes of Joe Sukwah, Jameer Abdool, Sooraj Beharry, Lakraj Harry, and Mortimer George who all represented Berbice County. So we are all rooting for our fellow Canjeman, to apply himself more, and get some runs for his team.
So what do you say Shimron Odilon Hetmyer? Make us proud!