Back in 2016, during the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup in Bangladesh, there were several potential superstars on display. Ishan Kishan, Rishabh Pant and Washington Sundar were all part of the Indian team that reached the final. Yet, despite the presence of these Indian starlets, it was perhaps Shimron Hetmyer who had generated the most hype and was touted for greatness.
The West Indies eventually won the title, outwitting India in the final, with Hetmyer holding the trophy aloft at Mirpur. In that game, the left-handed batter had contributed at the top of the order too, stitching together a 23-run cameo that gave the Caribbean outfit the requisite platform to hunt down India’s total.
Throughout the tournament, though, there were hardly any glimpses of the talent Hetmyer was perceived to possess. There were fleeting glances, make no mistake about it. Yet, those weren’t enough when talking about a batter who was supposed to take up the West Indian batting mantle for years to come.
When presented with his ODI cap, though, he immediately made a mark, smashing a hundred against UAE in his 3rd ODI in March 2018. A few months later, he followed it up with another belligerent ton against Bangladesh.
The crescendo, however, arrived in October 2018, when he crunched a century against India at Guwahati before another cracking knock against the Men In Blue at Vishakhapatnam. The West Indies didn’t win either of the games but they certainly hoped that they had unlocked Hetmyer’s potential.
Unfortunately, that has hardly been the case. And, to be blunter, Hetmyer has perhaps even embarked on his own tale of mediocrity since. At the moment, he averages a shade under 20 in T20Is and a tick over 35 in ODI cricket – numbers that aren’t befitting of someone of Hetmyer’s caliber.
Worryingly, there has been a common thread during these lulls. Hetmyer has almost always been unable to seize his moments and developed a habit of floundering when the expectations and the pressure were amped up a touch.
More recently, though, there have been signs that the Delhi Capitals batter might just be turning a corner. And, of course, that he might just have begun traversing the path to redemption, which the West Indies would hope, also leads to prospective greatness.
Shimron Hetmyer single-handedly marshalled the chase against CSK
Against the Chennai Super Kings at Dubai on Monday, Hetmyer found himself amidst an almighty storm. CSK hadn’t put up a lot of runs on the board but they had devised a method to stem the run flow and chip away at the DC batters.
In the process, the equation was reduced to 28 runs off 18 balls, with Dwayne Bravo set to bowl two of the remaining overs. Had Hetmyer reverted to his pre-2021 roots, he might well have launched a sumptuous six into oblivion before perishing while attempting another decisive blow.
This time, too, Hetmyer tried to go for the jugular when had hacked across the line, just a delivery after he had dispatched Bravo to the fence. Fortunately for him, K Gowtham spilled an easy catch at long on. Though Hetmyer was unexpectedly given a helping hand by a CSK player, it was the conviction that the DC batter portrayed that made it feel as if he had indeed evolved as a cricketer.
An over later, he stuck to his guns and clattered Josh Hazlewood into the stands over deep square leg. Post that, he was a lot more judicious and attempted big shots in areas where there weren’t many fielders. In short, he played more percentage cricket than he has been accustomed to, over the years.
This, though, might not be an aberration, considering that he has been better at handling pressure this season.
Just a match ago, against the Mumbai Indians, Hetmyer found himself chasing a middling total. Prior to it, he had seen several of his illustrious compatriots depart to agricultural strokes. The West Indian, however, worked out very quickly that the Capitals needed a brisk 15-20 run-knock to tilt the flow of the tide. And, he produced exactly what was required.
While Hetmyer was dismissed by Jasprit Bumrah before the former could take DC across the line, his innings had given the Capitals the requisite cushion to canter to a victory.
In the home T20I summer, the left-handed batter blew hot and cold. When the West Indies needed him most, though, in the 2nd T20I against Australia, he stood up to be counted. Not only did he bide his time at the start, he calculated his assault to absolute perfection. So much so that the Caribbean outfit posted a total that was way beyond Australia’s reach.
To say that Hetmyer is just enjoying a good run of form would perhaps be a disservice because there have been a few mental and technical tweaks that he has made.
Since his debut, the left-handed batter has been someone capable of the odd bout of brilliance but also capable of evoking numerous cries of frustration. At times, he has also gotten carried away with the type of strokes he attempts – an allegation plenty have felt has hauled him back from maximizing his talent.
Now, though, he seems to be picking and choosing his moments to attack better. He seems to have gained better clarity on the kind of match-ups that favour him and how he can exploit it beneficially.
Against MI, he capitalized on Jayant Yadav, considering that he was bowling at just the right pace for Hetmyer to either charge down the track or sit deep in his crease. The former fetched him a boundary over extra cover, whereas the other play allowed him to hammer another boundary over mid-wicket.
Against CSK, the match-up against Bravo was perhaps most convenient for Hetmyer, with both having played a lot of cricket together. He immediately walked across his stumps to counter Bravo’s wide yorkers and for the first time in a while, the experienced campaigner felt the pinch.
Apart from that, the left-handed batter has also illustrated that he is adaptable. For the national side and the Guyana Amazon Warriors, he bats at the top of the order (usually No.3 or 4) but for the Capitals, he primarily functions as a finisher.
Thus, this turnaround in Hetmyer’s fortunes can’t only be attributed to him being in the middle of a relatively purple patch. Instead, it is a glowing assessment of his development and how he may be unlocking the vast potential at his disposal.
As has often been the case with Hetmyer, there will be days when he will force the Delhi Capitals and the West Indies faithful to pull their hair out, courtesy of a needless expansive stroke. Or, force them to heave a collective gasp because Hetmyer, owing to his astronomical talent, will leave them wanting more.
Yet, there are glimpses that that could become more of an anomaly moving forward – just like it was all those years ago in Bangladesh. Back then, Hetmyer was the next big thing in West Indian cricket.
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A few roadblocks and self-imposed setbacks later, perhaps he might just be onto something – something special and something that could be a true reflection of who Hetmyer ought to be.
Q. Can Shimron Hetmyer power the Delhi Capitals to IPL glory this season?
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