The laws of nature dictate that in order to produce the perfect melody, you need to hit all the right musical notes. It’s not about the lyrics as much as it is about having the right kind of sound. Any single note out of place would make it a staccato rhythm. Where the first of the three Tests at the Ageas Bowl was concerned, there was but one note missing in the victorious West Indies sound; everything else was pretty spot on.
Gabriel picked lots of wickets- 9 of them. Captain Jason Holder took a 6-for. Kraigg Brathwaite, long due for a substantial inning worthy of a vice-captain showed the way with a fighting 65. Jermaine Blackwood, despite some hits and misses in his 95, we all saw, was born again in the Test line-up. Chase hit a knock worthy of being compared to one Chanderpaul’s valiant efforts.
Alzarri Joseph often went over 85-86 mph in his long spells. But just imagine the sound we might have gotten to hear with the West Indies going all Calypso on England had Shai Hope made some runs.
For a batsman who scored 1300 of his 3200 plus ODI runs in 2019 alone, where’s it that Shai Hope is lagging in the game’s longest format warrants intense scrutiny that only a Sherlock-like mind can possibly decode.
Good batsmen score runs regularly. But great batsmen score runs against any opposition and regardless of format.
Playing Tests for half a decade, Shai Hope has collected fans who sense in him a great-in-the-making as well as critics who nail him down scrolling through mediocre Test numbers.
And perhaps it may not be entirely incorrect to say that the strangeness or discrepancies between Hope’s returns in ODIs and Tests mirror a Dr. Jekyll and Hyde phenomenon.
Strong and aggressive in one format, entirely gullible in another!
How does the same Shai Hope that tears into attacks featuring Shami, Bumrah, Jadeja, Cummins, Starc, Zampa, Mustafizur, Shakib, to quote a few in colored clothing appear plain and insipid in white overalls is a mystery stranger than the Bermuda triangle question?
And it’s not a borderline difference that you can overlook. There are always particular formats in which batsmen score heavily while scoring nearly identically in the others. For instance, one of Shai Hope’s illustrious compatriots- Brian Lara scored 11,953 runs in Tests but also scored almost 10,900 in ODIS. Not a mind-boggling difference.
But what do you make of the contrast in Shai Hope’s ODI and Test batting averages?
From 78 ODIs, the technically-nuanced batsman enjoys an average of 52. Rohit Sharma’s average is 49, Steve Smith’s is 42, Eoin Morgan’s is at 39, while David Warner is on 45.
But in Tests, Shai Hope’s average is exactly half of what he manages in ODIs. What does that tell us about the Bajan? That he forgets how to wield a bat in the five-dayers? Nothing could be further from that.
Interestingly, it would be nothing less than hara-kiri to rule out the batsman hailed for batting in a usually watchful manner from the longest-format since he’s 26. With 32 Tests against him, you feel obliged to give him more chances than have been afforded to weigh his potential.
But the moment you elaborate the Shai Hope Test statistics, you invite trouble and meet the Barbadian’s current cricketing predicament.
What on earth must be wrong in his craft that the same bloke who broke a 127-year-old record by hitting two consecutive centuries at Headingley, in 2017 (and thus far, becoming the only Test batsman ever to do so), has just collected 1,500 runs from 64 Test innings?
Let’s also get a clear understanding on one thing.
It’s not that the West Indies have imposed all the run-scoring responsibility on Hope alone. Compared to Hope, who only in this last game crossed 1,500- runs, Roston Chase is sitting on 1800 with 3 more centuries against his name than his fellow compatriot. His average is touching 32.
Moreover, in Kraigg Brathwaite, the West Indies have someone touching 4,000 Test runs with 8 centuries, including a Test double. While Jermaine Blackwood’s re-emergence might still be the latest phenomenon, captain Holder and Dowrich are on 1917 and 1525 runs, respectively.
What’s more? Holder has one more hundred than Hope and at a better average. Ditto for Dowrich.
So could it be that where Shai Hope finds himself currently is pretty much down to his own doing? And that maybe spending some time at the crease is the cure of the hour?
Just like the way he was playing the glue at the crease in his stroke-filled 94-minute stay at the crease wherein he managed just 16?
But bitter agony often ensues when it seems Shai Hope finally gets going. Need proof? Look no further than his most gorgeous albeit utterly short-lived 23-ball-stay in the second inning where he made 9.
From a fan perspective, it didn’t excite one bit to see Mark Wood rattle his stumps with a really quick delivery that came back sharply in soon as it pitched.
But it’s what Hope did before falling prey to sheer pace that would’ve cringed hearts for sheer beauty.
Hope came into bat at 2 for 7 and straight away found a way to deal with Anderson. Not some old town willey.
In the same over where Anderson offered him plenty to think about, one that went right around the middle and held its line, the other that shot at great speed over the top of off, Shai Hope sent Jimmy packing with two masterful cover drives.
The kind of shot that would’ve compelled Dravid to offer a gentle clap. A rising delivery bowled at around 82 mph was shown the way to the cover fence in copybook style.
The straight face of the bat. Elbow high up. The right balance in executing that shot; Shai Hope was all poise before being castled by Wood the very next over.
Truth is, it pains to see a quality batsman walking back. Some things look good when they behold our attention. Like a monument of prestige like the Eiffel Tower. Like a glowing lotus.
Like runs against Shai Hope’s name. Just that the last it rained runs in Hope’s timeline was in 2017.
It’s about time that they happened, no rained again.