Like the autumn leaves gently falling down the tree only for the passerby to seek refuge in their comforting sight or like the aroma of a lingering fragrance that one can’t help but simply cling to, the sight of the sublimely timed ball from the caressing blade of Shai Hope has been a thing of beauty.
And you know what they say about a thing of beauty- right? That it’s a joy forever!
With his deft touches, gentle nudges, upright technique and refreshing solidity in the white-ball game, Shai Hope truly lived up to his famous surname, one that’s akin to the perennial promise we all need in life: the hope for something new and the hope for something better.
So when Shai Hope actually went onto conjure no fewer than 1,345 ODI runs from 28 matches in the year 2019, which wasn’t a light years ago, it seemed a few of West Indies’ worries were over.
After all, it was to be the very year where Shai Hope scored 4 jarring hundreds, each of which damaged Ireland, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India.
Here was a batsman who had the penchant of scoring hundreds away from home comfort.
He had proven, in the very year of the mega ODI world cup, that he wasn’t merely holding the bat for sheer symbolism; and that he meant business. Nothing much had changed, in fact, since that wondrous year and the year of his arrival; in 2016, when he arrived in the maroon national colours, he struck a dependable 101 in the tri-series that also featured Zimbabwe, and ended up collecting a batting average of 46 in his maiden year of playing fifty over cricket.
And so one thought- not bad for someone who hailed from a cricketing culture where one often throws away the wicket in a hedonistic pursuit for pure power hitting.
Though, Shai Hope didn’t just stop there; after a decent 2020 in white-ball ODI cricket, where he averaged 47, he went on to score 310 runs in a COVID-marred 2021, wherein he played only 5 games, but averaged 62.
This included a vital, very craftsman-esque hundred in an ODI held in the Caribbean against Sri Lanka; his team would go on to whitewash the visitors.
All was going perfectly fine, which is about when things began to fall out for the batsman still highly regarded and why not.
In came 2022, still offering a seemingly endless cricketing extravaganza, and the old Shai Hope was nowhere to be spotted.
Barring a fifty against the Irish in the Caribbean, the self-effacing batsman who hardly plays for his own cause wasn’t found among the runs in India. It’s where his Windies side were, quite simply, outplayed.
And what contrasting fortunes has Shai Hope gone on to experience when you compare his overall ODI average to the one he holds at present in 2022- ever thought about it?
For someone who averages north of 50 after 89 ODIs, Shai Hope’s 2022 average isn’t even 25; it languishes much like a crushed apple that’s fallen from a fruit tree at 23!
So far, from 6 ODI apperances for his West Indies, Hope’s hardly offered any, having managed just 139 runs.
One reckons, that’s not what the West Indies need. That’s not what his captain, to whom the famous right-hander is himself the deputy desires: Nicholas Pooran.
What the die-hard Caribbean fan needs, despite years of being left frustrated is this:
We need Shai Hope in 2022 to play like the Shai Hope he was of 2019.
The year where, lest it is forgotten and perhaps yes, not many even considered it as being awfully special, the top order bat scored the third-most ODI calendar runs after India’s Kohli and Rohit.
Can he do that again? There’s little doubt.
But when can he ideally do that? Heck, in the next few hours from now as the West Indies begin, what should hopefully be, a dramatic, heartfully contested white-ball series against The Netherlands.
After finding himself benched for nearly a quarter of a year, not because he was dropped but for the reason that there just wasn’t any national cricket his side was involved in all thanks to the glamour of the IPL, the Barbadian has had enough rest.
Time to don the gloves and play the part of a batting don besides being the tireless gloveman he already is- right, Shai?
(The West Indies ODI vice-captain is 262 away from 4,000 runs in the limited-overs format)