A few days ago, Carlos Brathwaite, upon being asked by the media whether the West Indies- as seen in the hammering they served England in the Caribbean- were ‘back?’
To this, the T20 captain shared a rather interesting reply.
He implied that while the redemption was perhaps still at some distance, what’s indeed been a wrong notion on the part of the media is its tendency to identify the ‘next’ ‘Lara’ or ‘Walsh’ in the Windies.
It’s not for nothing that Brathwaite signalled a clear red-herring.
How often, it must be asked, has one heard that Shimron Hetmyer bats like Lara or that he’s, quite simply, a new ‘Lara?’
First things first. There are no two ways about Shimron Hetmyer being a world-class find for his team. For someone who’s barely into his twenties, he’s already struck 4 ODI centuries, amassed a strike rate of over 100, clubbed 36 sixes and, is only some 100 runs from reaching his first real landmark in cricket- 1000 ODI runs.
To his credit, he’s already been picked as one of the finest batsmen in the game right now. There’s little doubt about the fact that when he hits it, the ball stays hit.
And at a time where the template of the sport is being textured by the freshness of names like Sam Curran, Rishabh Pant, Henry Nicholls, Aiden Markram, having Shimron Hetmyer around as a dangerous bat augurs well.
How many, it must be asked, would’ve done that? Well, we don’t know. We aren’t into clairvoyance. And at the end of the day, random speculation is about as cool as eating ice-cream in Alaska on a sore throat.
But how on earth is Shimron Hetmyer a new Brian Lara?
Let it not be forgotten that it’s not for the first time that a batsman has been compared to Brian Lara, of all people.
To this day, whenever the elegant Darren Bravo makes it to the middle, some hearts begin throbbing restlessly. They cannot help but rewind back incessantly to the time where ‘The Prince of Trinidad’ played the shots the way Bravo, in the second wind of his career, does.
Nostalgia, after all, does hold a strong value in our lives- does is not? The feeling of viewing things with sepia-tinted glasses does unearth surreal joys.
But is Shimron Hetmyer- with scores of 5 and 0 behind him recently as seen in the IPL- the new Brian Lara?
Nothing could be further from the truth.
This is not to say that biologically the assumption that the Guyanese batsman is like the Trini is ill-founded.
We are, after all, in an era of plastic surgeries and rhinoplastic surgeries and that jazz.
But on a serious note, to be even compared to the holder of the highest-individual Test record, one has to get used to failures, get accustomed to playing back t0 back match-winning knocks and above all, demonstrate patience.
While some of Hetmyer’s sixes may surely have landed closer to the last row in any Caribbean stadia, it’s patience and technique where he constantly falters.
And much to the surprise and sheer disbelief of those who do sense in him a batsman who can weave magic, he seems unwilling to learn from his mistakes.
For those simple reasons, it suffices to say that Shimron Hetmyer, a slayer of bowlers; a rattler of miser bowling economy rates, a destructor of spin, a hammerer of the white ball, is no Brian Lara.
Think this is hitting below the belt?
Just two simple instances, completely unrelated by series or format of contest demonstrate where Shimron Hetmyer is lacking.
On February 27, 2019, as the West Indies were up against 419, Hetmyer arrived in the middle in the 24th over. Bravo, 61 of 59 had just departed. At that time, the Windies needed 199 runs off 162 balls. Importantly, 7 wickets were still intact.
All that Hetmyer, who hit a 6 stunningly off the very first ball of Mark Wood, had to do was to have hung in there. Gayle, well set on the other end, would’ve wanted nothing more of his partner than to simply hang in there.
Yet, what did Shimron Hetmyer do? He decided to hammer another short-pitched delivery only to find the fielder on the on-side. Hales had been specifically placed on the on-side boundary by Wood for a catch and Hetmyer didn’t disappoint England.
His score? 6 of 2.
A few hours back, in a tight contest featuring Bangalore and Mumbai, Hetmyer arrived just when AB De Villiers would’ve wanted someone solid at the other end to just hang in there; rotate the strike and at worst, give him the strike.
Hetmyer, knowing well that Kohli, Parthiv, Ali had all been dismissed with only De Villiers the most experienced batsman around, decided to take the aerial route to Bumrah of all bowlers, even as he wasn’t set.
What happened next?
A wicket fell; one for which RCB had spent crores and crores of rupees. Hetmyer was on his way for 5. Previously, he had managed a duck in a game against Chennai. He went for a run that didn’t exist.
Would Lara have done such a thing?
Make no mistake, on a few occasions in his career, Lara did assist bowlers by picking an absolutely horrific shot, often manufactured out of the anxiousness to get off the mark and on other occasions, to just get going. But heck, Brian Lara, on nine out of ten occasions possessed the art, technique and nuance to hold on to his own when the chips were down.
Lara, a superstar in his career by the time he was approaching 24 had already hit 277. A few months down the line, he’d leave Sir Sobers behind and reach sky-rocketing fame courtesy that 375.
In between, he had found a way to toy around with bowlers, rotate the strike, offer the big expansive ‘Laraesque’ strokes but not before building partnerships with a Chanderpaul, Sherwin Campbell, Keith Arthurton, Carl Hooper to which he was an effluent contribut0r.
How many stands has Hetmyer- the man responsible for perhaps one of the finest ODI tons hit in India courtesy that 106 at Vizag in 2018- been a part of?
How many times has Hetmyer found the West Indies solely relying on him to bail themselves out? Lara’s shoes, wear-able that they may seem are a mighty ask.
They require the wearer to be someone who can do more than wear his heart on his sleeve; they require the promising individual- Hetmyer is indeed one- to be able to calm the storms as much as he can kick up one during inclement weather.
A question therefore to Shimron himself.
Are you that man?
Won’t it make more sense to first learn the tricks of the game, one considered a religion in India and a literal unifier in the Caribbean?
Lara’s aren’t forged in wild heaves, virulent hits and, massive strikes alone. Lara’s are born out of situations and struggles. The world would appear sweet and welcoming only if you tried to hang in there first.