Cricket is a sport that grows quickly if you grow familiar with its idiosyncrasies. On a typical day, big shots, massive partnerships, big run rates serve a James Bond equivalent of gun-slinging action directed at plotting someone’s downfall.
And the way the game is structured today, perhaps rightly called ‘entertaining’ for it caters to an audience that largely craves instant gratification, one can’t be blamed for comparing it to a page-turning thriller.
The higher the stakes- money, opportunity, formats like T20, T20 even- the bigger the stage set for agents to prepare for disruption.
If so, then cricket perfectly reads like a non-fiction account, where batsmen are dangerous operatives dedicated to executing a mission whose purpose is to bring down an opponent.
This could be done either by engaging in direct on-ground combat whilst batting or by acting covertly with unchallenged tactical superiority, of the kinds we’ve seen Ethan Hunt and his Impossible Mission Force deploy when fighting an impossible enemy.
Nothing more than a fan would want other than Sir Ian Fleming or John Le Carre describing the sport as it is then.
And for a minute if you were to think of the above from the perspective of Windies, a team that reads like a code for what once was a cricketing legacy called West Indies, though one that self-obliterates these days, you’d find Shimron Hetmyer, to be a young assassin.
Patience might not be the immediate strength of this highly dangerous operative. But engaging in hand-to-hand combat or embroiled in a furious bat versus ball saga may seem familiar spectacles in the life of the Guyanese who just turned 22.
Interestingly, for a sport that loves a throwback, every now and again, in remembering heroes who’ve attained tall feats despite being diminutive, Hetmyer’s big exploits with the bat seem to repackage the whole concept about physical built.
Does it not?
It seems to put the perspective about winning in the sport back to where it seems to belong- it’s not about the size of the dog in the fight, it is about the size of the fight in the dog- that is central to winning.
And in that regard, in 2018, where the batsman fell more to bowlers by sheer self-destruction than for any bowler to completely outfox him, other than a few occasions, it’s got to be said, this operative carried some big hits.
It appeared he was part of next to impossible missions where his daredevilry- or was it the irrepressible love to flirt with danger- helped an enigmatic codename ‘Windies’- one that is bullied and repeatedly written off- come back from the grave and fight.
Playing against some top sides like India and finding himself no less challenged for a good fight against competitive sides like Bangladesh, Hetmyer forged an incredible start to a career he seems determined to make something out of.
To put it like how eight in ten do – Hetmyer is an aggressive bat– would be putting it mildly.
He compels you to put on a hat of adjectives just like he reminds the quickies to not resist the temptation to drop the shorter one.
His largely brute batting style, embedded in the DNA of taking the attack to the opposition presents the will to find a way to clear the ropes or at best, smoke down the gaps, wherever they might be, from the point region to the backward point area.
Where’s the technique, young man?
Yet, that technical prowess may not be a regular feature on the Shimron Hetmyer show, an exhibition that sides with brute batting, maybe not so much with patience and watchfulness, excites as much as it upsets the fan who’s already hooked on by his batting.
It also presents the idea of what some substance could do to a batting show that seems to function on seemingly unlimited ammo.
Maybe that is why, in both knocks, whether the 125 against Bangladesh or the 106 against India, two efforts constructed in dissimilar situations, the former rescuing a faltering Windies in a high-octane run-chase (that none saw coming) and the latter, a presentation of sheer daring against Dhoni and Kohli and co., Hetmyer collected fans but may have also found the challenge he was against.
That he fires a fifty in every fifth Test appearance, as seen thus far from 4 fifties in 20 innings (10 Tests) but without compromising on his flair endears him to the fans.
And it also presents him with an opportunity; that of refilling the stadium that run dry everywhere; Sabina Park, Queen’s Park Oval, Darren Sammy Stadium during Tests by emerging as a new kind of Test warrior that only he can become.
One that doesn’t bother about the format in getting gun-crazy yet appreciates the difference between playing for time and going on an all-out attack during power plays.
Shimron Hetmyer has collected 4 centuries already in ODIs and this number may only increase in times to come. But for him to be true to his calibre, going beyond the rational offer of potential, he’d do well to revisit the statement he offered in earnest, during early-2018
“I looked up at Brian Lara when I started watching Cricket”
For he’d remember that while Lara competed against the greats but without sacrificing on his true warrior persona, he also fought cautiously when his side needed him to, retreating from the blazing cover drives whilst seeking purpose in cleverly disguised late cuts, resisting the temptation to press the throttle by finding purpose in soldiering on.
And yet, in journeying from being the aggressor- a stage where a young, still inexperienced Hetmyer finds himself today- into being the Prince of Trinidad- where Lara eventually came to fashion his persona- there was a job to be done, a fight to be carried, a purpose to be achieved.
That ‘Hetty’ can do it too, with Evin, Chase, Kraigg Brathwaite alongside an experienced Holder, makes for a great script for the Caribbean revival.
And that it carries a whiff of ‘Hope’ truly makes for what can actually be an enthralling saga. Then, with Darren Bravo surprisingly returning to the scheme of things, one cannot possibly expect a better narrative with Hetmyer already having indicated his true nature.
But should the Windies try to relieve themselves of the gory horror of (playing the way they did in) 2018, a year where they won 1 T20 series- if you cared to remember- but whitewashed Bangladesh in Tests- a format where their true horrors remain, as seen by India boxing them- they’d have to seek some natural motivation.
And maybe that’s not that hard to spot.
For often in life, when we tread cautiously do we find what we are meant to become.
One wonders what might have happened to James Bond on the big screen, had Sir Ian Fleming not sought inspiration in the West Indies?
For starters, all Hetty and co. need to do is to search it around them or look within, no?