Shai Hope With a Tough Task on Hand as West Indies Prepare to Face Daunting Proteas
Hope will lead the West Indies ODI side Twitter]
The West Indies finally return to playing white ball cricket but not after a gap of six months.
To most, this may seem like a normal gap that occurs to most sides that lie outside the top bracket of ICC rankings; India, England and Australia rather impressionably play cricket more often than most others.
But purely from a Caribbean perspective, this isn’t just a gap; it constitutes a whirlwind period during which a lot has changed and perhaps dramatically so for the West Indies.
Changes in Windies team
In such time, the West Indies have seen a replacement for Nicholas Pooran; whether or not he abdicated captaincy of the twin white formats is certainly up for debate. The team have also opted for split captaincy for the first time ever in all these decades, the workload now resting with Shai Hope and Rovman Powell for ODI’s and T20I’s, respectively.
What’s also happened is that the likes of Roston Chase have returned to the T20I fold; the Barbadian all set to take part in the shortest format of the series in South Africa having last participated in a bi lateral series in India (early 2022).
Meanwhile, a few notable absences from the white ball fold such as that of Keemo Paul and Obed McCoy, the latter, such a key member of the limited overs fold raises a few questions.
Nonetheless, from a personal point of view, Shai Hope, clearly the finest stroke maker going around in Caribbean cricket at the moment will find himself tested and arguably to a good extent in the soon-to-begin one day series.
With 709 runs from 21 one dayers last year, the Barbadian is unfailingly the main man with the bat. That he has to fire and yet keep a cool head at all times despite shouldering the newly vested leadership responsibility is understood and cannot be contested.
But who are the others that can- and must- step up provided the West Indies are to salvage some pride in a tour where pretty much nothing has gone their way so far?
Stern test awaits West Indies
With big names such as de Kock, Ngidi, Rassie and Bavuma on the other side, the West Indies are likely to face what could likely be a stern contest; each of these four names being individual match winners in their own right.
Which is why it is of particular importance that the quintuplet of Kyle Mayers, Shamarh Brooks, Nicholas Pooran, Rovman Powell and Jason Holder rise to the occasion to make the three-match one day series some sort of a contest instead of the banal spectacle that the Tests turned out to be.
While the bulk of run scoring will rest on Hope’s capable shoulders, the technically virtuous right hander averaging in the nearabouts of 50, he’d expect partnerships and those of a sumptuous standard to sail the Windies ship forwards.
But while consistent run scoring and perhaps even lasting the full quota of 50 overs has often come to haunt the West Indies, the department where they seem pretty sorted is bowling.
The presence of in-form Akeal Hosein, who’s been on a roll since the 2021 T20 World Cup, is bound to lift the spirits of the side.
A genuine wicket taker and someone who is known to restrict free run scoring, Hosein will draw a lot of confidence from the fact that he snapped 30 wickets last year from 20 ODI’s. It was a year wherein he bowled no fewer than 178 overs.
Together with Shepherd and Smith, the Windies also have an interesting mix of talent that is rising by the tick of the clock, one game at a time.
They’ll come in handy as a support system to their most striking fast bowler in Alzarri Joseph.
But all of that said, the West Indies will be cautious about not playing a callous brand of cricket that is typically marked by wayward bowling and conceding one extra too many.
All of which counts ever so much in the end. Above anything, the limited overs series will serve as a litmus test to how long and well can Shai Hope martial his troops.
The Caribbean fans, as also for a certain Brian Charles Lara will hope that success comes Hope’s way.