Nicholas Pooran

BEST STRIKE RATE: Nicholas Pooran

If you were a cricket ball and you were going to be smacked by either Shimron Hetmyer, Evin Lewis or Nicholas Pooran, who would you take your punishment from?

Whoever you chose, it would still be a painful time, but one guaranteed to give you lots of air time and a good look at real estate; for those three West Indian batsmen can give the ball quite a whack.

Just looking at them, though, the source of that power is not so obvious. All three are on the shorter side, not possessing the imposing height of one Clive Lloyd or the powerful forearms of a Gordon Greenidge or the sturdy shoulders and jumbo bat of I.V.A. “Viv” Richards. But the present-day trio lose little if anything to their illustrious, knighted predecessors when it comes to the damage they can do to the surface of a cricket ball and the egos of the bowlers that deliver it.

In fact, a look at the career strike rates of those six players in One-Day cricket is revealing. Top of the list is Pooran at 110.38, followed by Hetmyer (106.87) and then the “Master Blaster” Richards (90.20), Lewis (83.89), Lloyd (81.22) and then my favourite, Greenidge (64.92). Numbers, they say, do not lie, but they do need to be put in context.

The era of T20 has changed the pace at which the limited overs game is played and so have rule changes, like the Powerplay. This is the age of speed and super power in which Pooran, Hetmyer and Lewis have learned to play their cricket. The 50-over game was a more measured affair when Sir Clive was in his prime in the late 1970s/early 80s, and still had not advanced the way it now has by the time Sir Viv and Sir Gordon took off their pads for the last time in the early 1990s.

But the figures are still evidence of the natural ball-playing ability the three Windies youngsters possess; so does the eye test.

When Pooran plants his right foot down the pitch and brings his hands through with that left-hander’s flourish, the result is often spectacular. He is also a fine cutter of the ball, though not quite so savage as Greenidge.

Lewis is not as secure when playing off the front foot, but his backfoot play is pleasing and power-packed, while Hetymer is like a 2000s reprisal of another Guyanese left-hander, Roy Fredericks, but possibly with an even bigger stroke repertoire.

With players like these three, combined with the classy, controlled Shai Hope as a foil and the forceful Kieron Pollard to come later, a day at the cricket with the West Indies should be a regular party, with plenty reason for you to raise your hands and take a jump. Any attack in the world would wilt under that lineup in full flow. There have been more days like that recently.

Pooran, since last year’s World Cup, and Lewis in the just-concluded ODI series against Ireland, look more like there is method in the way they play; method and intent. Pooran especially seems a different character from the one who burst onto the scene during the Caribbean Premier League of 2014, aiming to hit every ball for 12.

Hetmyer, though, is in danger of being stuck in a rut.

His 139 against India last month aside, “Hetty” at the crease seems a man in a hurry but going nowhere. The two wild shots that brought his dismissals and ultimately his dropping for the final ODI against Ireland were reckless and reflected a lack of appreciation for, or an unwillingness to respect the game situation and the opposition.

With that approach, the results are always going to be patchy. At age 23, Hetmyer is not yet in his prime. Sir Clive, and to a lesser extent, Sir Gordon, took some time to find the consistency that turned them into Windies legends, so Hetmyer must be given the time and room to grow. The question is whether he is putting in the work that will eventually produce the results both he and the region expect.

One can only hope that he gets it together soon, and that Pooran and Lewis don’t get comfortable with these first signs of better days.

It’s still a long, long way yet to WI cricket’s round table where those three knights now sit.


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