McWatt: Hetmyer keeps WI flag flying in IPL 2022 but Pollard is struggling

The 2022 Indian Premier League (IPL) is now well under way with approximately one-third of its scheduled matches having been completed. Now in its 15th season and universally regarded as global cricket’s most prestigious T20 franchise tournament, the 2022 IPL with its roster of ten participating teams commenced on March 26 and is scheduled to be completed on 29 May.

Seventeen West Indians are involved as active playing members in this year’s tournament. With so many of T20 crickets’ brightest stars participating in it, this year’s IPL is now being widely considered as a dress rehearsal for the International Cricket Council’s 2022 World Cup involving the format’s top ten teams to be held in Australia this coming October/November.

Photo: West Indies captain Kieron Pollard (right) and his teammates salute the crowd after their thrilling win over England in the fifth and final T20I of the Betway Series at Kensington Oval, Barbados on 30 January 2022.
(Copyright Randy Brooks/ AFP/ Getty Images)

Champions in 2012 and 2016, the West Indies will be entering this year’s T20 World Cup as qualifiers, hoping to be one of the four that will be joining the ICC’s eight top-ranked teams in the tournament’s Super12 second stage.

For the Desmond Haynes-led selection panel, the performances of the Caribbean players at this year’s IPL can provide some very useful indicators as to the final composition of the 15-member 2022 World Cup squad. Except for Dwayne Bravo, now in international retirement—as well as arguably the over-aged Sunil Narine and Andre Russell—each of the remaining 14 current IPL Caribbean players should be considered as legitimate contenders for places on the region’s eventual 2022 T20 World Cup roster.

Therefore, Haynes and his fellow selectors will most likely be keen observers of all of this year’s matches. However, with one-third of this year’s matches already completed, there isn’t yet very much for them to be overly pleased about. Indeed, there may even have been cause for major concern.

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With most of the ten participating franchises having completed the first five or six of their 18 scheduled matches, only one of the 17 Caribbean players is currently on the list of the tournament’s top ten run-getters. Guyana’s Shimron Hetmyer, who represents the Rajasthan Royals, has to date emerged as the highest-ranked Caribbean player.

Photo: West Indies batsman Shimron Hetmyer on the go for the Rajasthan Royals during the 2022 IPL season.
(Copyright IPL)

Hetmyer’s 223-run aggregate from six innings a resulting 74.33 average has him at number 6 in the batting rankings. His runs include an unbeaten 59 as his highest score, his only half-century so far. His innings have been punctuated by 14 fours and 17 sixes.

Closest to Hetmyer in the highest run-scorers rankings is Kolkata Knight Riders’ Jamaica-born Andre Russell.

Now approaching his 34th birthday (April 29), Russell is considered to be on the downward slope of his illustrious, albeit injury-plagued, T20 career. So far in IPL 2022, with a 70 not out as his highest score, he has accumulated 179 runs from five completed innings at an average of 59.88. His legendary belligerence has been as evident as ever in the 11 fours and 16 massive sixes his knocks have included.

Much lower down in the rankings than Hetmyer and Russell is WI T20 vice-captain Nicholas Pooran. To date, the left-handed wicketkeeper/batsman has accumulated 113 runs from six completed innings at an average of 56.50, His highest score is 35 not out and he has struck seven fours and five sixes.

Photo: Sunrisers Hyderabad batsman Nicholas Pooran whacks another one through the leg-side.
(Copyright IPL)

One of the major sources of IPL22 worry for Haynes and his fellow selectors will be the demonstrated lack of form of current WI white ball captain Kieron Pollard. As a senior member of the Mumbai Indians squad, Pollard’s six completed innings to date have only yielded a paltry 82 runs at a dismal 16.40 average. Only five fours and six sixes are included in his tally.

Pollard’s paucity of runs so far at IPL22 is indeed a continuation of his overall lack of production of late as a batsman. His last 15 T20I innings have included as many as eight single-digit scores while being entirely bereft of any half-centuries.

Pollard’s ongoing batting woes have also raised questions among Caribbean cricket fans as to the merits of his continued tenure as WI’ captain. With this year’s World Cup now just months away, many fans are of the opinion that Pollard should be relieved of the captaincy and current vice-captain Nicholas Pooran should be given that responsibility.

Should Pollard’s batting form not improve sufficiently by the conclusion of the current IPL season, that may yet be a decision Desmond Haynes and his fellow selectors will very seriously have to consider.

Photo: Mumbai Indians batsman Kieron Pollard seems to be caught in two minds.
(Copyright IPL)

In addition to Pollard, Haynes and company will also likely be no less concerned by the IPL22 form of Evin Lewis. The WI established T20 opener, in his four innings to date, Lewis has only managed 71 runs at an average of 23.66. More alarmingly, those four innings have included a highest score of 55 not out, meaning that the remaining three have only produced a grand total of 16 runs.

As concerned as they may be by the lack of runs that have thus far been forthcoming from their Caribbean charges at this year’s IPL, Haynes and company might be even more concerned by the paucity of wickets that have been taken by their bowlers.

Apart from Bravo, no other West Indian bowler is currently on the tournament’s list of the top ten wicket-takers. The sixth-ranked Bravo’s 10 wickets have been captured from 21.4 overs bowled at an average of 18.10 and with an acceptable 8.35 economy rate.

Among the current crop of the most likely West Indies 2022 T20 World Cup squad contenders, the highest-ranked bowler is Jason Holder. His six wickets to date have been captured in 16 overs, bowled at an average of 24.66 and at an economy rate of 9.25.

Photo: Lucknow Super Giants pacer Jason Holder prepares to deliver against the Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL action on 4 April 2022.
(Copyright Rahul Gulati / Sportzpics for IPL)

On either side of Holder in the current wicket-taker rankings are IPL veterans Narine and Russell. Narine’s six wickets to date have come off 28.2 overs at an average of 23.50 at an overly impressive 5.03 economy rate. Russell, meanwhile, has captured his six wickets in 13.4 overs bowled at an average of 24.66 at a far higher economy rate of 10.02.

Russell’s fellow Jamaican Odean Smith, who has been appearing for the Punjab Kings in his debut season, has so far also captured six wickets. Smith’s victims have, however, cost an average of 29.66 and his economy rate in the 15 overs he has so far bowled is a massively unimpressive 11.86.

His current West Indies T20 teammate and co-debutant Romario Shepherd has to date bowled eight overs and claimed just three wickets at an average of 25 at a slightly lower 9.57 economy rate.

So the IPL22 performances of the Caribbean players to date may well be causing Haynes & co more worry than joy but they will be heartened by the reality that the season is just one-third of the way through. There’s plenty of time still remaining and sufficient numbers of matches available for performances to improve considerably.

To what extent they will should make for very interesting viewing between now and the tournament’s May 29 conclusion.

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About Tony McWatt

Tony McWatt is Canadian Cricket’s media relations manager. He is the son of late former West Indies and Guyana wicketkeeper Clifford ‘Baby Boy’ McWatt.

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