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As Pollard’s WI head for Sri Lanka, is headstrong Hetmyer headed for the exit?

Having sent the Irish home with the taste of defeat fresh in their mouths, Kieron Pollard’s victorious West Indies troops are preparing to fly out to Sri Lanka this weekend.

After Afghanistan, India and Ireland, the resurgent Caribbean cavaliers must feel fairly confident of their chances of yet another victory on the road to November’s T20 World Cup defence.

Photo: West Indies captain Kieron Pollard (centre) celebrates with his teammates after the dismissal of India’s Rishabh Pant during the third T20 match against India in Mumbai on 11 December 2019.
(Copyright AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

There are very likely broad smiles on their faces as well as on the faces of new bosses on the block, Ricky Skerritt and Kishore Shallow. The no-nonsense policies the pair have implemented in West Indies cricket since their election are clearly paying dividends.

In addition to the new and returning faces that we have seen on the field of play, there has been change in several off-the-field areas as well, including coaching and selection. Not all of it, in my view, has been sure-handed.

Dr Rudi Webster, a former team psychologist with Clive Lloyd’s and Vivian Richards’ all-conquering teams, argued for years in favour of appointing a sports psychologist. And, as I recalled HERE, former Trinidad and Tobago Review columnist Romain Pitt added his eloquent voice to the chorus almost a decade ago:

What happens emotionally to a batsman when he reaches a milestone? What happens emotionally during a partnership when the partners feel secure but are still far short of the required score? What is the best frame of mind for a tail-ender trying to get a small number of runs to win or draw? What happens to a batsman during a series after he has had phenomenal success? What happens to a fielding team when the opposition is building up a big score? 

Photo: West Indies batsman Shimron Hetmyer reacts after losing his wicket during the second ODI against India in Visakhapatnam, India on 18 December 2019.
(Copyright AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

What happens to a bowler when he has been hit for several boundaries in a single over or in fairly quick succession? What happens to a batsman going out to the middle with three overs left in the day’s play and his team behind on the scoreboard and sometimes behind the eight ball? How can a team get into the right mental frame to knock out opponents who are on the ropes?

Finally, belatedly, CWI last year announced without fanfare the addition of Stephen Sylvester to the then 12-member Team Management Unit…

…and unceremoniously, quietly omitted him again for the most recent six-match outing against Ireland. Maybe I am wrong and Sylvester’s name was accidentally omitted from the list released to the media. Maybe the view is that the team does not need a psychologist for home engagements. Maybe Sylvester was indisposed or otherwise unavailable and will be reinstated in the Unit for Sri Lanka. Maybe Sylvester just was not… Well, maybe we should not go there.

Let us be content to await the release of the list of the full touring party.

The playing squad shows that Jason Holder, his batteries presumably recharged, is back. So, one hopes, is his complete commitment to the cause. Sunil Ambris, Brandon King, Romario Shepherd and Hayden Walsh jr have all, sensibly, been retained despite none having covered himself in glory.

Photo: Former captain Jason Holder has been recalled to the West Indies T20 team.

One also notes the return to the fold of Fabian Allen, Rovman Powell and Darren Bravo.

Just under 90 runs in 10 innings and four wickets in 11, that is Allen’s proud ODI record with bat and ball. So someone will have to get a microscope and show me his potential contribution to a 50-over effort if not as an emergency fieldsman; I fear it is hardly visible to the naked eye.

Maybe we need to invite Lead Selector Roger Harper to that session as well since, in the CWI release, he offered no explanation/justification for the inclusion of “the spin-bowling all-rounder, who has recovered from the leg injury he sustained in India late last year.”

Bravo and Powell, the release quotes Harper as saying: “owe their recall to their outstanding performance in the Colonial Medical Super50 tournament. Bravo brings good form, a renewed appetite for runs and lots of experience which will benefit the team tremendously. Powell, who is back from injury, will add batting firepower to the line-up, increase the team’s bowling options and strengthen the fielding unit.”

Bravo’s best format, it is true, remains the five-day game. And his production has never been quite the same since his unfortunate battle of words with former CWI ‘big idiot’ president Dave Cameron led to his protracted sidelining. But he has soldiered on and earned, with his performances captaining the Red Force this season, another chance to prove himself the best batsman in the West Indies, as once publicly claimed by his elder brother, the recently-returned-to-regional-duty Dwayne Bravo.

Photo: TKR batsman Darren Bravo goes on the attack during CPL action against Jamaica Tallawahs at the Queen’s Park Oval on 10 August 2018.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images)

Bravo the Younger, 31 yesterday, would once have been expected to contend for the captaincy of the regional team; his moment, however, may have passed. So it’s no real surprise that, for the upcoming sub-continent junket, Shai Hope has been named vice-captain.

Barring the very disappointing Ireland series, the 26-year-old Barbadian wicketkeeper/batsman has proven to be a model of consistency at the top of the WI order and a player who does not give his hand away. Despite his lack of captaincy experience, he is clearly not short on leadership skills and his promotion is a development to be celebrated.

Not to be celebrated is the putative demotion of 23-year-old Shimron Hetmyer. Along with hard-hitting, off-again-on-again Evin Lewis, the talented Guyanese left-hander, so impressive when on song, has been omitted, in Harper’s words: “after failing to attain the new minimum standard fitness requirements in recent fitness assessments.”

I find it significant that Harper did not leave it there. Hetmyer has repeatedly got out with going-for-glory shots and was eventually omitted from the team for the Third ODI against Ireland. So heavy with solemn undertones are, I suggest, his seven italicised words:

Photo: West Indies cricket captain Kieron Pollard (left) puts an arm around batsman Shimron Hetmyer during a training session ahead of their third ODI against India in Cuttack on 21 December 2019.
(Copyright AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A)

“Hetmyer appeared to be getting his act together,” the selection boss went on, “and was an integral part of the team’s batting group.” (emphasis added)

What I find really ominous, however, is his ‘was’. Is that past tense a Freudian slip? Sit out Sri Lanka and shape up, seems to me to be its implicit, indirect threat targeting the former WI Under19 skipper, or be prepared to ship out into recent cricket history.

I hope Hetmyer harkens to Harper’s half-hidden warning, hears a wholehearted honking of the horn and heeds it.

Because, as a wise, old cricketing head has already alerted us, you can have a run of luck but you cannot have a run of character.

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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6 comments

  1. Hetmeyer needs to be sent down to the West Indies A team to avoid being destroyed. He is a good batsman but needs more training in bringing out.his best

  2. No comment on the omission of Lewis. Interesting!

    • I thought “hard-hitting, on-again-off-again” was a comment but what more would you like me to say? Harper says that Evin failed fitness tests and Harper is an honourable man.
      Moreover, I am wary about jumping to the defence of Trinidadian players; my preference is for making a case when there is a case to be made. What’s the case to be made for Evin here?

    • Hetmeyer needs to be sent down to the West Indies A team to avoid being destroyed. He is a good batsman but needs more training in bringing out.his best

  3. A sport psychologist does not have to be a permanent part of a team, nor is that by any means normal practice anywhere. The first call sport psychologist is the coach. A psychologist in the setup is sufficient. There is no real need for a psychologist when cricket happens. Got hit for six, feel bad, get over it, bowl the next guy out, feel bad, dwell on it, get hit for six more. It’s cricket. Observed not doing either, refer to sport psychologist. Your position that sport psychologist are only for when their att problems is also wrong. Decisions like picking on a bowler to beat out of the attack in the Richards era was a master stroke of sport psychology. Sport psychologist are not crutches.

    • Earl Best

      Ah but you’re wrong, I think! Sports psychologists are but crutches, necessary when mobility is a problem, when you’re having trouble standing on your own two feet.
      Pollard’s WI are making slow, steady progress but there are things holding them back, one of which is clearly inconsistency from the top and middle order.
      Is that a problem a psychologist can assist with? Perhaps.
      Would he have to be available full-time to be really effective? Perhaps, perhaps not. I don’t know.
      I don’t know if CWI knows. It looks to me like they are feeling their way.
      So, as I suggested in the piece, maybe we should “be content to await the release of the list of the full touring party.“ That should provide additional information about where the administrators’ heads are at the moment.