Runs flow, Hetmyer credits the conversations

Four days before the IPL auction in Kolkata, Shimron Hetmyer showed up with the bat in a manner that could have his fortunes skyrocketing.

After battling cramp to get to 139, his highest score in One-day Internationals (ODI), Hetmyer said this was his best effort in 41 games in a two-year career. “Chasing a score feels much better than setting one, making sure that your team gets home. Sad that I didn’t actually finish the game but it is a work in progress,” said Hetmyer.

His effort fetched praise from Rishabh Pant, who top-scored for India with a 69-ball 71, his maiden ODI half-century. “He batted brilliantly through the innings. Set the tempo for them,” said the India wicket-keeper after congratulating Man-of-the-Match Hetmyer in the press conference room.

Hetmyer said the pitch, which looked slow when India batted, was not a problem. “There wasn’t much slowness in the wicket because there is always the dew factor batting second under lights in India. The ball didn’t really stop that much, possibly a little bit when the seamers bowled cutters.”

Hetmyer also spoke of an ordinary 2019 IPL. There was a 47-ball 75 against Sunrisers Hyderabad but an aggregate of 90 in five games wasn’t what Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) were looking for when they staved off interest from four franchises to buy the left-hander for R4.20 crore.

“I just try to enjoy my batting as much as possible. It’s cricket and, as in life, sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. Didn’t have the best of IPLs but it’s a nice experience, something you can take out from. It helps you come back stronger..,” said Hetmyer, 22.

With RCB skipper Virat Kohli in the house, Hetmyer produced an innings rich in power and panache on Sunday, one that helped West Indies start the three-match ODI series with an eight-wicket win. He aggregated 259 at a strike rate of 140 in five ODIs when West Indies toured India in 2018 and hit a T20 century for Guyana Amazon Warriors in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) that year. After the IPL, Hetmyer played for 2019 runners-up Amazon Warriors, scoring 224 runs in 12 games.

For a young player, “back and forth” conversations with proven performers have been big takeaways from CPL. “Polly (Kieron Pollard) (is) one of the best finishers in the world; just to sit in the dressing room and speak to him about how he goes about doing his stuff. Even when (Chris) Gayle is around, how he goes about starting his innings. To have them around when you are going through a rough patch is a good thing,” he said.

“Hetmyer has come under a lot of criticism, but it’s about understanding his role and responsibility. As a management group, we have faith in him,” said Pollard.

If in Shai Hope Hetmyer trusts—they added 218 runs for the second wicket in 208 balls—it is because they know each other’s game. “When we are batting together, most of the time I am the aggressor and he kind of sticks around, knocks it around, and if he gets the boundary ball, he puts it away. It is always nice batting with someone like him because he is going to make sure you get as much strike as possible,” he said. Opener Hope made an unbeaten 102.

Released by RCB, Hetmyer goes into the auction on a base price of R50 lakh like last time.

Told to stay calm: Pant

On way to his measured innings after a lean patch, Pant said the message from the team management was to be calmer. “(The) last two, three months, when I was at practice, I would think about cricket; off the field, not so much. I had spoken to the team management and they told me, ‘calm yourself, see what you can do to improve your game, your fitness, and try to improve yourself in every factor.’ That was what I was doing,” he said.

Wearing a thick necklace and a bracelet, Pant said he also shuttered himself from what people were saying about him. “The more I focus on the game, the better for me. I got some runs today but personally, when I play for India, every innings is important.”

Asked what he would tell another young player struggling for form, Pant said: “You have to believe in yourself. It doesn’t matter what people are saying.”

Speaking about curbing his instinct to go for shots, he said: “When I was young, playing one’s natural game would be important. But now I know there is nothing called a natural game; you need to play according to the situation or what the team demands. A good player is one who moulds his game according to the situation and what his team needs.”

Pant said the initial target for him and Shreyas Iyer, who made 70, was to build a partnership. “We had lost three early wickets and wanted to take the game to the 35-40th overs. In a 50-over game, you get a lot of time and if we could get a partnership going it would help us capitalise in the end.”

Pant and Iyer added 114 for the fourth wicket after India were 80/3 in the 19th over.

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