For the 36,000-odd people present at the Barsapara Cricket Stadium, in Guwahati and the thousands watching on their television sets on Sunday, Shimron Hetmyer’s 78-ball 106 during the first One-Day International between India and the Windies might have come as some sort of a surprise. Not many can blame them after all considering how out of sync Hetmyer looked in the recently concluded two Test-series, managing just 50 runs across four innings at an average of just 12.50.However, come the first ODI and the 21-year-old strode out to the middle a totally different batsman as he went about constructing his innings with the audaciousness and authority that has often been associated with the Windies players from a bygone era. There was that Caribbean flair on display in his strokeplay as he took apart fast bowlers and spinners alike carting them to all corners of the ground with a minimum of nonchalance reaching his century off just 74 deliveries, his innings studded with six fours and as many sixes.
It was a far cry from the Hetmyer that one saw in the Test series where he was outfoxed by Kuldeep Yadav in three of the four innings often failing to read the turning ball. The coloured clothing, the white ball and the fact that there was no Kuldeep in the opposition XI brought out a totally different batsman who was confident and assured of his abilities.
The Indian pacers not wanting to bowl the fuller length on a placid surface went with the short-ball ploy only to be taken to the cleaners by the left-hander. His horizontal bat shots were a treat to watch, his fast hands coming into play more than once while his timing remained impeccable all through. Make no mistake, it was not all slam-bang from the youngster. Coming in at 86/3 which soon became 114/4, Hetmyer weathered the storm early on picking up the ones and twos to keep the scoreboard ticking while also taking the odd calculated risks.
Hetmyer scored 65 of his 106 runs on the on-side often clearing his front leg to the medium pacers and opting for the slog sweep against the spinners as he raced to his half-century off just 41 deliveries. The shot-making only got better after that with his next 50 runs taking just 33 deliveries. He got to his third ODI century with probably the shot of the Windies innings, a front-foot slam off Mohammed Shami that soared over Rishabh Pant’s head at long off to cap off one of the best hundreds recorded by a Caribbean batsman in recent times. It was one of those hits that lingers on in the minds of a viewer long after the match is done and the standing ovation that followed was richly deserved.
But, was this Hetmyer innings a one-off when everything just seems to fall in place or is the swashbuckling southpaw indeed the future of Windies cricket?
Those that have seen the young lad in his hometown of Berbice, in Guyana, Hetmyer’s latest onslaught comes as no surprise. He has been primed to play the sport at the highest level ever since being spotted at the Young Warriors Cricket Club in Guyana at a tender age of 11 with his big-hitting prowess making waves far and wide. His ODI statistics vouch for his abilities with the 21-year-old having already scored three centuries and a fifty in just 13 matches with a strike-rate reading 102.09 and an average of 45.
However, it was not all smooth sailing in Hetmyer’s journey as a professional cricketer. He made his first-class debut for Guyana at the age of 18 where he could only manage scores of a 0 & 4 in the Regional Four Day Competition. He was drafted in the Windies Under-19 side for the 2014 World Cup but with three ducks in five matches, there were voices starting to gain ground whether he had it in him to make it to the highest level.
But, destiny had other plans for the youngster and he got another opportunity to play at the 2016 Under-19 World in Bangladesh where he led the Windies unit to victory defeating India in the finals by five wickets.
It all suddenly started to fall in place for Hetmyer with runs flowing in the domestic 50 & 20-over competitions as well as first-class cricket. He was picked up by Guyana Amazon Warriors for the 2016 Caribbean Premier League but it was not until the 2018 edition that he gained consciousness in the minds of people.
He struck a 45-ball 79 in the very first game this year against St Kitts and Nevis Patriots leading his side to a six-wicket win. The moment he really had people stand up and notice him though was during Guyana’s fourth game of the tournament when Hetmyer slammed a belligerent 49-ball 100 against Jamaica Tallawahs in Lauderhill, becoming the youngest centurion in the competition. He finished CPL 2018 as the third-highest scorer amassing 457 runs across 11 matches with two half-centuries and a ton. More importantly, he struck at 148.14 throughout further making a name as a solid power hitter.
Hetmyer’s big-hitting abilities have not gone unnoticed with both current and former cricketers. Ian Bishop was the amongst the first few to call him the future of Windies cricket while former Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh expected the swashbuckling left-hander to go for a fair few at the 2019 IPL auctions.
Quality knock by Shimron Hetmyer. He is going to be some player. 3 centuries in his first 13 games. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 . Best start by any West Indian batsman after so few matches.
— ian bishop (@irbishi) October 21, 2018
What an inn by #Hetmyer..he is gonna be a next million dollar baby in the @IPL 2019 #INDvsWI 1st ODI
— Harbhajan Turbanator (@harbhajan_singh) October 21, 2018
Jason Holder, the Windies captain, was also elated with the way Hetmyer regained his form after a patchy Test series.
“It was good to see him get back to form,” captain Jason Holder said after the match. “He had a lean patch in the Test series and pretty innocuous dismissals as well, so it’s good to see him get a score on the board. He has been doing pretty well in the limited-overs format for us, so it’s good to see him put up his hand and score a hundred today.”
At 21, Hetmyer has all the time in the world to carve his name into Windies folklore. He has the talent, all that is needed now is some consistency across formats. Whether or not he can manage that, only time will tell.
First Published: October 23, 2018, 8:31 AM IST
Two Indians have already felt the full force of what this Pakistan team is capable of in the Asia Cup. Well, in a roundabout way. Anshuman Rath, Hong Kong born and bred in England, in the fabled Harrow school where he took up a place as a boarder at 14 to pursue cricket was dismissed by Faheem Ashraf and Kinchit Shah, born in Mumbai but having played for Hong Kong through age-group cricket, made 26 before Hasan Ali got him.On Tuesday, Hong Kong will play India but before that the two teams will rub shoulders at the International Cricket Council Academy ground when they practice together. Rohit Sharma is the friendly sort and if Hong Kong’s players want to have a word he will gladly engage and perhaps even as a question or two about India’s Wednesday opponents.
The Pakistan-Hong Kong match was understandably one-sided — Hong Kong have just 800 active cricketers, about how many you see on a single Mumbai maidan on any given morning and Pakistan were just too strong for them. Hong Kong don’t even have permanent One-Day International status, although the two matches they play in this tournament will be officially recognised.
Pakistan have built on their immense strength steadily but surely under Mickey Arthur, a no-nonsense coach who has laid down minimum requirements for fitness and fielding that every player has to adhere to. While it is tempting to call Pakistan mercurial, something they traditionally have been, this team is a touch different.
The bowling remains the strong suit and it will be when the attack is led by a bowler of the class of Mohammad Amir. But he is not alone. Usman Khan, is yet another promising left-arm quick, Faheem Ashram has made a name for himself as a hard hitter having begun as a right-arm medium pacer and Hasan Ali has enough variations to be successful in a variety of conditions.
There’s enough depth in batting and a blend of experience and youth. Imam-ul-Haq has made his more famous uncle proud, scoring consistently since he was elevated to international cricket. Babar Azam, who has shades of Mohammad Azharuddin to him, is hungry to play long innings, Fakhar Zaman has already knifed India in the past and Shoaib Malik has been around seemingly forever. Add to this Sarfraz Khan, a top-shelf wicketkeeper and capable batsman, and you have all the ingredients needed to be successful in 50-over cricket.
While it would be unfair to read too much into Pakistan based on one match against Hong Kong, a team that was always going to struggle to be competitive against the big guns, what was obvious was a sense of calm and professionalism not always associated with Pakistan teams. The fielding was tidy, there was no shortage of energy and fortunately for Pakistan they are more than used to playing in the 43-degree heat of the United Arab Emirates.
All teams like to say that they go into a tournament looking at each match as a separate event and that they don’t like to think too far ahead but that hardly applies to India-Pakistan matches. The buzz has been around that game from the time the teams landed in Dubai and it has intensified after Pakistan’s first match.
When asked about his three-wicket rampage in a single over against Hong Kong, Usman could barely contain his excitement. “Your career can change if you are a Pakistani and perform against India. I got three wickets today,” said Usman, “And, inshallah I will pick up five wickets against India.”
The verbal volleys, even if they are gentle ones, have already begun. Now all that remains is to get a look at India against Hong Kong, in main to see how they handle the physically demanding conditions, before suiting up for the main event.
First Published: September 17, 2018, 1:23 PM IST
Published: August 30, 2018 2:05:36 am
Staring fixedly in a darkened room as if watching a satellite being launched, the audience full of boys proceeded to make noises that otherwise travel rakishly through mortified, thin walls. But it was only e-sports debuting at the Asian Games in Jakarta, watched by an audience that expressed its glee through those sighing inaudibles.
You wondered if the men in their late teens and early 20s causing this euphoric vocal reaction — the players at the centre of e-sports’ demonstration dazzle at the Brit-Ama Arena — ought to be someplace else. Somewhere out, getting some sun rather than being holed up sitting in console chairs bringing down turrets and taming dragons on a screen. Sporting broad-rimmed spectacles and Beatles mops, looking socially awkward without their keyboard and mouse, these were geeks walking onto the Greek God field of sport shielding their eyes from the sun (and spotlight) that shines bright on the regular sportsperson.
The chosen game was League of Legends, a multiple player challenge where a throne is coveted – there being three lanes and a million permutations to reach it.
At the arena carved out of the centre of a giant mall, Chinese set designers have managed the impossible — altering shapes of a regular DVD screen to set up the atmospherics. The big screen airs the game and its drama real time, while players with phlegmatic visages betray no emotion at all. And you thought shooters were the blandest of them all. But there is hysteria in the stands as warriors go on kill sprees and are up against dragons. The contradictions don’t end there. It is fascinating to watch gamers who live out lives within virtual lives, attempt to attract the attention of the outside world. Adulation is shyly processed. Korea’s biggest name Faker grew up as a shy kid with Harry Potter glasses and a mop. Now he is the face of Korea’s LOL pantheon – the marked man for the Chinese 5, with Ming charging him down the middle lane for rampaging kills.
Online forums had been chattering about Korea’s imminent fall at the Asiad – which is when it became clear that ‘gaming’ was catching on at the Games.
Indonesian LOL fans would get behind Uzi, the chubby Chinese champ with a cheek mole whose flashy plays and high risk-high reward style have snatched fans away from Faker, the original aggressive gamer. The crowd went into spasmic satisfaction when China could shut down Faker during the Jungle. Uzi and Faker as well as Peanut, Ruler, LetMe and Score are what they call in Jakarta the players’ Rockstar names. “We don’t know their real names. We just know Faker and Uzi’s playing styles,” diehard Joseph Ramamugel said. He was conflicted of course at the outset when ESPN streamed the first ever DOTA. “People were asking what’s the definition of sport. But isn’t fighting against other rivals for the same prize what sport is. Olympics loves how many fans e-sports has,” he says, adding that the Games are wooing gaming, rather than gaming dying to get in. Gaming at the Asiad was not too different from one of the Chinese or Korean leagues, with their buying and selling of players in summer and spring splits, with All Star and all that.
A gamers’ candy story has set shop right outside the arena with the latest gadgetry, though the biggest buys in Gaming are the cosmetics – not unlike an online Barbie dress-up from two decades ago. “The avatars of League of Legends have back stories, and it’s a universe of its own like Marvel. The gaming goes on, but most people also start aligning with these alter egos Shen and Akali. “It’s a beautiful world we have and Faker and Uzi are the real-life fighters,” he says, a man having bought into a story that plays out on screens. E-sports deeply divides opinion, though, on matters of its psychological effects on players; the substance abuse of beta blockers among hardcores; and whether all of it even amounted to physical health. Uzi is recuperating from a back injury, and all of the turret storming and installation blasting seems plausible – never mind a bad back and strained neck, something unthinkable in sports played not sitting.
Gaming has reached a stage where coaches like Yamato Cannon are chased in Europe, by Asian gamers who keep their options open from Counterstrike to Cornell.
The hero of the day is China’s support player Mngx. Besides picking key kills and protecting Uzi, Mngx would make the big calls and help China overturn Korea’s dominance. In China, they call him Spicy Hotpot – his social media following rising steadily as the clock ticked down.
Perhaps the popularity of e-sports could be gauged from the fact that Yao Ming watched two days of LOL as a fan. Traditional sport’s biggest superstars are known to be keen followers of gamers who attract a cult that could include someone more famous than them in conventional terms.
Navaneetha Krishnan, representing India, literally laughed off as spam an emailed personal invite calling him to enlist after the developers tracked his performance and wanted him on board. “I was stunned and thought it was spam. But here I am representing India at the Asian Games,” he says.
“Being a gamer, we crave for recognition. We want people to watch us. I never thought anyone cared till a few years ago. It’s like the future is here,” PES player Ankur Diwakar says.
The Asiad has factored in the continent’s inclinations – so there’s the Japanese developer’s PES picked over FIFA, where gamers reckon they can do things that are more akin to real-life backyard football. Of course, League of Legends trumped Defence Of The Ancients. There’s also the chess plus poker game Hardstone.
E-sports might still be finding a slot in the middle of the action for flag-waving and chanting that’s endemic to formalised amateur sport. But it has ensured sport’s biggest dream pulling out the most reserved, reticent, indoor gamers from their lairs and unleashing them on the world. Even a shy kid who abhors all exerting activity and prefers the confines of his room with a console can be pitchforked into the Asiad.
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Hardik Pandya broke the back of the England batting line-up to claim his maiden five-wicket haul on the second day of the third Test at Trent Bridge in Nottingham on Sunday. Pandya became the second fastest Indian to take a five-wicket haul when he took just 29 balls as the hosts were bundled out for 161 in their first innings. Harbhajan Singh is the only other bowler to take five wickets in fewer balls for India than Hardik Pandya’s 29 balls on Sunday.
Pandya produced an inspired spell of bowling to record his best figures in Test cricket.
Pandya took five for 28 runs in six overs, including a stunning spell of four for eight in 11 balls, as he revelled in the swing-friendly conditions.
Congratulations to @hardikpandya7 for his maiden Test five-wicket haul! What a spell! #ENGvIND pic.twitter.com/4ZX3PkHno2
— ICC (@ICC) August 19, 2018
Before the third Test, Pandya’s position in the India team came under scrutiny, but, on the second day at Trent Bridge, he produced a spell to remember.
Michael Holding had come out and questioned Hardik Pandya’s place in the Indian team. He had said that Pandya is not yet the all-rounder India wants him to be, because he is ineffective as a bowler and also not scoring enough runs with the bat.
Incidentally, Pandya was the second highest run-scorer in the Indian side after the first two Test matches of the five-match series.
As far as the match is concerned, England only narrowly avoided the follow-on total of 130 but India had strengthened their grip on the game as they looked to recover from 2-0 down in the five-match series.
It was the second time this year that England had been dismissed inside a session of Test cricket following their humiliating 58 all out against New Zealand in Auckland in March.
The irony was that England had enjoyed a solid opening stand to be 54 without loss.
But the exit of left-handers Alastair Cook (29) and Keaton Jennings (20) on that total sparked a collapse that saw eight wickets lost for 74 runs.
Only Jos Buttler’s 39 briefly kept India at bay.