Hitting long sixes all around the stadium and hitting shots with raw power has been synonymous with West Indian hitters lately. However, they seem to be changing their approach in their last games as they played with the top order formed by Shai Hope, Kyle Mayers and Shamarh Brooks.
The West Indies are known to be a team filled with prolific hitters and hitters with absolutely offensive intent. Their offensive intent has helped them post big totals in short formats, but more often than not, the fewer technically sound players on the team have held them back from success lately. Even when they won the 2016 T20 World Cup, the experience and technical solidarity of marlon samuel while the stick played a key role in the Caribbean victory.
In recent years, Shai Hope has been the only gamer with the temperament required to read longer formats and notebook readers with brilliant timing to excel. In the 2021 T20 World Cup, the team finished second to last in their group in the Super 12 stage. Also in the 2019 ODI World Cup, they finished second to last point table position. The team has been playing with tactics lately, especially in the ODIs, where Shai Hope was playing as the anchor and other hitters were playing with attacking intent on the other side.
The problem that the West Indies often suffered due to this game plan was collapsing batters. Whenever Shai Hope used to be fired early in the innings, there was no other batter who would have stayed in the crease for long. As a result, wickets were continually failing and the team was going all out on low scores. Since the start of 2021, West Indies have beaten first in 9 ODIs, winning just two. Of those nine matches, they were knocked out seven times without even playing all 50 overs, and their highest tally was 269 against Ireland over seven innings. The two where the team played to the end and also broke the 300 point mark were the games where they used the new combination of top three hitters. In those matches, Shai Hope and Kyle Mayers were the opening pair while Shamarh Brooks hit a try.
So, that brings us to the question of what worked for West Indies in those two games where they posted totals of 308/5 and 305/8 respectively. The main factor that led to the change was the three most temperamental and elegant hitters encountered in the opening phase of the innings. They manipulated the new ball, tuned it, and provided a platform for lower-order hitters to use it on. Mayers and Brooks’ ability with Hope to play for a long time made a significant difference.
Shai Hope is a senior hitter in the Caribbean setup and he has the numbers to prove it. Hope scored 2355 runs in 40 matches with an impressive average of 69.3 including 10 centuries and 10 half centuries. Mayers opened the ODI innings for the West Indies in four matches scoring 161 to 40.2. Brooks has 490 ODI runs from 12 innings at 44.54 interspersed with a century and three fifty.
Now, what helps West Indies with a top-three combination of Hope, Mayers and Brooks is the freedom for lower-order hitters to play their natural game. Rovman Powell or Romario Shepherd aren’t hitters who can stay in the crease any longer. Both like to swing on almost every delivery so they can give their best in the last ten overs. In the ODIs against Pakistan and the Netherlands, when the top three gave the team a good start, the lower order hitters used it and helped them get past 300. Seems like the best option for the team to continue with those three batters in the higher order.
This combination of a solid top three can also be applied to T20s. It could affect their pace in the power play, but for that they can replace Hope with Brandon King at the top of the command in the shortest format. Both hitters Mayers and Brooks can try to anchor and the others will attack around them. Mayers scored 117 points in the opener in five matches. Brooks has only played three T20Is, but he has the talent and potential to excel in shorter formats as well.
The team can take a cautious approach instead of going after every ball with those first three. West Indies have fought to establish themselves as one of the best cricket teams in the world in longer formats. This could be the first step for them in this direction. To improve their declining ODI and Testing chart, West Indies need to change their approach and mindset. They need more technically sound hitters and these three can provide the team with the stability it needs. The ODI World Cup will be played next year and the West Indies will have to determine their team combination and their philosophy of play. In my opinion, these three can make a solid order for the Caribbean team to succeed in the ODI and regain their reputation as a strong team.
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