By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published October 29, 2018 in the Western Mirror
At 21 years old, Shimron Hetmyer reminds me of a young Brian Lara.
Sometimes, when you see a player for the first time, you can summarise their future and potential instantly. Other times, it might take you a look or two, to properly evaluate whether stardom or slumdog awaits them. In 2016, during the ICC under-19 World Cup, Shimron Hetmyer, who was the captain of the West Indies under-19 team, was one of those players whom many believed had the potential for future greatness. However, at the onset of the tournament, his star never shun bright.
Hetmyer registered 0, 6 and 17 in the first three matches in the under-19 World Cup. West Indies made it out of the group stages due to a last over mankading incident where quick thinking Keemo Paul saw his Zimbabwean opponent drifting out of his crease during Paul’s delivery stride. Captain Hetmyer and his team came under severe scrutiny regarding how the game was won and whether it was in the true ‘spirit of the game’. Some individuals believed Hetmyer and his men followed the laws of the game. Others believed that they broke the spirit of the game. Hetmyer defended his team and their play, and it was thereafter Hetmyer came into his own.
In the quarterfinal and semifinal matches, Hetmyer scored half-centuries to propel the West Indies team to the finals. Despite Hetmyer’s awakened performances, Gidron Pope, Shamar Springer, Alzarri Joseph and Keemo Paul were the under-19 players on the lips of every commentator as the next future greats for West Indies. Two-and-a-half years later, Hetmyer is ahead of them all and is being considered the next Brian Lara and the new ‘million dollar baby’ in the IPL. To be honest, I share some of those sentiments.
A few weeks ago, while sitting with my father as we had one of our long talks about West Indies cricket, I told my dad that Hetmyer reminded me of a young Brian Lara. My dad, who has been following and watching West Indies cricket religiously for over 50 years, never got a chance to entertain or throw out my declaration as I made the statement while heading through the door on my way home. Last week Sunday after West Indies posted 322 runs with Hetmyer scoring 106, I reminded my dad of the comment while we were at church. Again, the comment was made while I was entering my car to head home. Last week Wednesday after Hetmyer’s brilliant knock of 94 runs off 64 balls, I mentioned it to my father again and clarified what I meant.
Commentators, fans and pundits often prematurely compare current players with players of old, without the current players having enough of a resume to back up their comparisons. My statement about Hetmyer reminding me of Lara had little to do with his run production, though Hetmyer is now averaging higher than Lara ever did in ODIs. The statement has to do with Hetmyer’s overflowing self-belief in his immense talent and that he can overcome any world-class bowler. The last West Indian player I saw that mental conviction in was Brian Charles Lara, and before Lara, it was Viv Richards. No doubt. No wavering. Just pure confidence that they can get the job done.
Despite having this trait of immense belief, there is another trait I have observed in Hetmyer that might auger well for his career and further comparisons with Lara if his run production ever comes close to the legend. That ever so important trait is his temperament.
Hetmyer has shown in his brief career so far that he can change gears with the team goal in mind. The great players can assess the circumstances and provide the necessary performance to help the team attain those goals. So far we have seen small samplings of this from Hetmyer at the international and the domestic levels. For him to be considered a true great in 10-15 years from now, he must produce these stunning performances with great regularity like that of other future greats such as Virat Kohli and Steve Smith and past greats such as Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar.
Hetmyer’s name can be spoken of among the names mentioned earlier if he puts in the work both physically and mentally. I see greatness in his bowels, longing to emerge on the world stage and grab cricket stardom by the neck. Brian Lara had that same greatness in his loins as a youngster. The same can be said of Viv Richards.
As I unveil my crystal ball, I see several hundreds and records in Hetmyer’s loins as he launches West Indies to many victories. With Lara and Richards both in support of the youngster’s approach and production, I see many good things in his futurity. For these prophecies to become a reality, Hetmyer will have to tend to his craft with enormous discipline and not get carried away with the fringe benefits of greatness. He should look at the lifestyles and methods of Smith and Kohli and emulate them.
In the next year, Hetmyer might make more money than he has ever dreamed. Several IPL teams have set their sights on him and apparently will splash gigantic amounts of cash to acquire his talents. If this occurs, my advice to him is to remain humble, but more importantly remain hungry, despite the financial rewards. Do not crave or play for the monetary gains but starve for runs and West Indies’ glory. With it, the legendary status and its pecuniary remunerations will be showered on you in droves.
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
Zaheer E. Clarke is a sports columnist, freelance sportswriter and a multi-award-winning blogger. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook at Zaheer Facts, Lies & Statistics, or on Twitter at @zaheerclarke.
This blog article was published in the Western Mirror on October 29, 2018.