Match Analysis

Old-school Hope does his job for West Indies, the way he knows best

West Indies have the fire; the opening batter provides the ice they need to bat their 50 overs in ODIs

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Shai Hope hit a century in his 100th ODI, West Indies v India, 2nd ODI, Port of Spain, July 24, 2022

"I always love batting. I love to set the tempo and do whatever I can for the team's benefit"  •  Associated Press

Shai Hope's 100th ODI, against India in Port of Spain on Sunday, brought him his 13th ODI century, and only his second at home. But just one look at his face, and it was clear that this wasn't the most enjoyable of them, even if all the factors that make him a top-order mainstay for West Indies were in evidence. Here, their hopes - pardon the pun - had been crushed. For the second game in a row, West Indies had lost a game they could have won.
But, even in defeat, there were positives West Indies would gladly take as they build towards next year's ODI World Cup. For two ODIs in a row now, that West Indies have batted their full quota of overs - something Nicholas Pooran had stressed as a priority - counts as one.
Hope has been central to those larger plans, with a game built on the virtues of playing correctly: play straight, in the V, elbow nice and high as ball meets bat while punching down the ground, hitting along the ground… you get the drift. And playing patiently.
Doing this day-in-and-day-out hasn't been the West Indian way for a while now. There are very few of that quality left. Perhaps Roston Chase, Shamarh Brooks and Test-specialist Kraigg Brathwaite fit the bill in the current era, even as many of their mates hop from one T20 league to another, playing every other day, leaving you little or no time for self-reflection.
You would not be human if you don't, at times, aspire for the big bucks and worldwide acclaim that comes with being a T20 star for hire. Hope is different. He hasn't sought validation for his style. He makes no bones of the fact that he wants to be a long-form player. T20 isn't his game. Sure, he's unlikely to pass up an opportunity to play in a T20I if picked, but he isn't going to beat himself up for a mistimed hoick or a scoop, because he knows the skillsets he brings are tuned to the longer formats.
In today's day and age of stats and analytics, Hope may often be under the scanner for his batting tempo, which at times can be hard to fathom from the outside. Especially because the same batter who plays aesthetically pleasing shots all around the dial when the field restrictions are in place, goes into his shell in his quest to build longer innings once the field spreads. An initial surge is often followed by a dip in strike rate, before he plays catch-up again.
"I don't play names, it's about doing the job on the day. Those who may not be so-called recognised bowlers aren't necessarily bad. You have to respect their game, the players, the deliveries they bowl at you and the situation"
Shai Hope
Since Hope's ODI debut in 2015, 22 batters have made 3000 runs or more. No one has scored them slower than Hope, with a strike rate of 75. But, perhaps, that is what this West Indies team needs. They have the six-hitters in Kyle Mayers up top and Rovman Powell for the death overs. Then there's Shimron Hetmyer, when he is fit and in favour, in the middle. There's Brandon King, a transformed batter whose seamless switch to power-hitting has given his career a new lease of life after a false start three years ago. And there's Nicholas Pooran, who scored 74 in 77 last night, all of it in Hope's company.
In the second ODI, Hope quickly slipped into the role of the second fiddle as Mayers started with a flurry of boundaries, seemingly intent on throwing the quicks off their lengths, and then falling first ball to spin. An excellent player of spin, Hope was reading Axar Patel's lengths to either get fully forward driving, or rock right back to nudge or cut. He doesn't binge on premeditation - he simply reacts to what is coming at him. Maybe, at times, his propensity to get caught up with his methods shackles him from cutting loose.
That said, the shot he brought his fifty off was exactly that. A mighty slog sweep against the line off Yuzvendra Chahal. Maybe this was the switch he needed to flick on to play an un-Hope-like innings. West Indies were coasting at 127 for 1 in 21 overs at that stage. Then they lost two in two overs, and Hope had to fall back into rebuild mode. Where most other West Indies batters struggle to come to grips with building, or rebuilding, an ODI innings, it's almost Hope's second nature. To know when to back off. It can only come through an understanding of his limitations and making the most of what he has.
It helped that Pooran came out looking busy, and tried to take the bowling on. He was feasting on the balls in his arc. Chahal tossed them up and saw them disappear. Axar looped it up and got clattered. Even as Pooran was amping up his intensity, Hope was on cruise mode. It meant he could go back to his tried-and-tested methods. Their century stand was a perfect fire-and-ice combination that threatened to give West Indies a total higher than perhaps they had expected.
"My desire is to bat as long as I can," Hope said after the match. "I always love batting. I love to set the tempo and do whatever I can for the team's benefit. Just the desire and hunger to stay in the middle is my biggest takeaway [from his experience of 100 ODIs]. My advice to self is to keep learning and get as best as I can. You never know it all. However, I will continue doing things that I'm doing well."
Batting big, batting long and grinding bowlers - things Hope has done wonderfully well. You don't rack up 4193 runs in 95 innings at an average of 49.33 otherwise. The secret to that is not playing the bowler, but the bowling. Of course, Hope makes it sound simple when it isn't. But he is nothing if not earnest.
"I don't play names, it's about doing the job on the day," he said. "Those who may not be so-called recognised bowlers aren't necessarily bad. You have to respect their game, the players, the deliveries they bowl at you and the situation.
"Playing against the best brings out the best in me. It's something I've looked forward to growing up, while playing regional cricket. It's just one of those challenges I try to grab with both hands. Hopefully I can continue that. I never feel too pleased with these so-called accolades when the team doesn't get over the line. I always try to score, and contribute. But if we don't win, it doesn't feel the same."
In this Bazball era, where even 400 might not be enough sometimes, there will be the occasional hubbub about Hope's strike rate and his old-school methods. But, as long as it helps West Indies achieve their stated objective - bat 50 overs consistently - it helps tick a big box. And it allows the box-office stars to do their own thing.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo