Shimron Hetmyer is going to be your favourite player by the end of this series.
Has a desire for the long-form grind but hits down the ground with his back knee to the floor and my word you won’t see anything prettier this side of the universe. #WIvEng
— Vithushan Ehantharajah (@Vitu_E) January 23, 2019
Of course, that sounds like hyperbole. But it’s not. I am watching him bat right now. He is disciplined and calm but expressive and swashbuckling, talking to himself after every delivery, gold chain glistening in the Caribbean sun, leading his team to a respectable total after Jimmy Anderson ripped through the West Indian middle order yesterday evening, and doing it all with this powerful sense of real joy, like he is really enjoying himself, that he understands just how much fun cricket can be, there in the sun on a Thursday morning in Barbados.
But more than that. As Vithushan mentions above, his batting style is simply just gorgeous to watch. Fluid and clean like a clear stream in summer. Inventive and interesting and creative and smooth. Like a ballet dancer or a jungle cat. A human being completely at ease in their own body, making something so incredibly difficult look so incredibly easy.
A Test batsman coming of age in the age of the Twenty20. And only 22 years old. Are we watching the future of West Indian cricket? Are we watching the future of Test cricket? Are we watching the future of cricket!? I might be jumping the gun here a little, of course, but it’s a real joy to watch a young West Indian batsman raised on T20 and the NBA plying his trade so magnificently against one of the best attacks in World Cricket.
It’s been said before, and it will be said again, but Test cricket is not dead, despite all the opinions to the contrary. And batsmen like Hetmyer are proof of life. Sure, it’s dying, but it’s always been dying, always battling against time, against progress, but it’s players like Hetmyer that continue to breathe life into this funny old game.
I look at players like Virat Kohli, who made his national team debut in the middle of the T20 generation, a wonderful cricketer, an aggressive and ferocious batsman, who can carry a team across the line in both forms of the one day game. He can hit for six like no one on earth, blasting ball after ball into the seats in the middle of the IPL circus. But then he put on the Test whites and ground out centuries and double centuries and lead his team to victory in the longest format everyone on earth, and he just won Test Cricketer of the year.
Sure, it’s dying, but it’s always been dying, and players like Hetmyer are here to make sure it stays on this side of the mortal coil.