Hitting long sixes all around the stadium and hitting the strokes with brute power has been synonymous with West Indian batters in recent times. However, they seem to be changing their approach in their latest games as they played with top-order formed by Shai Hope, Kyle Mayers, and Shamarh Brooks.
West Indies have been known to be a side packed with prolific power-hitter and the batters with an absolutely attacking intent. Their attacking intent helped them post big totals in short formats but more often the less number of technically solid players in the team kept them away from success in recent times, Even when they won the 2016 T20 World Cup, the experience and technical solidarity of Marlon Samuels while batting played a key role in the Caribbean win.
In recent years, Shai Hope has been the only player with a temperament required to play longer formats and the copybook drives along with brilliant timing to excel. In the 2021 T20 World Cup, the team finished at the second last position in their group in the Super 12 stage. Also in the 2019 ODI World Cup, they finished at the second last position in the points table. The team played with a tactic lately, especially in ODIs, where Shai Hope used to play the anchor role and other batters used to play with attacking intent from other end.
The problem West Indies often suffered due to this gameplan was the batting collapse, Whenever, Shai Hope used to get dismissed early in the innings, there was no other batter who would have stayed at the crease for a long time. As a result, the wickets used to fail continuously and the team was getting all-out on low scores. Since the start of 2021, West Indies batted first in 9 ODIs winning only two of them. Out of these nine matches, they were bundled out seven times without even playing all the 50 overs, and their highest total was 269 against Ireland out of the seven innings. The two where the team played till the end and also crossed the 300-run mark were the games where they used the new combination of top three batters. In these games, Shai Hope and Kyle Mayers were the opening pair while Shamarh Brooks batted one-down.
So, this takes us to the question of what has worked for West Indies in these two matches where they posted totals of 308/5 and 305/8 respectively. The primary factor which led to the change was the three most temperamental and classy batters faced in the opening phase of the innings. They handled the new ball, settled it, and provided a platform for the lower-order batters to utilize on. The ability of Mayers and Brooks along with Hope to play for a long period made a significant difference.
Shai Hope is a senior batter in the Caribbean set-up and he has numbers to prove that. Hope has scored 2355 runs from 40 matches at an impressive average of 69.3 including 10 centuries and 10 half-centuries. Mayers has opened the innings in ODIs for West Indies in four matches scoring 161 runs at 40.2. Brooks has 490 ODI runs from 12 innings at 44.54 laced with a century and three fifties.
Now, the thing which helps West Indies with a top-three combination of Hope, Mayers, and Brooks is the liberty for lower-order batters to play their natural game. Rovman Powell or Romario Shepherd are not batters who can stay at the crease for longer periods of time. Both of them like to take a swing at almost every delivery so they can give their best coming in the last ten overs. In the ODIs against Pakistan and Netherlands when the top three gave the team a good start lower-order batters utilized it and helped them cross 300. It looks to be the best option for the team to continue with these three batting in the top order.
This combination of a solid top three can be applied in T20s as well. This might affect their run-rate in the powerplay but for that, they can replace Hope with Brandon King at the top of the order in the shortest format. The two batters Mayers and Brooks can try to play the anchor role and the others will attack around them. Mayers has scored 117 runs while opening in five matches. Brooks has played only three T20Is but he has the talent and potential to excel in shorter formats as well.
The team can switch to a cautious approach instead of going after every ball with these top three. West Indies have been fighting to establish themselves as one of the finest cricketing sides around the globe in longer formats. This might be the first step for them in that direction. To improve their declining graph of ODIs and Tests West Indies need to tweak their approach and the mindset. They need more technically sound batters and these three can provide the team with the stability they need. The ODI World Cup will be played next year and West Indies will have to figure out their team combination and their playing philosophy. In my opinion, these three can make a solid top-order for the Caribbean team to succeed in ODIs and regain their reputation of being a strong side.
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