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The world had seen Shimron Hetmyer, the IPL hadn’t. Not the best of him anyway. Not even vague sightings of the “once-in-a-generation cricketer” that former West Indies coach Stuart Law foresaw in a Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast earlier this year.
RCB’s second-most expensive buy at the auctions this season, worth INR 4.2 crores, Hetmyer was hastily cast aside on the benches following scores of 0, 5, 9, 1 in his first four outings. Apparently, the management had seen enough to form their opinion, and it was a pretty damning one as the left-hander wasn’t considered even when a spot opened up after the departure of Moeen Ali. RCB instead chose to go with just three overseas players in their previous match against Rajasthan Royals.
On Saturday night though, brought back from the cold for the Chinnaswamy’s season finale, Hetmyer came good on his untapped potential to show the hosts what they’d been missing all along.
The Royal Challengers, chasing 176, lost Parthiv Patel, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers – their top three run-getters of the tournament – with only 20 runs on the board. It was a situation that Kohli would later go on to describe as a chance for “someone else to show what they’re made of”. But that was easier said than done.
After all, Sunrisers were on the hunt for a spot in the playoffs and there couldn’t have been a better opportunity to exploit. So, on came Rashid Khan in the fifth over itself, giving way to a battle that would shape the outcome of the contest.
A total of 18 balls in ODIs, that’s all the experience Hetmyer had of playing against the Afghan leg-spinner. Never before had they fronted up in T20s. And his jaw literally fell open after Rashid spun a googly right past the outside edge with his first legitimate delivery. But the scales were soon evened out as the fourth ball was drilled flat and hard over wide long-on. This was a riveting back-and-forth, and the smiles on their faces showed that both players were enjoying it.
Rashid may not have had the rewards in terms of wickets this year, but he’s remained very economical, going at a rate of just 6.46. Batsmen have adopted the approach of guarding their wickets when he’s in operation. Not Hetmyer, who was intent on hitting everything as hard as possible, with every mis-hit seen as a failure to be admonished.