GROS ISLET, St Lucia – Shai Hope says he is under no illusions about the challenge that awaits him in the longest format, after being recalled to the West Indies Test squad for the series against South Africa starting Thursday.
The stylish right-hander has scored heavily in One-Day Internationals where he averages 53 with 10 centuries but was dropped from the Test side last year after scraping an average of 26 from 34 Tests, after making his debut six years ago.
However, his success in ODIs has come at the top of the order whereas he has featured primarily in the middle order in Tests, and he pointed out it was critical he made the adjustment to the challenges unique to opening the batting in the longest format.
“Any international cricket it’s always challenging, it’s not a walk in the park,” cautioned Hope, expected to fill the slot at the top of the order left vacant by the axing of John Campbell.
“It’s different challenges in different formats. You talk about the situation in the game, we talk about the bowler’s skill level with the red ball and the white ball [and] we all know that the red ball does a lot more and for longer periods.
“So there are different challenges but it’s just understanding how to adapt to each and every one of those challenges and try to come out on top.”
Hope had averaged 19 from his last 17 Tests before being dropped following last July’s tour of England, but his continued heavy scoring in ODIs, plus his excellent form in recent tour matches, kept his name on the lips of selectors.
It was his attacking 77 and 106 in last week’s West Indies inter-squad four-day match at the Daren Sammy National Stadium here, which cemented his return, and Hope said if the pitch played the same way for the opening Test, there could be entertainment for fans.
“The pitches seem to be coming on a lot better, decent carry for the fast bowlers and I think it’s going to be a lot more exciting cricket to be played there,” he pointed out.
“As time goes on, we will see exactly how the wicket will play because at the end of the day, we can wake up in the morning and it plays completely different to what we thought previously.
“But from my understanding and from what I’ve seen so far, it looks pretty good. The ball is coming on to the bat nicely and it’s going to be a good Test cricket pitch.”
Hope will face a South Africa side with a quality seam attack spearheaded by Kagiso Rabada, and including Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius.
And while the 27-year-old Barbadian has never yet played a Test against the Proteas, he reiterated he was up for the challenge.
“They’re a quality lineup,” said Hope, who scored a hundred in both innings of the Leeds second Test four years ago to earn West Indies a remarkable final day victory.
“Everyone knows what they’re capable of and as batters, we just need to make sure we study the plans and see what they’re going to throw at us and see how we’re going to combat it.”
South Africa are touring the Caribbean for the first time in almost 12 years and have not lost a series to the hosts in nearly three decades. (CMC)