Actions speak louder than words: Should Hope open the batting?

By Brandon Corlette

Prior to the commencement of the first Test match between West Indies and South Africa in St Lucia, Shai Hope, in a virtual press conference, said he was comfortable batting as an opener. The West Indies lead selector Roger Harper shared similar sentiments.

Shai Hope returned to Test cricket after last playing in July last year

After scoring 15 in his first innings in his return to Tests, the usual classy Hope surely did not look like his One-Day International (ODI) best, playing as an opener. His return innings was far from comfortable, by his standards, in white-ball cricket to be precise.
Hope, who scored heavy in the Best v Best matches in the build-up to this series, looked technically flawed against the quality South African pacemen while he dominated the regional boys, displaying recent form from the ODIs against Sri Lanka.
While Hope was picked in the starting XI to open the batting with Captain Kraigg Brathwaite, ahead of Kieran Powell, he did not open the batting in the second innings, owing to Nkrumah Bonner’s concussion. This meant Powell slotted in to open while Hope dropped down to three, where he scored only 12.
Blazing away on air, international cricket commentator Fazeer Mohammed was critical during his commentary stint, noting that Hope should bat in the middle. As soon as West Indies management had the opportunity, Hope batted at three and Powell slotted in to open.
In the post-match press conference, Head Coach Phil Simmons said the only person who could answer whether or not Hope was comfortable as an opener was himself.

Shai Hope said he wanted to turn over a new leaf in the South Africa series

“He has the ability to bat anywhere in the top six. This is the position that he was asked to do and that is where he scored his runs leading into (this match). Powell came in and we decided that he will open and Hope will bat three,” Simmons said in response to a question posted by Guyana Times Sport.
Without a doubt, Hope is one of the better batting talents in the Region, but his Test record says otherwise. Hope’s return has pleased many; in the upcoming second Test match, from June 18, he will want to make those individuals happy and turn over that new leaf he spoke of prior to the match.
The 27-year-old batsman last played for the red ball team in July of last year, after being dropped for a poor run of form in Test cricket ahead of the New Zealand series, in November 2020.
“Cricket covers different aspects, both technical and mental. So, I have been working on different things. The main thing is just to get success out there and I believe in finding a way. I just need to find a way to score runs for the team,” Hope said before the opening Test.
This is the Test where Hope must find a way to score runs, whether he bats at the top of the order or in the middle. After 35 Tests, he has scored 1630 runs at an average of 25.87. Hope, who started his Test career as an opener, has scored two centuries in the longest format, both coming in 2017 against England in Headingley in the same match. After that, things went downhill in Tests for Hope. If ever there was a time to score runs, it is now, after West Indies lost the first Test inside three days.