Shai Hope, the West Indies wicket-keeper batsman, is all set to play his 50th one-day international when they take on Ireland in the tri-series opener on Sunday, 5 May. He said it was a "huge honour".
Hope made his ODI debut in 2016, against Sri Lanka in Harare, and has come a long way since then, with four centuries and eight half-centuries, and an average of 45.56 in the format. "It's a huge honour to represent your country and entire West Indies – to do it fifty times means a lot," Hope said on the eve of the match.
Hope has been one of West Indies' most reliable players in recent times, not only with the bat, but behind the stumps as well. At 50 ODIs old, he said he'd be willing to take on more responsibility for the team.
"It's a pleasure to be doing anything for the West Indies. If I had to open the bowling for Jason, I'd say 'I'd love to do it'," he joked.
His primary focus, however, remains his batting. "I'm a batter and I always wanted to bat growing up, spending time at the wicket and scoring runs was always something I looked forward to," he said. "So any opportunity I get to represent my country and my region I look to do it to the best of my ability."
Hope will look to stamp his mark on the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019, which starts on 30 May. He'll be best-placed to do that if he maintains and improves his form during the tri-series in Ireland, featuring Bangladesh as the third team.
"There's a lot to look forward to in this series," he said. "It's preparation for the upcoming World Cup, so you need to take each game at a time, make sure we cover the basics well, make sure we hit out straps early and get used to the conditions. Make sure we're in good stead for the next few games and the World Cup."
West Indies are No.8 on the MRF Tyres ICC Men's ODI Team Rankings. They don't feature among World Cup favourites, but the players themselves believe they can go all the way. Given they held the top-ranked England to a 2-2 draw in their most series, their confidence isn't misplaced.
"We go out there to represent the region well, and every time we step across the line, we know we got a chance to beat anyone," said Hope. "So it doesn't matter what the opposition is on that particular day, make sure of what we can do and do it to the best of our abilities and rest will take care of itself."
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