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Romario Shepherd has IPL in his sights after death-hitting heroics

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Published in Cricket
Monday, 24 January 2022 10:30

Just like anyone else, IPL owners, head coaches and general managers are afflicted by recency bias. Whenever the time comes to sit down at the auction table, performances that are fresh in the memory are given greater weighting than those that happened several months previously.

It is no surprise, given their usual windows in the calendar, that players who have performed well in the most recent Big Bash season tend to be popular at IPL auctions, regardless of the difference in standard and conditions. It is a widespread, long-standing cognitive bias - and one that cricketers themselves are fully aware of.

In that light, England and West Indies' players know that they are not only competing for a series win and for long-term retention in their respective XIs in Barbados this week, but also for a bigger bid at the auction. And with a dearth of seam-bowling allrounders available in the auction longlist - Sam Curran, Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes all opted out, while Chris Morris recently announced his retirement - Romario Shepherd's fireworks on Sunday night have done his chances of a deal no harm at all.

Shepherd hit 44 not out from 28 balls from No. 7 to take West Indies within one run of England's total, adding 72 off 29 in an unbroken ninth-wicket stand with Akeal Hosein to add a sense of jeopardy to what had looked like a cruise to victory. Thirty of his runs came in sixes, including two over the longer leg-side boundary off Chris Jordan and one off Liam Dawson that cleared the Garfield Sobers Pavilion.

"I try to focus on what is at hand right now and try and put my all in here," Shepherd, who has entered February's auction with an Rs. 75 lakh ($100,000 USD approx.) base price, said. "Eventually, if an IPL contract comes, that would be great for me. I'm not saying that I don't think about it - I do think about it, but I try not to think about it during a game, I just focus on wherever the game is and trying to get ourselves out of a situation.

"It's a great platform. For any youngster, it's their dream to go to the IPL and I'm no different. I'm trying my best to get myself in there, but at the same time trying to win a series here. It's something that I've dreamed about for a very long time. My name was in the [auction] for the last three years, so this year, I'm looking forward to it."

Shepherd had struggled early on in his innings, scoring only one single from his first seven balls and failing to pick Adil Rashid out of the hand, but immediately targeted Dawson when he came on to bowl the 13th over. He was one of only a handful of batters to clear the longer boundary - around 90 metres towards midwicket - and his clean hitting left England hanging on by their fingertips.

"When I went out, the coach told me to take a few balls," he explained. "Then when I got out there the ball was spinning and Rashid got me. I was like one off six balls, one off seven balls, so I was kind of on the back foot.

"When I saw Liam come on for his first over, I said to myself I would try and take him down. I hit him for two sixes in that over so that gave me a push-start there. Eventually I started flowing better at the crease.

"It plays with your mind to see that one side is very short and one side is very long. Eventually when Jordan came in that over, I had no choice but to try and take on the long boundary. I know as long as I hit them well, the boundary don't matter."

Hosein hit three fours and two sixes off Saqib Mahmood's final over to keep the game tense until the final ball, but was aggrieved that Mahmood's first legitimate ball was not given as a wide, having appeared to reach him past the tramline. But Shepherd said that Joel Wilson, the umpire, was "only human" and that West Indies were more concerned about a sloppy night in the field than his decision-making.

"I told Akeal: 'don't worry about it, you can hit the next couple for six and he can bowl a no-ball or another wide,'" Shepherd said. "The umpire missed that one, but he's just human - hopefully he can correct his mistake in the upcoming games. I think that was a wide but he didn't think so.

"Yesterday was a total off-day: we didn't field well, we didn't catch well. Those are some of the little things that [cost] us last night: we could have got them down to less than 170 but we fielded poorly."

Reacting to the contest's unexpected ending, England's player-of-the-match Moeen Ali admitted that the power in West Indies' batting line-up was "very scary", and Shepherd agreed with the sentiment.

"It must be frightening for other teams to know that our No. 10 batsman can do that," he said. "For us, it's a very big confidence booster for us to know that we bat this deep. We showed how well we can bat and we can get ourselves out of a situation from nowhere.

"We just need to focus a little more on the powerplay and the middle phase, because the back end will take care of itself. We have a lot of power at the back end. We have to continue to work and hopefully we can pull off something special and win this series."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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