ICC World Cup 2019: Carlos Brathwaite - More than a six machine
On Saturday, Carlos Brathwaite stayed in line for the sake of West Indies’ survival in the World Cup, pushing the game to the brink till there were eight required from 12 balls.Updated: Jun 23, 2019 22:07 IST
This was an encore three years in the making. Since April 3, 2016, Carlos Brathwaite was carrying the burden of success on his big, mighty shoulders, seeking the right stage to remind the world who he was. There was a brief flirt with Test cricket, lousy money courtesy IPL contracts and an unexpected T20 captaincy too but with a preface as heady as that World Twenty20 final at Eden Gardens, Brathwaite was never allowed to prove he is much more than a four-consecutive-six phenomenon. Till Manchester happened.
For possibly the first time in his stop-start career, Brathwaite had come to bat with more than half the quota of overs still intact. Chris Gayle was at the other end but soon, West Indies were 164/7 and on the verge of recklessly batting themselves out of the World Cup. Brathwaite’s belief didn’t take a beating despite an inauspicious start in the form of a thick edge that ran away through slip for a boundary. He buckled down to play a most unbelievable innings to score his first ODI hundred that underlined his ability to play with the tail, farm the strike, come down heavy on the loose deliveries but not needle with the good ones.
Despite the heartbreak for West Indies, Brathwaite’s approach should change a few perceptions. He loves watching the ‘boring’ parts of Test cricket where batsmen blunt out bowling for sessions and inch towards a well-compiled hundred. In the din of the 2016 IPL, right after he had given Ben Stokes reason to have sleepless nights, Brathwaite was trying to explain his cricket philosophy to journalists. By then, the world had made its assumption about Brathwaite --- the big party-loving Barbados guy who can hit monstrous sixes at will. He was the gun for hire franchises were willing to shell out millions for. But Brathwaite is more than that.
“Personally I love Test cricket and enjoy watching the boring parts of Test cricket -- a batsman batting out long periods of time and then overcoming that to score a hundred. In Test cricket you get to test yourself against the values of the format --- like facing a barrage of bouncers and getting past that, taking a few knocks and playing the swinging ball and seeing though a good spell to capitalise and get a hundred. As a bowler, bowling a ten-over spell and then go on for another two overs just to bring the team back into the game.”
That was his dream. Reality though made Brathwaite a pawn to expectations. Five months after making history in Kolkata, Brathwaite was thrust into T20 captaincy after the West Indies Board lost faith in Darren Sammy’s leadership skills. His highest score since then is an unbeaten 37 that couldn’t prevent a seven-wicket capitulation to Pakistan. At the IPL, opportunities were few and far between. And when they came, nothing short of a blitz would please. There were times he was benched before finally given a chance. In short, Brathwaite’s career suffered due to the illusion West Indies have created over years. Their talent is taken for granted and almost always funnelled into playing T20 cricket. But that’s not always the norm at the home of West Indies cricket.
At Bridgetown’s famous Combermere School, where Brathwaite studied, discipline comes foremost, even in cricket. Free periods were mostly spent playing cricket but Brathwaite remembers the punishments too. “You missed practice and you were punished. If you didn’t attend school you get punished. You had to stay in line so that he didn’t have to miss the games.” West Indies captain Jason Holder vouches for Brathwaite’s worth ethic as well. “He’s not one to shy away from his responsibilities. And he puts in a really good effort into his preparation. And that’s one thing that I credit him for. The knock that he played today is not surprising to me. I guess everybody could sit here and agree that we would love to see that a little bit more often. Seeing Carlos play the way he did doesn’t really surprise me.”
On Saturday, Brathwaite stayed in line for the sake of West Indies’ survival in the World Cup, pushing the game to the brink till there were eight required from 12 balls. But West Indies were nine down since the 45th over. Only Chris Gayle (87) and Shimron Hetmyer (54) had scored big. Rest of the top and middle order didn’t even reach double digits. Another wicket in hand and who knows if Brathwaite would have gone for that big heave. Years of discipline train the mind to collect a win in singles when the required run rate is below one per ball. Brathwaite had that training. But he was not given that luxury. So near yet so far was a victory that could have turned West Indies’ tide and opened up the World Cup. But at least we now know Carlos Brathwaite is no flash in the pan.