He is free flowing; clear-headed about what he wants from life- perhaps more than just hitting carefree sixes and taking absurdly difficult catches. His incredible diving around in the ground can supersede a ripped, muscular frame. He’s an athlete not born everyday but one every side would want in its hold: an avalanche of energy, a timber crusher who often uses not the fastest of deliveries. Moreover, he has been someone that none other than Brian Lara tipped for greatness. What’s it to be Dwayne Bravo?
For someone who made a name by taking a superbly athletic return catch on his maiden overseas tour to Australia, circa 2005, where he looked miles away from a usually lazily moving West Indian side, life’s been a funny, topsy turvy journey for Dwayne Bravo.
Just how many of us would have believed that Bravo turned 34 recently. On October 7, 2017, as an India completed a mighty T20 assault on Australians, Dwayne Bravo, one would imagine might have partied.
He’s a fun-loving bloke isn’t he? Summarizing his attitude to life in 2016’s hit Champion- cheery, chirpy, somewhat flamboyant, perhaps pegged on the lifestyle of his idol, Lara himself- Dwayne Bravo is often found humming a different tune; away from the 22 yards; not on the pitch.
So when was the last time that one saw Dwayne Bravo hopping on the cricket field, or preparing to bowl one of those quintessential slower ones?
Sadness strikes the mind when one recollects that the last Bravo appeared in Tests for his West Indies was in 2010. That’s 7 years ago. The last he was seen playing ODI cricket donning the familiar maroons was in 2014. During this period of prolonged absence from the national West Indian camp- a period where the team has gone from bad to worse, plunging further down the grid in the ICC rankings and again shown massive signs of improvement courtesy Chase and Hope’s sublime form- a lot has changed around the team’s structure.
So where do the West Indies go from here? That’s perhaps a question that a Dave Cameron might have a different response to, even as one can see a string of meaningful victories- such as the one against Pakistan in Barbados earlier in 2017, the pummelling of India in that T20 and, the hearty victory over Root’s men at Headingly- shaping a young side’s fortunes in international cricket.
But while one would want a world-class contestant like Bravo; someone with an experience of 164 ODIs, 66 T20s – to fight back for selection instead of being placed automatically on the basis of experience- it remains to be seen when fans would find the famous Trinidadian in a circle that’s finally begun to make inroads toward victories.
Now that one finds even a Gayle and Samuels featuring in limited over cricket, the gates of West Indies might find Dwayne Bravo knocking on them- hard and with vigor. After all, a call-up beckons. There’s been a painful period of a 6-month layover with Bravo missing out on competitive cricket following a tacit hamstring injury sustained in 2016’s Big Bash league.
It further hurt Bravo’s chances as the West Indies all-rounder had to stay away from the 2017 IPL, a franchise that has powered his freelancing T20 career: even as Windies teammate Kieron Pollard would detest the term- freelancing mercenaries. Never mind then that Pollard’s batting average in ODI cricket- something right up his alley- is still within a range of 30 and a bowling average that’s closing on 40- fails to drive home the point that of expecting a ‘world class’ talent to be one.
But in these fledgling numbers remains the essence of Dwayne Bravo; is Bravo amongst the finest all round cricketers that’s somewhere failed to live up to expectations? Or is Bravo the sad case of dedicated attitude dubbed recalcitrant by a cricket board that failed to contain, rather utilise the best a genuinely talented bloke had to offer?
One would never know. But what beckons for Dwayne Bravo in limited overs cricket- a platform where’s his cleverly deceived Yorkers and slower ones have essayed immense passion for representing West Indies- there are still things to look forward to. About some 30 runs shy of reaching 3000 run mark and a solitary wicket away from grasping 200 ODI wickets, Bravo, even a Gayle or Samuels would want to feature in soon.
But with having already announced an unchanged squad for Zimbabwean tour, a fine opportunity that beckons a young, talent but highly inexperienced side- beginning 21 October, West Indies shall be fielding a unit sans their finest all round cricketer in the last decade and a half.
Even as there’s a Chase and Hope, Brathwaite or Dowrich, players that are have cemented their presence a unit that’s desperate for attaining solidity at the international level, Bravo, one would think, would’ve contributed through vital experience in the dressing room in the event of failures from bat and bowl.
But could these indeed be ominous signs for the Triniadian, considering at 34, Dwayne isn’t getting younger and at peak fitness level, would have at the most 3 years of competitive cricket?
That leaves a champion cricketer, someone in whose ebb are more fancier, heftier achievements than singing a chart-thumping ‘Champion’ – such as that glamorous, unbeaten 112 versus England in ICC 2006 Champions Trophy and a quick-fire unbeaten 87 off 91 against the same team at North Sound, Antigua in 2014.
Often we find Dwayne Bravo’s gritty, faultless T20 performances so impressive- 52 wickets from 56 T20 games, nearly 70 boundaries and one shy of 50 sixes- that we fail to recollect that the Trinidadian has three Test hundreds against his name, including 2 hundreds against Australia and 1 against South Africa.
Moreover, for a player who had put his hands for contributing across formats- Bravo, it seemed had so much more to contribute, having scalped 86 victories from 40 games. That included 2 five-for’s: most noticeably, a 5-for at the Adelaide Oval in a game that very nearly belonged to Mike Hussey’s domineering 133.
But in an age where stoicism is often essayed by the meat in the bat in the briefest format and, team spirit increasingly being echoed by how well a side grinds its opponents to dust in a 20-over challenge, Bravo, has somewhat sadly just remained the poster boy of T20 cricket. Is this an achievement that Bravo himself would laud mightily or an indication of a lost chance that fell by quite some margin- one can only speculate but won’t truly know.