Had the West Indies Cricket Board been an individual looking for a job, it would’ve mastered the art of writing reports on ‘missing’ individuals.
Theirs is a strange Cricket Board- is it not? Perhaps, eight in ten individuals who happen to be in the Caribbean accuse the board of misbehaving with senior players. We’ve read about it. We’ve heard news pieces on it.
We’ve seen the constant decline of their cricket that seems to have been on a rather elongated period of a downward spiral, a phenomenon that was already peaking at the time of Lara and Chanderpaul.
A common complaint, rather fodder for endless social media banter is the accusation leveled against their board about not paying the cricketers well, especially the core of seniors who’ve held the team together in tough situations and gone on to register glories, even if it’s in the briefest format of the game, not always the easiest to conquer.
Theirs is an uncanny situation. It’s a weird sort of scenario where the ‘missing’ persons have been found and identified. But for some reason, they haven’t been evacuated from oblivion or bailed out from the exile or absence, whatever it is that you call it.
Among this list of ‘missing West Indian individuals’ whose whereabouts are clearly in the know of things for their board happen to be Pollard, Sammy, Gayle, Samuels, Darren Bravo, Narine, Russell and another bloke who, to this day, idolizes Brian Charles Lara but hasn’t quite managed to be the sensation he could’ve have.
That man is Dwayne Bravo
If the sharpest critic of West Indies cricket was asked about this man, he’d offer a tribute to Dwayne Bravo by describing the Trinidadian in cosmological terms. He’s after all, a talent who makes the usage of the phrase scintillating, agile, even electrifying serve a true purpose.
Yet, for some reason, none of us has absolute clarity as to why Dwayne Bravo is no longer a part of the national side; why he wasn’t around in the ICC World Cup Qualifiers, what’s his own state of mind and whether he’ll play the ICC World Cup in 2019?
Surely, on an extempore conversation, any fan at the drop of a hat would suggest the classic theory and honestly, it seems undeniable and rock solid.
“Bravo’s been mistreated, underpaid”
So, why should he wear the maroon colour? The yellow of CSK suits him better just as well as the red of Trinbago Knight Riders- isn’t that what most fans would say?
And precisely in here lies the Dwayne Bravo conundrum- a strange situation that has hijacked the fate of a promising career, possibly one of epic proportions.
Are the fans wrong in their assessment of Bravo’s current state?
Or is the West Indies Cricket board solely to be blamed for Bravo’s existential crisis, provided it’s considered one, for, given the cheer and resplendence with which the right-hander plays, it doesn’t always seem he’s missing West Indies.
So in case, you didn’t know, here’s a fact.
The last that Dwayne Bravo represented his West Indies- even as every Trinidadian would suggest he solely represents the pride of T&T with rich fervour- in a T20 and ODI was back in 2016.
He played Pakistan during his team’s tour to the UAE, wherein he’d go wicketless in both T20 and ODI and would strike a duck in the 50-over contest, whilst striking 11 off 9 balls in that T20.
Needlessly to say, his team drowned.
In the 2 full years of absence from national cricket, Bravo’s been a globetrotter. Perhaps the only league he hasn’t participated in- in a lighter context- is the ISPL; the Israeli Premier League.
If there’s a man whose cricketing career is both wondrous and admirable and yet- especially if you are a fan and a concerned follower of the West Indian cricket- painful and sombre then it’s Dwayne Bravo.
His fans and opponents both know the impact he brings onto the field. His chiseled physique, 35 years old, doesn’t seem a day beyond that of a guy who is 28 or 29 to be fair. He’s got runs, wickets, an outstanding work ethic, a heart for competing, the ability to keep cool under duress.
Yet, he seems of little value to the West Indies, a side to which he seems content at being disenchanted.
But true to the nature of modern cricket reigning in diplomacies, keeping certain things unclear and foggy as if their being shrouded in mystery was a real need, we don’t know and may never, as to who’s stopping Bravo from returning to a team that seems could really use his exemplary cricketing experience.
Is Bravo to be blamed for never negotiating a return?
Did he never show intent?
How can that be, fans would wonder?
If not, then why did the board commit the hara-kiri?
When Bravo was in the team captained by ‘The Prince’, it seemed, he was the Robin to Gotham’s Knight; Brian Lara.
West Indies were Gotham indeed, the likes of McGrath, Murali, Brett Lee, Kumble, Bhajji, Warne, Shoaib, Vaas constantly plotting a downfall.
And where Sarwan failed and Shiv wasn’t able to contribute, or Gayle went back early, it seemed, the Batman in Brian turned to his deputy in Dwayne Bravo.
Fans, some of them who, to this day await his return into national colours, had faith that Robin would save the day.
And he seldom disappointed.
Remember the final ball of the 50th over with Yuvraj’s middle stump dislodged by the slower one?
20 May 2006 now seems a wrinkle in time.
What also seems a glorious have-been, hair-raising that it may be to this day is merely remembering Bravo and Sammy coming together to swat aside Saeed Ajmal and company in 2014 World T20.
No tribute to Dwayne Bravo can be complete without mentioning his greatest T20 inning for West Indies.
He took only 26 balls to club 46 at Dhaka. His captain, Sammy, who clubbed 42 from 20, took the team to 166 for 6.
None of that was possible without Bravo’s muscular blows over widish mid on for a six, one too many.
When Dwayne Bravo took that 6-43 against Zimbabwe, he not only broke the record of a captain collecting best figures in a bilateral series, he revived the lost spunk in Tony Cozier’s voice, that seemingly ran dry seeing the usual disconsolate Windies cricket.
Dwayne Bravo, it seems, has tight-walked divergent eras.
A lost hero?
It seems he was the finest all-rounder, rubbing shoulders regularly with a Watson and Kallis, for an entity called West Indies, as also for Windies, a team that given its preoccupation with T20 cricket where the format mirrored the carefreeness of the Caribbean spirit found a second wind.
That somewhere in this juggle Bravo got a bit lost, or should we say honey-trapped in making money, finding comfort in set-ups that regarded him, paid him well, in the end, lured him into shrugging national duties is something we’d never get to the bottom of.
And it’s in this uncertainty, this haziness surrounding a lion-hearted cricketer, rightly called the ‘champion’, one who leapt into thin air, caught catches as if plucking mangoes from trees, bowled slower ones bringing the thriving tempo of a live-wire contest into a slow jazzy beat rests the enigma of a man who at 35 seems the biggest casualty of cricket’s changing times. Or should we say of a board’s inability to handle massive talent?