The last that the West Indies played a Test was back toward the end of 2019, in India. However, it wasn’t against Virat Kohli’s team. On November 27, they took the field against Afghanistan for a one-off Test, which was later followed by an interesting ODI and T20 series against the same side.
Though to their good fortune, the West Indies didn’t face an exactly threatening side in the long format. Afghanistan, after all, are still newbies at the Test level. And it showed in the way they went about their game
The Test match was over on day three. Afghanistan managed an underwhelming 187 and 120 and that was that.
It never really looked threatening for Windies who had put 277 in reply in the first innings. Requiring 31 was never going to be tough.
Yet, a thing stood out for Afghanistan.
In both innings, they managed to get the West Indies vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite out early.
The experienced Barbadian could only manage 11 and 8 in the contest.
In a contest where even the likes of Shai Hope and Roston Chase struggled for runs, the only real positive for the West Indies was Shamarh Brooks, who fired a maiden hundred.
But a big disappointment was the otherwise dependable right-hander gathering merely 19 from the event.
Today, over half a year since the Windies’ last Test hurrah, there’s trouble brewing for Kraigg Brathwaite- or so it seems.
A recent report from the Cricket Board in the Caribbean suggested that there may be a contractual impediment for Kraigg Brathwaite.
Does it have something to do with other youngsters on the horizon? Say someone like Nicholas Pooran, who’s already established himself in the ODI arena and now wishes to play the longest form of the game?
We don’t know.
What we do know is that there is talk that Kraigg Brathwaite runs the risk of having his central contract downgraded by his cricket board.
One wonders what might have happened?
Here’s what seems to be the case.
If you were to rewind the events of the 2018 season for the Caribbean team, then Kraigg Brathwaite appeared in all 9 Tests the team played that year.
But what were his returns?
In compiling 391 runs from 17 innings, the batsman renowned for that watertight technique produced returns at an underwhelming average of 24.
Was that really Kraigg Brathwaite? Although, he did manage to hit two centuries that year (and a fifty), not having an average in the near-about of 35 or 40 seemed worrying,
Scoring 2 Test tons in a calendar year cannot be called out as a dismal failure. But when falls short of scoring 400 runs at least, which is expected when one features in several Tests, there’s a reason for concern.
But missing out on a year can be ruled out as a random occurrence. That happens to the best of us.
So did Kraigg Brathwaite manage good scores the year after?
If 2018 had been a stale run, then 2019 was even poorer
Did we realize?
Perhaps it serves us right to refresh our memories. Though, the West Indies didn’t play that many Tests last year, a season that was packed with back-breaking series’ (including the ODI World Cup), there were still 6 Tests in the calendar.
And that’s exactly where Kraigg Brathwaite’s contractual concerns seem to lie.
The concern found in his 2019 returns which are disappointingly modest.
From 6 Tests, the Bajan conjured only 185 runs. At the outset it’s not exactly a big failure. But there are 12 innings in there.
Do the math and you know where he lagged. For someone who’s entrusted with the responsibility of giving his team a solid start, then to manage under 200 runs from no fewer than 12 innings points to a huge deficit of runs.
Never before has the need for the usually reliable batsman to fire steady runs been more urgent.
And maybe when one looks back at the mathematical output of 2018 and 2019- we understand why the his board is facing what can be called a Kraigg Brathwaite-conundrum.
The last thing this team needs is a stable, dependable batsman to be shown the way out.
How would that help?
While the desire to see a great, competitive West Indies in world cricket is a genuine one, given in batsmen like Hope, Chase, even Dowrich, and now with Poorn desiring a Test call-up, to see a team minus Brathwaite would big a big blow.
Make no mistake.
While he may not have struck tons of runs, this is a batsman who’s already collected 8 centuries and 17 fifties from 112 innings in notching up 3500 Test runs.
Yes the average that points to the nearabouts of 34 seems like it can look far more attractive at being 38 or a good old 40.
But for that, the board and his captain must contend with Kraigg Brathwaite, who’s got the highest score of 212 against his name, a dogged double ton he notched up at home versus England.
Nothing could deal a bigger blow than sending him out
And if for a second that is to happen, then we already know how that’s never helped the likes of Kiran Powell, who’s often been an in-and-out player.
Frankly, the bowling attacks that Brathwaite had the chance of scoring against in the last two home seasons were anything but threatening, given that he had Bangladesh and Sri Lanka playing the most amount of red-ball cricket at home.
But where he was really found wanting was when the likes of Bumrah (India toured the Windies last year in 2019 when Jasprit Bumrah took a hat-trick) exposed the chinks in his armor, the technical deficiencies exacerbated by his struggle to play the moving ball, the one that pitches around the off and withers away.
In the recent past, many established batsmen have found themselves staying on the pitch for shorter periods than they’d have liked.
Picture Darren Bravo who returned in the ODI fold versus Sri Lanka but two run-outs on that ill-fated ODI journey cut short what was expected to be a shiny return to the maroon-outfit.
The same way the Caribbean fan was let down by the ins and outs of Devon Smith, the man who curiously scores up runs in domestic turnouts but struggles for them at the national level, despite playing on the same Caribbean turfs.
Against that narrative, seeing Brathwaite being given the red card would hurt than anyone can imagine. Not what one expects from a senior, experienced figure. Let’s not forget that against his 59 Tests, Hope’s only featured in 31 and Chase has featured in 32 Tests, respectively.
Yet, the question is- isn’t Kraigg Brathwaite himself responsible for finding himself on such a spot?