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A THORNY ISSUE: A work in progress

Andi Thornhill

A THORNY ISSUE: A work in progress

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Skeptics need to take their mouth off Kraigg Brathwaite. West Indies cricket needs a batsman of his calibre at the moment.

It’s not like we are blessed with a treasure chest of batting riches like in the golden eras, particularly in the periods led by Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Garfield Sobers, Clive Lloyd and Sir Viv Richards.

And let’s be realistic, the great Brian Lara and the pugnacious Chris Gayle were the only two batsmen since the mid 1990s who were capable of manhandling bowling attacks and driving fear in the opposition.

Both, though, were fortunate to be in the company of the reliable, if less flamboyant, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who became and is still the sheet anchor in the middle order.

Amid flashing blades, you still need that individual who will be there for very long periods to be supportive, make runs and perhaps more importantly, settle the ship when the waters get rough.

This perspective makes Chanderpaul’s role even more relevant in today’s game, seeing that in nearly two decades we haven’t had a reliable opening partnership and since Lara’s departure a prolific middle order batsman with a rampant blade and panache to excite supporters in the manner we had been accustomed to back in the day.

Even so, we have to add that even in Lara’s heyday the team still struggled to make ends meet. It makes you wonder how much far down the ladder the West Indies would have gone or how much quicker we would be beaten in many instances if someone of Chanderpaul’s patience and stickability weren’t available in this era.

In essence, every team needs a player of this ilk. We are often reminded of the importance of Joe Solomon in the Sobers team and Larry Gomes in the Lloyd unit.

This brings us to Brathwaite’s role in the current team.

If we accept that we haven’t had a reliable opening partnership nor a reliable middle order for ages, then the young Bajan’s role in the team should be appreciated even more and not be showered with criticism, which at times borders on the malicious from some who should know a lot better.

In sport, people must see their position in a team as a job with the responsibility to do a particular task for the benefit of the entire unit.We float together or sink together.

How, may I ask, has Brathwaite’s batting hurt the West Indies since he came into the team?

How has his occupation of the crease become a negative aspect to the West Indies chances of winning against all opposition?

We hear talk about his approach putting bowlers on top but how many players in the present side have the skills not to put bowlers on top?

Plus are we aware that we are talking about Test cricket? I thought  all along occupation of the crease was a priority in this format of the game.

And let’s keep it real as far as Brathwaite’s style is concerned.

He was never a flamboyant player; he seldom risks his hand; has always been an accumulator of runs and has always been prolific.

We should accept that he is still very much a work in progress but his character is nothing new to us.

Local and regional selectors always knew the Kraigg Brathwaite they were getting, and truthfully he hasn’t done badly in return.

That’s if we choose to be objective.

What we need to do at this juncture as West Indies supporters is to reconcile the difference between culture and change.

We must stop living in the past and recognise that even though we grew up on a particular diet, we have been forced to revise elements of that diet to suit the present crop of players we have.

And this despite and in spite of the growing number of academies, centres of excellence, scientific analysis, technology and, yes, several more qualified coaches.

We have had inputs from our legends, foreign coaches and foreign advisers too!

We can also mention that contemporary players are well compensated for their efforts and there are other incentives in place to push them to the next level. Still, the West Indies are rated No. 8 in the ICC Test rankings!

Notwithstanding that we have been in the rebuilding process for almost 20 years, the efforts of a Kraigg Brathwaite should be valued and not so crudely ridiculed.

Cud dear, he deserves a chance like everybody else, especially if he’s trying to bring back the substance that’s so lacking from our game on a sustained basis.

• Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning sports journalist.