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FAZEER MOHAMMED: The challenges facing Carlos


FAZEER MOHAMMED: The challenges facing Carlos

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CARLOS BRATHWAITE would have been under no illusions about the challenges he faces, both as captain of the West Indies in one format of the game during another unsettling period of unnecessary turbulence, but also as the man whose explosive finish to the World Twenty20 final earlier this year guarantees his place in cricketing folklore.

To his credit, he appears to be comfortable in the leadership role and impressively pragmatic about the increased attention triggered by those match-winning four consecutive sixes off England’s Ben Stokes in the last over of the tournament finale in Kolkata more than five months ago.

“That over could have gone very differently. That over could have been an inside edge for two, bowled down next ball and we would have lost the World Cup,” Brathwaite pointed out last Thursday when questioned about the weight of expectation after such a spectacular performance on arguably the international game’s biggest stage.


That sort of response is no surprise, though, for the 28-year-old had already shown himself to be mature beyond his years and comparative lack of international experience. Consecutive half-centuries in his first two Test matches in Australia at the end of the year, complemented by an obvious comfort in front of the interviewer’s microphone, pointed to a confident personality who is nevertheless sensible enough to appreciate the inevitable perils and pitfalls of the elite sport.

Being dismissed for a “duck” and then proving ineffective with the ball as Pakistan romped to a nine-wicket win in the opening T20 International in Dubai on Friday night are all part of a steep learning curve for anyone taking on the onerous task of leadership in an environment where stability seems to be an alien concept. 

He refers to captaincy as an “exciting” opportunity, although Brathwaite needs only examine the experience of compatriot Jason Holder to appreciate how dispiriting the role can be.

As if the sudden departure of head coach Phil Simmons on the eve of the squad’s flight to the United Arab Emirates wasn’t destabilising enough, word coming out of the inner sanctum of the West Indies Cricket Board reveals an apparently testy meeting with the Test and One-Day International captain to the extent that he was given an ultimatum to significantly improve the team’s performances, especially in the traditional format. If true, this merely highlights a woeful culture of management. 

Suffice to say that anyone expecting any individual to transform the West Indies into a winning Test side in one, two or even five years, given all the many obstacles both on and off the field, is living in a fool’s paradise. To demand that of someone still short of his 25th birthday who is struggling with his own challenges as a developing all-round cricketer, and who is only two years into his senior international career, is unreasonable in the extreme.

Brathwaite must be taking note of the experiences of Holder and would be supremely foolish not to recognise that there is no such thing as security of tenure in West Indies cricket. So there is little chance of him being lulled into a sense of complacency. Even if his team were to rebound and take the three-match T20 series from the Pakistanis, what is there to be complacent about?

Size and strength

 Despite half-centuries in his first three Test matches, the big man was dropped after the opening match of the series against India in Antigua two months ago. To be fair, he was also picked to take wickets as one member (Holder included) of what must surely rank as one of the most ineffective bowling attacks fielded by the West Indies in a Test in recent years.

To quote the former Australia and Netherlands fast bowler-turned-radio comments personality Dirk Nannes, who saw him in action Down Under, Brathwaite “is built like Tarzan but bowls like Jane”. 

Okay, no one would like to hear something like that said of them publicly, but it is also a recognition that his physical size and strength should also be a strong point of his game, not just in smashing huge sixes but also in generating intimidating pace.

That he hasn’t so far emerged as a latter-day Joel Garner and is really no more than a containing up-and-down medium-pacer at the moment, must be something for Hendy Springer and Roddy Estwick, the men now in charge of the squad following the end of Simmons’ coaching tenure, to work on.

So win, lose or tie, Brathwaite has his work cut out. As much as he may say the right things and carry himself in the manner befitting someone bearing the title of a West Indies cricket captain, it is his and the team’s performances that will be the ultimate measure of his worth.

He will need every millimetre of that broad frame to shoulder the responsibility.


Fazeer Mohammed is a regional cricket journalist and broadcaster who has been covering the game at all levels since 1987.