Darren Bravo is a gifted left-hander who, for years, was the best batsman in the region and a clone of his cousin, Brian Charles Lara, the best batsman the country has produced.
But that was once upon a time. Darren Bravo vintage 2021 is not vintage at all.
On merit. he has no place on the squad selected to go to the World Cup in the UAE and Oman between mid-October and mid-November. Not even among the reserves, which is where the selectors have placed him.
Now that is no trifling claim and it begs for substantiation. No problem. No problem at all.
Here are Bravo’s scores in his last 15 T20Is going back as far as March 2012: 12, 16, 41, 32, 0, 30, 14, 5, 23, 43*, 2, 28, 0, 4, 5.
That’s 245 runs, which, with one not out, gives an average of 17.5.
Fairness perhaps requires that we go only as far back as November 2018, the date of the left-hander’s first T20I after the enforced hiatus ensuing on his very public 2016 exchange of words with ex-president Dave Cameron. That means reckoning only the last seven knocks, a total of 105, which, with one not out, gives an unchanged average of 17.5.
Here now are Bravo’s scores in the just concluded 2021 CPL: 3 off 6 balls, 14 off 11, 14* off 14, 19 off 26, 22 off 22, 1 off 7, 25 off 16.
That yields a seven-innings aggregate of 98 which, with one not out, works out to an average of 16.1!
If that is, in lead selector Roger Harper’s words, ‘the best of the available candidates’ for the batting spot among the reserves, why, pray, are we even bothering to go to the World Cup?
He does not bowl, he’s not great in the field. And if no one else, the TKR fans won’t forget the simple catches that he grassed in the course of the CPL.
When I empanelled a fairly diverse but completely unrepresentative group of Trinbagonians with a mandate to select each his/her own 15-member West Indies squad (plus three reserves) for the 2021 World Cup, I was clear on the goal.
It was neither to read the CWI selectors’ minds nor to influence their thinking. Nor was I trying to shock my old QRC classmate and MFO boss Noble Phillip with the unrepresentativeness of the sample.
I was simply seeking to get some idea of how Trinbagonian (as distinct from West Indian!) people who take an active interest in West Indies cricket were thinking on the issue.
And, of course, to sensitise Wired868 readers to how supremely difficult the selectors’ task in fact is.
I stress ‘thinking’ because when you’re on the block or in a bar or on WhatsApp or on a Facebook chat about who should get picked and who not, it is easy to shoot off at the mouth without first loading your brain.
But when you know that what you have to say is going to be part of the permanent Internet record for evermore, dare you take the challenge lightly?
I have already referred to volunteer panellist David Abdulah’s prefacing comment on the difficulty of selection. And more than once to Ken ‘Jaiks’ Jaikaransingh’s insightful, finger-on-the-pulse observation about that and the problem of insularity.
It was Jaiks too who introduced the notion of ‘sole selector’, inherent in the arrangements for this panel. If you have thought seriously about it for five minutes, you probably perceive it as the solution to the West Indian selection problem.
If we select the sole selector carefully—we missed the boat with Garry Sobers but that was in the bad old days of the West Indies Cricket Board of Control!—would (s)he dare select on any basis but pure merit?
But I raise it here again because, in my view, if Jaiks is right, then one can be forgiven for feeling that the decision of Mr Harper and co to include Bravo the Younger in the reserves is completely without warrant.
Only six of his fellow countrymen included him in the travelling party, not one giving him a place in the starting XI.
Two points worth noting: all 12 panellists included Jason Holder, six of them in the starting XI. And 12 of the 36 players on the final list are Trinbagonians so there are absolutely no grounds for suspecting anti-Trini bias.
Now, you only have to be a casual follower of the CPL to know that the once oil-rich two-island state dominates regional cricket. Of the other five teams, all but the—perhaps unsurprisingly—Barbados Royals have a high-profile Trinbagonian in their ranks.
Moreover, three of the four captains at the semi-final stage were from Trinbago (the country, not the franchise!) and Mark Deyal and Evin Lewis, the headline acts at the same stage, live within a few miles of each other in the southern half of the Big Sister isle.
Time was when people believed in the divine right of kings (as distinct from Kings!). Trinbago, (the franchise, not the country!) once seemed to believe in their divine right to claim the CPL trophy. But in the wake of Dwayne Bravo’s change of allegiance and Wednesday’s result, that may now be a thing of the past.
So it seems fitting to end today with Bravo the Elder, perhaps the key to opening many doors.
The 37-year-old all-rounder is an extremely talented cricketer and captain; he never needs to be the man in front for him to be the leader.
He is also an exceptional man manager; the most cursory examination of the events of CPL 2011 will, I submit, attest to that. Starting at the bottom, as he himself pointed out, he raised the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots to the pinnacle.
For all to see.
Two examples that all perhaps saw but only the discerning noted.
When SKNP came from behind to beat Holder’s Barbados Royals with a last-ball six, Bravo publicly put the blame for the defeat squarely on the shoulders of the captain.
Even before the match, he had been seen offering encouragement—and consolation after it—to the almost 21-year-old Nyeem Young, whom he publicly accused the Royals’ captain of not giving the chances he deserved.
Also, when St Lucia Kings’ captain Francois ‘Faf’ du Plessis brought up his century against the Patriots, right there in mid-pitch, in mid-match, Bravo, the opposing captain, was among the first to congratulate him.
Not with the customary, almost perfunctory handshake.
With a genuine hug.
Who does that? Certainly, no ordinary cricketer.
Bravo has long not been in that category. Ask Dave Cameron.
CWI has bypassed a long list of outstanding West Indies pace bowlers to give him the job of mentoring the young up-and-coming bunch. The results are already manifest.
It is why I call on CWI to make public the terms of DJ Bravo’s contract.