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Best: The Old, the Young, the Unwanted; time for WI to kill the fatted calf

With the wicked stepfather now out of the picture, the prodigal sons are back in the fold. And recent results suggest that the West Indies cricket family is once again not doing too badly, thank you.

But Dwayne John Bravo seems not entirely sanguine about the status quo. Bravo’s younger brother Darren, 31 in just over a week, was overlooked for the recent Ireland series and will most likely be for next month’s five-match Sri Lanka engagement as well.

Photo: West Indies players (from left) Dwayne Bravo, Darren Bravo and Chris Gayle celebrate winning the ICC Twenty20 World Cup final after defeating Sri Lanka in Colombo on 7 October 2012.
(Copyright AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

The left-handed Santa Cruz native, whose batting often invites comparison with his cousin Brian Lara, has more than 100 international white ball matches to his credit and over 3,000 runs for West Indies under his belt.

Still, with Kieron Pollard’s victorious white ball squad preparing to fly out soon for Sri Lanka, DJB has so far declined public comment on Darren’s exclusion. But just after he himself was called up for the Ireland T20s, he publicly urged the recall of several players not currently in the West Indies squad: hard-hitting former captain Chris Gayle, ace off-spinner Sunil Narine, 31, and dynamic all-rounder Andre Russell, also 31.

Few dispute that a fully fit Russell would still be an asset to Pollard’s squad in the ICC T20I World Cup in Australia in October/November. As, certainly, would be a Narine—confident that his remodelled action will stand up to scrutiny at the highest level.

I am in complete agreement with Bravo that the 40-year-old Gayle too still has a role to play in WI cricket; where the TKR captain and I part company, however, is on what exactly that role should now be. Gayle, due to go into retirement in mid-2019, changed his mind and announced his unretirement towards the end of the World Cup in England, his fifth.

Photo: West Indies star Chris Gayle (centre) playfully blocks the path of England batsman Joe Root during their Cricket World Cup contest at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton, England on Friday 14 June 2019.
Gayle could not save West Indies from an eight wicket defeat.
(Copyright AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

I am convinced that, on the basis of what we saw of him in that tournament, the self-styled ‘Universe Boss’ is on the way to becoming the Universe Buffoon. Despite his truly impressive career in the Maroon and a long string of white ball and other enviable records, the Gayle we saw in last year’s World Cup was ultimately a liability.

And we are already half a year on from that tournament.

But the place to start, I think, is with a look at the 36-year-old ex-limited-overs captain Bravo and the 32-year-old current white ball captain Pollard. Two of a kind, twin terrors who, in the Dave Cameron characterisation, are but uncompromising miscreants, committed only to mercenary self-promotion and completely unmindful of the meaning of the Maroon.

Bravo is a performer—in more senses than one; he knows how to work his audience. So there is danger in taking at face value whatever he does on the public stage. Be that as it may, one had to be struck by Bravo’s reaction to his dismissal in the Wednesday opener against Ireland in Grenada, his first T20 game for the WI since September 2016.

Trudging slowly off the ground metaphorically kicking himself, he settled forlornly on the bottom of the stairs, his head propped on his palms. When Hayden Walsh jr swung mightily at the last ball, bidding in vain to replicate Sheldon Cottrell’s 11th hour match-winning six, the camera had moved off DJB. I imagine, however, that his shoulders slumped; he had let the side down.

Photo: West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo.

One does not have to have spent years of one’s life trying to get into Bravo’s head to know that, on the list of cricketing things DJB hates most, number 1-5 is letting the side down.

Bravo had clattered the second ball of the game’s last over over long-off for six. Bidding for a clean sweep in the shortest-format series as well, WI now needed just seven runs off four balls. DJB pushed Walsh to scamper a risky second run to long-off off the next. Having refused an easy leg-bye off ball #4, he then holed out to long-on off Josh Little’s fifth ball.

For the win, Walsh would have had to get at least five runs off ball #6.

Did I just cause us to lose the game, Bravo was most likely asking himself. Should I have trusted the youngster enough to face the second-last ball? After his match-winning partnerships with Nine, Ten, Jack in the last ODI, he was already standing taller in his shoes. Had he been able to win the match for us, how much more would he have grown in those few minutes?

In this team, the introspection probably continued, the young ones expect us big brothers to give them the confidence and whatever else we can to ensure that they can step into our shoes tomorrow; that is our role.

“Us,” “we,” “our.”

Photo: West Indies captain Kieron Pollard (centre) celebrates with his teammates after the dismissal of India’s Rishabh Pant during the third T20 match against India in Mumbai on 11 December 2019.
(Copyright AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

The third ODI in Grenada. Ireland put 242 on the board and WI lose their fourth wicket at 76. Eight overs later, Pollard and Nicholas Pooran have taken the score to 140. Rain intervenes. The interruption proves costly. The 24-year-old left-hander loses his off-stump to the first ball of the 27th over.

No problem; the skipper’s still there…until the fifth ball of the 28th. That’s when he offers Barry McCarthy a dolly return catch.

A seeming eternity later, he gets back into the dressing room. A macocious cameraman spies on the skipper from afar. The extent of the damage has not been reported but it would not surprise me if it was considerable. His anger, almost certainly mixed in equal proportion with disappointment, was manifest.

The mantra is loud in his head: our role is to give them the confidence and whatever else it takes to enable them to step into our shoes tomorrow.

And we can’t do that by letting the side down. Moral authority requires that we set the example. Every single time.

Especially those of us whose reputations have been deliberately besmirched.

Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read Part 2

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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