He might be the oldest member in West Indies’ T20 squad for the Ireland series, but Dwayne Bravo feels like a “kid” after getting the national call-up that will mark his return to international cricket after a nearly four-year long hiatus.
According to Bravo, the three Ireland T20Is, which begin on January 15, were on his mind when he came out of retirement in December. So when he got a call from Roger Harper, the former West Indies allrounder and current chairman of selectors, last week, Bravo could not hide his excitement.
“It’s a great feeling,” Bravo told the Trinidad-based radio station I955 FM yesterday. “I feel like a kid again when I first get a call from Mr Harper that welcomed [me] back to the team [to play international cricket and they were looking forward to have me back. It is something that was always on my mind since the change of leadership and stuff. So just happy I get the opportunity to represent the region again and I am looking forward to doing my best.”
Bravo had a difficult 2019 after picking up a finger injury that kept him out of the Caribbean Premier League but he bounced back from that to lead the Maratha Arabians to win the Abu Dhabi T10 title last November.
Asked if he might be a bit rusty, Bravo disagreed, pointing out fitness was his primary focus during his rehab. “Yeah, (playing) a lot of cricket is important, but for me because of the experience I’ve gained over the years, I am more concerned about my fitness. Obviously, I had this broken finger, (which) kept getting stronger. I started practising, played a couple of games for Queen’s Park (his local club in Trinidad), but over the years, despite not playing much cricket, I am still able to go there and compete and contribute in a very good way.
“For example in the last T10 league, I hadn’t played any cricket in about four months prior to that and still was able to go there and deliver and also win the title. It is just happy time for me. Since I announced my return in December, my mind and my motivation was on this series and now that I’m selected I am very happy.”
Bravo added that he was a “smarter” bowler now, even if the pace has dipped. “I’m a better bowler, I’m a better all-round cricketer. Obviously I’m older, so I will not be as quick as I used to be before, but I am also smarter and have a bigger knowledge on the game.”
With the T20 World Cup scheduled in Australia in October, Bravo’s return is clearly an indication that Harper’s panel wants to not just blend experience and youth, but also plug holes. Harper had said that Bravo had been brought back with the “specific” intention of being West Indies’ death-overs specialist.
Bravo is happy to take up the responsibility. “Death bowling is an art,” he said. “Not many people around the world have really nailed death bowling to the T. If you ask anyone in world cricket to name five death bowlers in the last decade, definitely my name will come along with Lasith Malinga, Jasprit Bumrah, Mitchell Starc.
“It is not an easy time of the game, that’s why it is called death. A special skill is required to bowl in those situations. Most times, if you have the ball in the death overs, and you don’t win the game, everyone turn to you, and say, ‘okay, it is because of the last over’. But you don’t win or lose a game in the last over. So many times, I win a game in the last over and no one says anything. I have defended 6 runs in 6 balls. I have defended 11 runs in 6 balls. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. My stats over the years are there for everyone to see. Like I said, if you were to name three or five death-over specialists my name will be there.”
According to Bravo West Indies’ bowlers have struggled to close out games, especially during the World Cup and even in the recent series against India in December. Now that he is back, he wants to mentor the other bowlers and teach them the tricks that could be deployed at the death.
“Recently that is where West Indies did falter,” he said. “If you look at the 50-overs World Cup, if you look at the series in India, both in T20s and in ODIs, we lack a really, really proper death-overs specialist.
“Again this is my motivation also to try and work with current bowlers. There’s [Sheldon] Cottrell, there’s Keemo Paul, there’s Alzarri Joseph, there’s Oshane Thomas, there’s Kesrick Williams. Collectively all of us have to get better, myself included. But with the experience that I have, I can get them to understand the importance of certain deliveries and when to bowl certain deliveries and work on a better finishing game plan.”
Bravo said that he and Harper had not spoken about the T20 World Cup, where West Indies will defend their crown. The side still has 18 matches to go before that tournament and Bravo doesn’t want to look too far ahead, though he did reiterate his “full commitment” to the West Indies.
Bravo was named among a party for the T20s that include Kieron Pollard (capt), Sheldon Cottrell, Shimron Hetmyer, Brandon King, Evin Lewis, Khary Pierre, Nicholas Pooran, Rovman Powell, Sherfane Rutherford, Lendl Simmons, Hayden Walsh Jr., Kesrick Williams and Romario Shepherd.