It’s not for nothing that Dwayne Bravo sung the famous 2016-released “Champion!”
Perhaps, it made perfect sense as to why Trinidad’s most famous son since Brian Charles Lara crooned the smashing hit.
Few play the game the way they sing; rest, just join the chorus.
Bravo is a ring leader of a cricket melody none can master for he’s the master of his own fate.
Having announced his retirement toward 2018 end of 2018, leaving one and all stunned by the speed of a decision that had all the ingredients of mystery much like his slower ball, here he’s again.
Agile as an antelope, athletic very much like Usain Bolt in the outfield. Not once in any of the recent T20Is has Bravo dropped a catch in the outfield.
In his maiden T20I, that marked his return, Ireland faced the wrath of an unforgiving athlete who went for no more than 28 in his four overs, having removed the dangerous Kevin O’ Brien and George Delaney.
That was two years back in time.
Rewind to 2021’s T20Is versus Australia.
Bravo was hitting one-handed sixes against Adam Zampa adding yet more bite to a destructive batting order that proved punishing for an Australian side minus Smith, Warner and Labuschagne.
For someone, we perhaps have forgotten, stepped in the game in the Lara and Chanderpaul era and is still stepping down the ground to lift the white ball into the stands, Dwayne Bravo is a time travelling cricketer.
In these fifteen years that he’s been around, where he’s risen from being predominantly a medium fast bowler to becoming an all rounder, a globe trotting freelancing T20 specialist to being a nearly faultless force in all departments of the game, wearing the maroon colours to leave the opponents maroon – Dwayne Bravo has altered the prototype of the usual West indian cricketer.
The one you’d think is born to send the ball sailing over the crowd and one whose sixes are about as glowing as his bulging biceps.
Bravo has emerged as a symbol of longevity in an age stymied by short lived memory, having adapted beautifully into a vastly different cricketing world he currently inhabits, one where the once prominent Test feature is excelling in the briefest format of the game.
It’s hard to ignore that the same Bravo who, way back in 2006, whipped the English with a 112, choosing the Champion’s Trophy to register his ODI best is also the same person who excels to this very date in a format that gives one hardly any time to adapt and is slave to the constantly changing vagaries of the game.
A month back, Dwayne Bravo, aged 37, took a career-best performance of 4 for 19 against the Proteas in a T20I. The back-breaking spell that featured an economy of just over 4 an over was the silver lining in a golden career that achieved fame and handsome sums of money but not lost an iota of passion for the game.
While to the detractors, Bravo’s global appeal is down to choosing the “easy path” by way of starring in T20 leagues that are mushrooming around the world even as we speak, what one needs to understand- but doesn’t- is the sheer recurrence of fixtures that Bravo has been involved with, more specifically stating 2014 onwards.
What the critics and armchair experts don’t get- and will probably never- is that wherever Dwayne Bravo has played cricket’s shortest format, his performances and presence have only furthered the appeal of West Indies.
A true ambassador the word Calypso, it’s the easy going nature and unfettered excellence with which Bravo performs, whether it’s whacking the white ball in the death overs or aiming from the stumps from afar or bowling yet another dot in the final over that’s made Cricket an even more infectious sport and Bravo- the source of this happy epidemic.
What his 532 T20 wickets suggest aren’t jaw-dropping stats alone; but the countless body blows, hits, muscle pulls and aches that he’s willingly endured all for a genuine love of the game, a sight that’s becoming rarer in an age where one just doesn’t know what to pronounce first with the alphabet C- Commerce or Cricket?
What’s left Bravo is the era of true champions. Think Chanderpaul, Sarwan and Lara. What hasn’t is the will to fight on for the West Indies, especially in moments that truly matter.
Seven years back, in a lowly T20 World Cup campaign, when West Indies were huffing and puffing to live another day vs Pakistan in a must win game, Bravo arrived with the score reading 4-67 in the eleventh over.
But soon, along with Sammy, he’d unleash a six-hitting carnage of a kind that’s as spectacular as witnessing fireworks on the Diwali evening. Stitching a 71-run stand and batting for nearly ten full overs, the right hander pummelled 46 of his team’s 166 runs. His strike rate was akin to a high blood pressure reading of a bowler left utterly terrorised: 176.
Two years later, when his Windies came out daggers drawn against England at Eden Gardens, Bravo did his part quietly albeit without ever getting noticed.
To this day, we remember the 4 consecutive sixes and Mr. Bishop yelling in uncontrollable excitement, “Remember the name!”
What one doesn’t care to question is whether Samuels and Brathwaite have ever had it easy had Dwayne Bravo not removed 3 timely wickets, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali included?
Had they not been removed for a cheap outing, how comfortable would Windies have been at chasing a possible 180-195 run target?
But the greats don’t crave to be in the centre of the frame. Do they?
They don’t mind standing behind akin to an unassuming person in a group picture.
Dwayne Bravo- Trinidad’s son, Chennai’s adopted son, West Indian hero, a rebel with a cause, a freewheeling albeit purpose driven cricketer- is on the last legs of a career that’s seen it all.
A team constantly marred by the pressure of rebuilding, sparked greatly- if also sporadically- by flashes of brilliance whether through Hope, Lewis, Pooran, Holder, Hetmyer, Mayers, hounded constantly by throwbacks to the glorious years where they were West Indies not Windies.
And yet at the same time, despite having been among Caribbean Cricket’s white-ball specialists, Bravo hasn’t failed to colour the game by lending it some of his own.
One whose true essence lies in spreading a ray of hope and ceaseless revelry whilst donning the maroon, always with a smile, never with angst, let alone strain.