It is good to be talented, but without any use if you do not realize your true potential. When Carlos ‘breathtaking’ Brathwaite smashed, bludgeoned and clouted those four consecutive sixes off Ben Stokes to win the Windies their second World T20 title at the Eden Gardens three years ago, everybody thought that it was only a matter of time before the hard-hitting all-rounder from Barbados became another Caribbean superstar.
The numbers speak otherwise though. Over the past three years, Brathwaite’s performance graph at the international level has fallen at a more rapid rate than the hike in fuel prices in India during the same time period. In his 38 T20I appearances so far, Brathwaite has managed just 291 runs at an average of 15.31 and a strike rate of 119.75—quite underwhelming by today’s standards. With the ball, he has fared slightly better, having taken 31 wickets at an economy rate of 8.51. If numbers were to be the sole yardstick for assessing a player’s capabilities—especially in as dynamic a format as T20 cricket—the burly all-rounder would have been handed out his rejection slip by now.
But, teams across the globe do continue to place their faith in him, back him with the conviction that a player, who could produce a match-winning effort like that on as big a stage as the World Cup final, can pull out something similar again, provided he finds enough motivation to up his game and regain that elusive confidence, which has been writhing in the chambers of dark isolation, owing to a prolonged spell of inconsistency.
That is why the game is so enigmatic—at times you may start to fear that the path you are running on would lead to an impasse, without having the slightest inkling that a ray of new promise is lurking and awaiting your arrival at the very next turn. Carlos Brathwaite can, therefore, afford to be hopeful.
Two-time IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders are hopeful, too. That is why they picked Brathwaite up for Rs. 5 crores after an intense bidding war with Kings XI Punjab at the last auction. As destiny would have it, Brathwaite is back in the city, which made him a household name after that famous night of April 3, 2016, on which the West Indies claimed their second World T20 title. Can the ‘Garden of Eden’ mark the resurrection of Carlos Brathwaite in IPL 12? Only time will tell…
In a candid chat with cricfit.com correspondent Ritam Basu, the West Indies T20 captain spoke about his expectations from the upcoming IPL, his memories of the West Indies” WT20 triumph at the Eden Gardens in 2016, his interactions with KKR head coach Jacques Kallis so far, his love for the ‘city of joy”, and the Windies” chances at the World Cup.
Q: Good to have you in Kolkata, Carlos. What are your expectations from the impending season of the IPL?
Brathwaite: Personally speaking, staying fit is something which is right up there on my priority list. Last year, I struggled a bit with my fitness, so I have been working a lot on my fitness lately. I just want to go out on the park and contribute for the team, be it with the bat, or the ball, or in the field. As an international cricketer, it is my duty to do well for the country, or the franchises that I represent, and also to guide the younger lads in the side. I am sure there are people who value my expertise and I will look to share my experiences wherever and whenever I can.
Q: Have you had any personal interaction with your captain, Dinesh Karthik, so far?
Brathwaite: Yes, I’ve spoken to him personally. He is someone whom I rate very highly. He has shared some of his plans with me, with regards to what is going to be my role in the team. I am looking forward to getting used to his style of leadership and seeing how he likes to get things done.
Q: You have Sunil Narine and Andre Russell as your teammates at KKR. Tell us something about the Caribbean flavour in the Knight Riders dressing room…
Brathwaite: Ha ha! It’s great to be with these guys. Sunil was the MVP last season and Russ is someone whom I look up to and also model my game on. So yeah, it’s a great Caribbean combination and I am happy to be with a team, which has a settled look about it. Obviously, Sunil and Russ have been with KKR for quite some time now. I’ll continue to learn from them.
Q: What kind of fun has Carlos Brathwaite been having in the dressing room since joining KKR?
Brathwaite: We’ve bonded well in such a short time already! We played a practice game in which the squad was split into two halves. In that game, I, Sunil and Russ had a small banter among us like who is the laziest, who is the most untidy among us all, and such stuff.
Q: You have one of the finest all-rounders of the game in Jacques Kallis as your head coach at KKR. What kind of interactions have you had with him?
Brathwaite: He has given me a few tips on how to be more consistent with my batting; on how I can become a better finisher, which I want to be. The thing I like about him the most is that he is not intense. He backs the players to have fun, be chilled, and when you step on the field you’ve to be very precise with whatever role has been assigned to you. He is a very relaxed person. I’ve had minimal interactions with him because I’ve attended only two practice sessions thus far. I am also willing to learn a lot from Simon Katich, for he is someone who did well for Australia at the highest level for a long time. I am hopeful that I’ll emerge as a far better cricketer after the end of this IPL.
Q: Carlos, you made headlines overnight after hitting those four consecutive sixes against England in the final of the 2016 World T20 in this very city. However, over the last three years, one major criticism against you has been that you are very inconsistent. How would you assess your four-year-international career so far, and do you think this criticism is justified?
Brathwaite: Ummm… (thinks for a while and continues) I think both yes and no. Everybody is entitled to his/her own opinion. There have been times when I’ve contributed to my teams’ wins in the past, and yet, didn’t make any headlines. I know I’ve been really inconsistent at the international level, because of which I’ve lost my place in the Test squad. I think this snub has helped me become better as a cricketer. Instead of hitting four consecutive sixes, or taking a hat-trick today, I’ll be happier if I can take one or two important wickets and score 20-25 crucial runs for my team, which could well become the game-changing moments. I’ve tried to follow this approach in the past few editions of the IPL and the CPL, and hopefully, I can replicate the same for KKR this season.
Q: Do you experience a ‘feel good” factor whenever you come to Kolkata?
Brathwaite: Yes, indeed. Last year, we came here for a T20 international against India and we performed decently with the ball in that game. I’ve had a few good performances over here. Hopefully, I can keep coming back to this wonderful city and strengthen my bond with it in the days to come.
Q: You are a regular in the Windies limited-overs side. How would you rate West Indies’ World Cup chances?
Brathwaite: The world will be watching our performances. England will obviously go in as favourites because of their home advantage. There will be a lot of interest around how we do against them, since they are the number one-ranked ODI team in the world at present. We managed to hold them to a draw in our last ODI series. I would be lying if I say that we are one of the favourites [to win the Cup], but at the same time, I will refrain from calling ourselves ‘underdogs’. We’ve traditionally been a ‘big tournament team’ and hence, you can never write the West Indies off! Expect us to play the typical Caribbean style of firebrand cricket at the World Cup.