The Redemption of Captain Kraigg

Tue, Feb 16, '21



After the West Indies had taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in their three-match series of England’s 2019 tour of the Caribbean, WINDIES captain, Jason Holder, was suspended for the final game in St. Lucia, due to the team’s slow over-rate in the second Test. Vice-captain at the time, Kraigg Brathwaite, had then taken charge of the team for that final Test, one which they went on to surrender inside four days by 232 runs.

Following the series victory and what was Brathwaite’s fifth loss in as many matches as stand-in skipper, I wrote, “While there have been many opportunities to point fingers at Kraigg as a captain in the past, this is not one such instance. Brathwaite was so much more ‘present’ in the field than he had ever been while leading the team previously; one might even argue that the team let him down. Still, who could disagree with the reasoning that it might not be in the team’s best interest to burden him with leadership duties? If such a decision is indeed taken, this Test should not be the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Still, that proved to be Brathwaite’s last shot at captaining the West Indies—as Holder was ever-present—before he was replaced by countryman, Roston Chase, as deputy leader, almost two years on. But as fate would so have it, when both the West Indies captain and new vice-captain declined the invitation to travel on this Bangladesh tour—though out of necessity and convenience it might have been—Brathwaite was handed a second bite of the leadership cherry.

And so, he was set to lead a team, the non-leader; a team without six first-choice squad members, a team with four uncapped players to a place the West Indies had not been victorious for over eight years—a place he led the West Indies to a 2-0 series defeat in 2018, losing inside three days on both occasions. Therefore, when the toss fell for Bangladesh, who opted to bat on Day 1, Caribbean fans, myself included, nodded a mental ‘here we go again’.

Despite Brathwaite’s first innings 76, not much was made of the opener’s leadership during the West Indies’ triumph in the first Test. Though not many headlines would be about a captain who was dismissed for 20 on Day 4, as his team completed the highest successful run-chase in Asia the following day, while a debutant scored a double-century and stuck around to hit the winning runs.

The second Test, however, was to be a different story. The right-hander played well for his 47 and the fact that it came off 122 deliveries tells a story—he was setting up for a big one. As is the story of Test cricket, though—who will blink first—Brathwaite lost concentration and his indecision gifted a catch to first-slip. Before then, he had laid a solid foundation with opening partner, John Campbell, as the pair got the West Indies up to 66 without loss (just their second half-century stand in their last ten Tests).

However, it will be Brathwaite’s exploits on Day 4 that will be remembered for years to come. On what proved to be the final day of the Test, when the target of 232 was looking insufficient, the captain made the change that put the Bangladeshis in a spin, in introducing himself into the attack.

He would strike twice in quick succession and with Da Silva effectively gloving Soumya’s edge to Cornwall at slip and Tamim driving to Shayne Moseley at short cover, 59 without loss soon became 70 for 2.

And then again when the Test looked like it would drag into Day 5, he returned to remove Nayeem Hasan, the ninth wicket of the Bangladeshi innings, which handed the West Indies an extra 30 mins at the end of Day 4.

Now with Mehidy Hasan Miraz threatening to rain on WINDIES’ parade, smashing the visiting spinners to all parts of the park, the game and ultimately the series was slipping from the West Indies’ grasp. I bet we were all thinking, “A few overs from the quicks, then?” No. On that day, Captain Kraigg could do no wrong and he kept faith in Cornwall and Warrican. And it would be the latter who would have Mehidy unsure of his off-stump, poking at one turning away from him, then leaving Cornwall to do the rest at first slip. West Indies, Winners in Bangladesh, led by Brathwaite!

Not many would have remembered Brathwaite’s leadership in the defeat to England in 2019. After all, there isn’t usually much to savour in moments of defeat. But there was something different there—two years ago now, I remember—effort. The same effort he brought to Bangladesh, the willingness to be proactive, aggressive…

This is not a Kraigg-Brathwaite-should-now-be-made-captain-of-the-West-Indies lobby. Instead, this is me stuck rereading, word for word, the letter he penned (void of malice) to the Caribbean and those who had him removed as vice-captain, dubbed: “To all the Made Leaders:”