Doug Bracewell, New Zealand’s fast bowler who hardly took time to establish himself in the international arena, almost ruined his career earlier this year. From ‘almost’ being sentenced to jail to Player of the Match in his comeback match, Bracewell has come a long way. After New Zealand’s easy Test series win against West Indies, the two locked horns in the first ODI on Wednesday, where Bracewell, with his four wickets, gave out the message loud and clear that he still meant business: he had missed enough action already and for sure he will be looking to make it up for that.
Bracewell last played a Test in August last year, his T20I was two years ago and the last time he played the 50-over game was in October, 2016. After a forgettable 2016 season, he suffered a serious season-ending injury while playing a T20 match for Central Districts last December. He was ruled out of the action for at least a year. Bracewell made situation off the field ugly for himself when he was arrested for drink and drive in March.
Under the provisions of the New Zealand law, offenders who have two or more previous drink-drive convictions have a maximum penalty of two years in prison or a $6000 fine. Unfortunately, it was Bracewell’s third drink and drive offence. However, Bracewell, whose father and uncle had played Test cricket for New Zealand, escaped being sentenced but the judge had banned him from driving for a year and also given him 100 hours of community service. This came on top of the serious knee injury and all this led to Bracewell’s exclusion from New Zealand’s cricket contract for the 2017-18 season, which was announced in June, a month later after Bracewell was convicted.
Although the BlackCaps management had axed Bracewell from the contract, they still saw him positively. They even backed him in the controversial drink and drive case and decided not to implement an extra penalty from their side. “It is understood his drink-driving conviction, when he rushed home after a panicked call from his partner when their pet cockatoo was mauled by a dog, did not influence his contract rating. Doug is still viewed very positively by the selectors and has a big year in front of him in terms of bouncing back from his injury and proving his worth,” BlackCaps Selector Gavin Larsen said.
As an 18-year-old prodigy, Bracewell opened his doors to the First-Class circuit for Central Districts in 2008. His game earned massive attention for the first time when he was picked up for the New Zealand Under-19 squad for the World Cup in 2010. He was the third highest wicket-taker for his side with six scalps in six matches. It needed him only three years to make his way to the national side. As a young 21-year-old, Bracewell was roped in for New Zealand’s away series in Zimbabwe.
He immediately made an impact with the ball, especially, as he picked up four wickets in his first two T20I and three in his first two ODIs, impressing with pace. After a while, Bracewell became the 251st player to represent New Zealand in Test cricket. It was a one-off Test between New Zealand and Zimbabwe where debutant Bracewell bagged six wickets. One in the first innings and five in the final as he joined the club of bowlers of who had clinched a five-for on debut.
New Zealand’s away series against Australia was Bracewell’s second series in Test cricket. He was almost negligible in the Brisbane Test. where he managed to make only one breakthrough. However, the third Test in Hobart was going to be special for both, Bracewell and his country. He ran over the decorated Aussie line-up and when he bowled Nathan Lyon, the final man, New Zealand tasted their first Test win in Australia in 26 years. Bracewell’s figures of 6 for 40 were the best bowling figures by a New Zealand bowler in Tests in nearly 5 years.
Witnessing that performance, Bracewell was considered to be New Zealand’s future star who with the likes of Tim Southee and Trent Boult would take New Zealand’s pace records to another level. Sadly, ever since the Hobart Test, Bracewell has not taken more than five wickets in a test since; a batting average of 13.85 also has raised questions over his alleged all-round talent.
It is high time Bracewell left all his controversies and poor performances behind and start afresh. In fact, the fast bowler has already made an attempt to it. West Indian opening men, Chris Gaye and Evin Lewis after a slow start where they managed only four runs from the first five overs, found the right rhythm. From there they never considered taking singles as a scoring option. Combining for five fours and a six, they brought up a 40-run opening stand. The had come the moment, finally, which Bracewell had waited enough for. The skipper threw the ball at him in the 11th over and Gayle was at the strike.
— ICC (@ICC) December 20, 2017
Bracewell then had Gayle caught behind off his first ball. A thick inside edge had Shai Hope two balls later and that’s how Bracewell marked his return to his business of cricket. As it has seen often on the tour already, West Indies’ middle-order could not survive the pace. The West Indian skipper became the victim of Bracewell’s leg-cutter that was well outside off, Holder got a thick edge that was caught by Ross Taylor at third slip. The one-handed catch by Ross was as stunning as it looked. West Indies’ innings ended as the last man, Powell became Bracewell’s fourth and final wicket of the day.
Bracewell, who is not even in New Zealand’s current contract list, showed exactly how an opportunity is supposed to be grabbed. After the drink and drive drama, knee injury and exclusion from the contract, Bracewell’s comeback was not expected in the same year itself. But a return to fitness and form and the absence of Colin de Grandhomme gave Bracewell another shot. As the New Year is nearing, the BlackCaps who have hardly had controversial players will hope Bracewell would have learnt his lesson and will change for good in the upcoming new year.