“The young Windies batsmen need someone to whom they can look up to as a source of inspiration. They need someone whom they can learn from. And none can be a better teacher and mentor to them other than Brathwaite.”
Kraigg Brathwaite is only 25 years old but he has been around in the international scene for quite a while now; seven years to be precise. It has been a memorable journey for him with its fair share of highs and lows in those Windies whites.
He has grown from strength to strength with every match. He walked into the team as a teenager and now he walked out at Rajkot leading the side in what was the 50th Test match of his career. Despite the fact that he was visiting India with quite a young and inexperienced side to his expense, he would have liked to lead by example in absence of Jason Holder and make his 50th Test memorable with a couple of wonderful batting performances.
However, all he could manage from the two innings that he played at Rajkot was a total of only 12 runs. He was cleaned up in the first innings by a terrific delivery from Mohammad Shami and was caught at short leg by debutant Prithvi Shaw in the second innings, as he carelessly shuffled across the stumps and tried to play a well-flighted delivery from Ashwin down the leg side.
This is his second trip to India since the first time he visited back in 2012. Statistics suggest that he is the most experienced player in this current West Indies squad with 50 matches to his name; only Jason Holder, Devendra Bishoo and Shanon Gabriel come close with 30-odd Tests to their names. But what those couple of dismissals reflected was inexperience and brainless approach despite having so many years of experience behind him.
There have been many occasions when Brathwaite has stood as an epitome of solidarity when other batsmen of his team have proven to be fragile. Be it his maiden century against the Kiwis at home back in 2014, a flawless 142 against Pakistan at Sharjah in 2016 or a gritty 134 against a rampaging English seam-bowling attack followed by a composed knock of 95 in the same match at Leeds in 2017, Brathwaite has always proven himself to be a figure to whom his teammates could look up to in testing conditions.
Although his career average of 37.21 might not seem to be that great, an average of 43.09 in SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia) countries tells about his qualities as a batsman. It’s the third highest average by a visiting batsman among active players in SENA countries (minimum 10 innings) and only his fellow teammate Shai Hope (45.90) and Indian skipper Virat Kohli (50.83) better him. Hope has a slightly better average than Brathwaite but he has played half the number of innings as compared to the 25-year old.
However, an overall away average of 35.63—which is lower than both his SENA average and overall career average—presents us with a completely different picture of his qualities as a batsman in testing conditions. And the major contributors to such a stark difference between his overall away average and SENA average are his poor numbers on the turning tracks of India and Sri Lanka. He averages only 25.75 in both of these countries and has only 309 runs to his name in 12 innings combined.
Moreover, the fact that he has fallen prey to spinners on 8 out of those 12 occasions—6 out of the 8 innings in India and 2 out of the 4 innings in Sri Lanka—clearly highlights his problems against spin. In fact, his mode of dismissals to the spinners in these two countries—trapped lbw three times, stumped once and caught by other fielders on rest of the occasions—confirm that he has a tendency of throwing his wicket away when the spinners are on, rather than grinding his way through their spells.
The way he got out to Ravichandran Ashwin in the second innings of the most recent match against India at Rajkot clearly highlighted that tendency. He has a trigger movement of shuffling to his off-stump and that is where he is tricked by most of the spinners on playing down the wrong line. He leaves himself in no position to defend the ball properly if it turns back in after pitching. That forces him to bring down the bat with a cross-batted approach rather than playing through the line and presenting the full face of the bat.
When the ball turns away from him, his trigger movement forces him to play deliveries way outside off-stump, which he wasn’t even supposed to if he would have stood his ground without shuffling across. That, in turn, increases his chances of edging the ball to the slips more often.
It is high time that he rectified these discrepancies in his technique. West Indies need him. The young Windies batsmen need someone to whom they can look up to as a source of inspiration. They need someone whom they can learn from. And none can be a better teacher and mentor to them other than Brathwaite.
They got totally humiliated in the first Test as their batting line-up crumbled in both innings for less than 200 runs. If West Indies wants to do better in the second Test, that has to start with Brathwaite.