Kraigg Brathwaite has failed to lead from the front……
Bangladesh had as many as nine players who could bat and as a result, have successfully managed to post a big score on the board in the second Test against West Indies Dhaka. Also, they went in with an all-spin attack in this Test, which also paid off as they have reduced West Indies 75 for 5 at the end of Day Two. Things have gone according to plan so far for Bangladesh and they will have to play really badly if they are to flounder away this advantage. However, the Windies batsmen too have to take the blame for such a shabby effort with the bat. Leading the way is Kraigg Brathwaite who West Indies depend on a great deal to get them off to a solid start. However, this has not happened in the series so far.
With Jason Holder out, the responsibility of leading the side has fallen on Brathwaite. The extra responsibility has perhaps hampered his game just a tad and as a result, he does not look his usual self. For someone, who is a rock at the wickets, knows where his off stump is all the time and can bat for long periods of time, Brathwaite has put on a sorry show. This is his fourth match as captain and in his seven innings so far, he has managed just 119 runs at 17, 66 of which came on his captaincy debut against New Zealand in December 2017. While Brathwaite averages more than 51 against Bangladesh, his record in Bangladesh is a meagre 14.85 – his least in any country where he has played at least three Tests.
West Indies created another unwanted record. This was the first occasion in 128 years that the top 5 batsmen have all been bowled. Brathwaite has been dismissed twice by Shakib Al Hasan, after the bowler deceived him with turn and on one occasion, the ball kept low wrapping him on the pads and was judged leg before. While he could be considered unlucky with the leg before decision, he should have done far better to avoid the other two dismissals. Being the best batsman in the side, he needs to negate such deliveries. It is definitely not going to be easy, but if someone like Brathwaite fails to read them, you have to ask if anyone else in the team is equipped to do so.
Brathwaite has not been among the runs for some time now. After scoring back-to-back centuries and North Sound and Kingston in July this year, Brathwaite has managed to score just 55 runs in his next 8 innings at 6.87, which include a couple of ducks. These are certainly not the numbers you want to see if you are an opening batsman, who is also captaining your side.
One thing we know for sure is that Brathwaite will be back among the runs sooner rather than later. He is too good a player to not score big runs, but the fact that he has failed on this tour is rather disappointing. Sub-continent is a place where cricket careers are made or destroyed. For many foreign batsmen, negotiating spin is a big ask and many have failed. The ones who have succeeded have gone on to become legends of the game.
In their last two tours – in India and now in Bangladesh – West Indies have been outplayed in all the Tests, putting up very little fight. There are other talented batsmen in the West Indies ranks, who need to step up and deliver. While Brathwaite happens to be the lynchpin of their batting, there is no reason why the others can’t chip in when he fails. Two experienced bowlers – Holder and Shannon Gabriel – are out of the team for this match, which has perhaps been the main reason for Bangladesh putting 508 on the board.
With backs against the wall, it would have been a perfect platform to show that the batsmen would not let the team down. Unfortunately, they have blown that opportunity and stare down at a possibility of yet another huge defeat.
Things may be different for Brathwaite once Holder returns and resume his captaincy duties. Brathwaite can return to just focussing on his batting. Till then he will have to face the possible embarrassment of a series defeat at the hands of Bangladesh. While there is a lot of time in the Test, this could be a huge opportunity for Brathwaite to take control in the second innings and show that he is still the best batsman in the side. Some thrive when they have extra responsibilities, however, the early indications suggest that Brathwaite is not one of them.
We have seen him remain unbeaten throughout the course of a Test against Pakistan at Sharjah in 2016. His temperament and commitment to the team can never be questioned. But scoring big regularly in all conditions is what differentiates the best from the rest. Brathwaite has all the ingredients to be among the best. But he will have to show that when the chips are down, just like his team is in the ongoing Test.