Out of sight and thus, out of mind. Is that’s what’s happening to Carlos Brathwaite?
In the light of the recent contests against Sri Lanka, followed by South Africa and now, Australia, who begin the ODI leg of the series shortly, everyone’s attention in the Caribbean has been around players like stand-in captain Nicholas Pooran, a Chris Gayle who hits and mishits, in-form Evin Lewis, the evergreen DJ Bravo, and a rising force of wrist spin, Hayden Walsh Jr.
It’s been months since anyone actually spoke about Carlos Brathwaite. The burly all-rounder from Barbados, whose success goes far more than having once gone to school with Rihanna, turned 33 on July 18.
Though, just how many noticed?
Probably not wrong to suggest, there was far more recognition and interest directed at wishing the dashing Smriti Mandhana, who shares her birthday with Brathwaite, this is when it’s the latter who starred in a World-Cup winning effort and Mandhana is yet to achieve a feat like that.
This scenario evokes a strange situation.
Given the information-fuelled age we are in, it won’t take much besides entering in your favorite search engine- “Where is Carlos Brathwaite now”- to know what the tall Bajan is up to?
But let me make it easy for you.
Last winter, it was announced that Warwickshire had signed Brathwaite for the Vitality Blast 2021, wherein he was due to play for Birmingham Bears. The explosive all rounder’s six-hitting prowess, most evident in 2016, caught the eye of Paul Farbrace, the Director of Cricket, Warwichshire who got him to play in England.
The 54-year-old Englishman was part of the England’s T20 coaching camp in 2016 where Brathwaite’s powerful sixes tore down a team consisting the likes of Hales, Stokes, Morgan and Root. Brathwaite’s brutal sixes caught Farbrace's imagination, and today the duo share a respectable bond.
Moreover, Carlos Brathwaite didn’t take long to prove himself worthy of the challenge of playing T20 cricket miles afar from the Caribbean, delivering a match-winning spell on June 30 versus Yorkshire, where he took 3 wickets conceding merely 7 runs from 2 overs.
The man-of-the-match performance did well to raise his stocks in English domestic T20 cricket.
Yet, despite the success and the recognition, which has come his way ever since he started playing tournaments like the PSL, doesn’t something seem amiss about the mighty all rounder?
Here in lies the Carlos Brathwaite conundrum
Shouldn’t Carlos Brathwaite be serving the West Indies, a land that’s exported world-renowned talents to the T20 stratosphere?
I once heard a famous quote from a film that goes something like this-
“It is like giving the light to the neighbours house, when you can light a lamp in your courtyard!”
Is the light of promise and redoubtable potential- that Carlos Brathwaite offers just not good enough for the West Indies anymore?
Do they have other sparks, think Evin Lewis, Andre Fletcher, Nicholas Pooran himself and with the likes of Lendl Simmons and Russell contributing with both bat and ball doing the job that Brathwaite once did, albeit not with much sterling consistency?
While there’s little doubting the big-hitting potential of a lanky batsman who can, without much ado, clear the ropes anywhere, be it the Wankhede, Queen’s Park Oval or the Gadafi stadium, what’s worrisome from his fans’ perspective is the hollowness in his T20 numbers, that format of the game that made the Barbadian a household name.
Brathwaite's poor returns for Windies
From 37 innings, so far, what Brathwaite has a highest score of 37* and only 310 runs for West Indies. To be honest, the batsman with a knack of hitting sixes at free will undoubtedly sport a deadly strike rate that terrifies bowlers. But Brathwaite has a strike rate of 113 while playing for Windies. It neither suggests the man behind the stat is a muscleman nor someone who, with a full bat-swing, can destroy any bowler’s ambition.
Moreover, in order to be counted as a useful all-rounder, Brathwaite’s bowling returns don’t stun either. From 39 innings, he’s taken 31 wickets- not too terrorizing for batsmen, albeit at a questionable bowling economy of 8.6.
Bravo with 74 wickets, 1229 runs, four fifties as well as a strike rate of 115, is way higher than Brathwaite on all counts.
Moreover, his economy of just over 8.1 suggests he can do the job the West Indies require him to do.
And ditto for Andre Russell- who with a strike rate of 156, nearing 800 T20I runs and 36 wickets seems to fit the bill.
So does that mean Carlos Brathwaite, who even in the past had the honour of leading the West Indies side, is a spent force?
Well, it’s a question that warrants greater analysis in terms of where the West Indies are at present. The team, to me and perhaps to many fans out there, seems to have moved on a bit.
Marlon Samuels, the force at number three, is not there anymore, a role that the team is desperately searching for someone to fill sooner rather than later.
Having Gayle in at one down means that the opening slot is decided. Another couple of whacking innings from one down and Gayle would feel slotted in for the precious World Cup campaign.
In that format of the game where West Indies already have three fine all rounders, do not do the fool’s errand of discounting captain Pollard himself, it frankly doesn’t appear as if Brathwaite’s name warrants automatic selection.
Surely, the one-day game could be a different story, with Gayle sitting out in some games, and there being no Dwayne Bravo in that format.
But there again- has Brathwaite done enough to merit selection?
With an average of 16 with the bat, including that glorious World Cup century and just a solitary fifty, when he was given 44 chances to prove himself- where’s the X-factor that Carlos provides a team that habitually under performs and thus, could still need a resilient character?
Unless and until Pooran drops the keeping gloves and together, Hope, Hetmyer and he begin to bowl in the 50-over game, Brathwaite should get a chance at some stage.
But he cannot produce the high-promise, under-powered show.
Though even on that front, with Jason Holder being the most sought after all-rounder and with selectors pushing the likes of Roston Chase ahead, it doesn’t seem destined that Carlos will get his chance anytime soon.
Of course, if someone’s injured then it’s a different call altogether.
Should that actually happen, it beckons a question- wouldn’t it seem a tad bit cheap for a World Cup winner, who himself played a magical part in his team's victorious campaign, that he plays as a replacement or a last-minute resort.
Brathwaite is a wicket-taking medium fast bowler, who measures light on pace and even lighter where it comes to keeping batsmen quiet.
Brathwaite is the heavyweight who underperforms
For someone who, as a matter of fact, produced only two match-winning performances, the 2016 innings and then the sparkling century versus the Kiwis in 2019, when all seemed lost, though both knocks came in a World Cup, Brathwaite is that heavyweight who underperforms.
And if he’s given no further chances, having last representing the national team in August 2019, one’s afraid he will indeed become a player whose name you will have to remember, not in respect or regard, rather to be reminded that he too existed.
And that would be a scene indescribably sad and painful to say the least.