Dwayne Bravo continues to be thrust into the limelight. His marauding history with the Trinidad and Tobago Red Force translated into the squad being dubbed the pioneers of the Twenty20 (T20) game and made the all-rounder a poster-boy of the Indian Premier League (IPL). He’s revered in Chennai as one of the talismans of the Super Kings outfit with the local landscape draped with merchandise and images of the player. The affinity there for him is unprecedented and most deserving. The strides he’s made and the inroads he’s dug are impressive given the Santa Cruz native’s humble beginnings at the Queen’s Park Oval, with a simple dream of leaving a legacy as mammoth as another Santa Cruz legendary son, Brian Lara.
The 30 year-old has endured a bumper ride on the world’s cricket stage over the past couple years. From the Stanford T20 winnings to the IPL to the magnificent lifting of the trophy as the West Indies won the World T20 title in Sri Lanka, 2012. Now, Bravo not only wields the captain’s armband for the West Indies One-Day International (ODI) unit but he’s also skipper of the Red Force 50-over team, which finished second to Barbados in the NAGICO Super50. Compounding that, he’s also the captain of the T&T Red Steel in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL).
Indeed, heavy is the head that wears the crown. When T&T fell at home disappointingly to Barbados in the NAGICO Super50, Bravo wore his pain on his sleeve. You sensed his anguish at not being able to lift the crown on his home ground and paint the nation red.
Have the new mantles of leadership been taking their toll on the cavalier cricketer? He disagrees; he insists he’s ready and will continue to give his all. The pressure is incessantly building as the West Indies aim to defend the World T20 crown in March in Bangladesh. But how has Bravo transitioned into his new roles? “Good. It’s a big task, and I don’t expect it to get easier, but I’m committed to making that difference. I’m in the position where I can actually make a change.”
Bravo always enters his team’s fray to instill a sense of togetherness. He harps on this camaraderie because he is adamant that it’s the key ingredient in his players working together and playing for each other. He believes in brotherly bonds and wants a family to be running to the wicket, not just a team. Bravo urged the region to follow suit and for all fans to unite and vociferously back the team, through the bad times and the good. Unity is the precursor to success he believes.
“Our fans should know that when we, as players, run out there, we wear the uniform and badge with a lot of pride and a lot of heart.”
“Once we keep winning, the fans will come back on board. We need that unity, and I’m grateful for the die-hards who back us no matter what. Speaking as Windies’ ODI captain, we need to enjoy each other’s success. I’m definitely going to lead from the front and one thing every fan should know is when we, as players, run out there, we do so wearing the uniform and badge with a lot of pride and a lot of heart. We give it our all no matter what. We have a lot of talented players but I do agree that sometimes talent only takes you so far. It’s important that players understand this as well as what we represent and play towards that. That’s how we will keep the support of the Caribbean.”
Nonetheless, he admitted that some pent-up frustration was waiting to be released cricket-wise and has Ireland and England set in his crosshairs. Bravo knows that when the T20 team takes up arms, under Darren Sammy, nothing less than a trophy retention will suffice in Bangladesh. The West Indies had an average 2013 and he remains cognizant of the heartache that many fans expressed recently over some dismal performances. He promised to rectify as such and was gracious that the likes of Jamaica, Antigua and Barbados would see them facing the Irish minnows and an English team, that is nursing just as many wounds after a comprehensive trouncing by Australia. But Bravo knows that nothing’s as dangerous as a wounded dog rabid in its recovery; one should be cautious when rebounding against it.
“Even though England are wounded, they’re very dangerous. They’re looking to forget Australia. But we definitely have to respect them and it’s important that we use our home advantage and conditions that the opposition may not be accustomed to. Ireland also can’t be underestimated and that’s how I’m gearing myself, and I’m sure that’s how the team is operating – very cautious,” he contended. Bravo’s meticulous and methodical approach shows his maturity, garnered especially with his worldwide experience. He hailed the Australian Big Bash where he played for Melbourne Renegades last January and wants to continue building his brand worldwide, outside of the bigger leagues.
With corporations and brands clamoring for his signature and endorsement, he will no doubt grow as a global ambassador of the sport. He has signed on as a development mentor and ambassador to Cricket Papua New Guinea last year, together with pacer Kemar Roach and former captain Richie Richardson, to conduct coaching clinics and other circuits. “Advancing the game of cricket in developing nations is something I always wanted to be involved with. A cricketer today is a role model to millions and I wanted to use this opportunity to pass my knowledge, skills and expertise to promising new talent and use my own experiences and leadership aptitude to motivate youth across the world.” Bravo will act as a mentor to Papua New Guinean cricketers and help them with their efforts to acclimatize on the world stage and catch the eye of talent scouts of professional T20 franchises.
But he knows first and foremost, his priority is to sate the appetites of the regional darlings. “What we’ll be doing is our best, shining both on and off the pitch. That’s what role models do.”