Dwayne Bravo © Getty Images
Dwayne Bravo, the West Indies One-Day International (ODI) captain is an all-rounder in every sense. On the field of play, his batting dazzles with flair, the deceptive bowling can leave the batsmen dumbfounded and the electric fielding is simply awesome. But, even off the field, he has different sides to him. He sings, dances and his ever magnanimous personality shines through. In an exclusive chat with CricketCountry’s Nishad Pai Vaidya after the West Indies finished their tour to India, Bravo spoke about his career, future plans, vision as West Indies ODI captain, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and lots more.
CricketCountry (CC): Growing up in Trinidad, how did you take up cricket? Who were the players you looked up to early in your career? Were you always an all-rounder to start with or focused on one of the disciplines?
Dwayne Bravo (DB): I started early, when I was five-years-old. I grew up in a small village called Santa Cruz — which is the hometown of Brian Charles Lara. Growing up in the village, when we heard about West Indies cricket, the name I heard the most was ‘Brian Lara’ from Santa Cruz and I wanted to be like him. My dad introduced me to the game when I was five. When I was eight, I went to the Harvard Coaching School, which is the same clinic where Lara started off as well. Then at the age of nine, I moved to Queens Park Cricket Club, which is the same club Lara went to. It was more like following his footsteps — coming from the same village and going to the same clinic and club. I was said to be the right-handed Lara when I was young. I was an opening batsman and never bowled. Those days, I had the ability to bowl, but never did it seriously. Through my under-15 and under-19 days, I used to open the batting or bat at No 3. It was only later that my bowling developed and I became one of the better all-rounders.
CC: You came into a side that had the likes of Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Walking into the West Indies team in 2004, what were your thoughts as a youngster?
DB: They were my childhood heroes and I wanted to be like them. I never thought that I would actually play cricket with Lara. Obviously as a kid, you hear about him and you feel that when your time comes, he would have been done playing. But, I am lucky to play with my hero. It was a great feeling touring with the West Indies. My first overseas tour was to England and Lara was the captain and I was very comfortable. It was a great feeling to have someone who looked after me. Having Ramnaresh Sarwan, Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul was also great. My relationship with Lara grew as he took me under his wing and treated me as a son and not just like a teammate. It was a good tour for me as I started my international career very well and he made it a lot easier for me.
CC: Which moments would you cherish from the early part of your career?
DB: Definitely the first tour to England in 2004. We reached the final of the NatWest Series, a tournament in which we faced New Zealand and England. I finished with the most wickets there. During the Test series that followed, I was the highest wicket-taker for West Indies. Then we won the ICC Champions Trophy, which is also a major highlight for m as a player. Playing in England for the first time, my first major tournament, and to actually win that tournament with me playing a big part in it was something I will never forget.
CC: Can you tell us about that deceptive slower ball and about that game against India in Jamaica in 2006 when you bowled Yuvraj Singh to win the ODI for West Indies?
(Note: India needed 11 off the last over in the Jamaica ODI and Yuvraj was in with the last man. He smashed two boundaries to put India within two runs of victory. However, Bravo bowled a slower ball that deceived Yuvraj and bowled him. West Indies won by one run)
DB: I remember that Jamaica game as if it was yesterday. It was an important game for us. During the last over, Yuvraj had hit two boundaries and the game then came down to that one delivery with the last wicket there. Since I was young then, I wasn’t sure what delivery to bowl at that point of time. I felt then that I would lose it for the team. Chris Gayle ran in from backward point and Lara came from mid-off and said, “We back you 100 percent. No matter what delivery you bowl in this tough situation, we give you a 100 percent support.” I ran in with a lot of positive energy and my instincts told me to bowl a slower ball. I didn’t plan it when I was on my mark, but just when I was about to deliver, I got this message — perhaps from god. I did that and Yuvraj missed. Rest is history!
CC: You have two Test hundreds in Australia. How important were those tons for your career? Having played cricket all over the world, which has been the toughest experience for you batting-wise and why?
DB: Yes, playing cricket in Australia is very difficult as most cricketers would find. But, I enjoyed playing there as the conditions are good for cricket. There are big grounds, but the wickets are good for batting. If you bowl, you get wickets as well. So, it is the ideal country to play cricket. I have two hundreds there, one at Hobart and one at Adelaide. They are two of my best knocks. For me, the one at Hobart is better because I faced, Shane Warne, Stuart MacGill, Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee. We were struggling in that game, but my hundred and a good seventh wicket partnership with Denesh Ramdin helped us prolong the game a bit. Two hundreds in Australia is not something many cricketers achieve, but I am happy I did it.
CC: Can you describe the special affinity that you have developed over time with India as you have played with the Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League (IPL)?
DB: I tell my parents that India for me now is a home away from home. I feel comfortable here and enjoy coming here. The people are lovely and very friendly. They give us, the players, good respect as sportsmen. I started my IPL (Indian Premier League) career with Mumbai Indians under the captaincy of Sachin [Tendulkar]. When I first got the call, it was like, “Wow. I am actually going to play cricket with Sachin Tendulkar.” Playing with Brian Lara is one thing. But growing up you always spoke about Lara and Tendulkar and you wanted to know who is better. Having made my international debut under Lara and then IPL under Tendulkar, I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to be led by two of the best players of the world. Today, Lara is my best friend and Sachin is also a very good friend.
CC: The Chennai Super Kings team was of course packed with super stars, but what made it gel into a united side and perform in the centre? It isn’t often that a side of superstars from different parts of the globe gel so well. Also, what is Mahendra Singh Dhoni like as a skipper?
DB: When I first joined the team, I went in with open eyes as I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that here was a side which was very consistent in terms of IPL and Champions League performances. When I got there for the first time, I was the only West Indian. I thought, “Let’s see how I fit in.” I remember, my first game was in Jaipur and I landed the night before. The coach came and asked me if I was ready to play. I had just come off a 21 hour flight and I said I was keen. I was told that captain MS [Dhoni] is keen on me playing, so I went into the game. I played six games in my first year with Chennai. We went on to win that year. To answer your question, it all starts with the owners. They are relaxed and the environment is like that in the dressing room. Everyone enjoys each other’s company and success. MS is someone who is very relaxed. He allows the coaches to be themselves and run their net sessions. Michael Hussey, Albie Morkel and the other international players, they bring in the experience and blend in with the local Indian talent. It is a bunch that is happy, love and respect each other and want each other to do well. That is the key to Chennai Super Kings’ success.
CC: What is your vision as West Indies ODI captain?
DB: As an ODI captain, my eyes would be on the global prize, which is the 2015 World Cup in Australia. I have the opportunity to build a team in a year and a half to lift the trophy, which is going to be a difficult task because all the teams around the world are preparing for the tournament. As a leader, I have to ensure that my guys are as hungry as others to lift the trophy and be consistent as much as possible. Lately, we haven’t been as consistent as we have been winning games, losing some. We have to go step by step.
CC: Test or ODIs, which is more difficult to captain in?
DB: I captained in one Test. Obviously, Test cricket is the ultimate form of cricket. It is the test of your character and is harder. In ODIs, the game tends to go faster, but sometimes an over can change the match. In Tests, you got to plan a lot more. Being a Test captain takes more out of you. But, as long as you are captain, it is very difficult.
CC: You haven’t played Test cricket since 2010. In the near future, are you planning to make a comeback in the whites?
DB: Definitely, I am looking forward to being a part of the Test side, maybe sometime early next year. It is something that I always wanted to continue playing, but unfortunately, I wasn’t selected for the last three years, which was beyond my control. I made it clear to the selectors that I am going to press for my spot again i.e. No 6. I will give my best and hopefully I get an opportunity to play Test cricket again.
CC: There is that inside out shot over the covers that you have made your own. Seam, spin, fast or slow, you go for it with full confidence. In fact there is a picture of you smashing one through that area with your feet in the air. Has that shot been very natural to you or have you developed it over time? What impact has T20 cricket had on your batting?
DB: I think it helped that shot more. My batting tends to fall back a bit because of T20 considering the amount of cricket I am playing in the shorter form of the game. I lose a lot of focus for the longer forms of the game. That is the reason why I want to start playing more four-day cricket so that I can get the opportunity of playing Test cricket again. I think I am at a stage in my career where I can manage and balance it off between the formats. I am mentally tougher now, so I know the difference. But, T20 cricket surely helped that shot over cover.
CC: You featured in a music video with Beenie Man. Can you tell us about that experience and the upcoming Tamil song?
DB: Beenie Man is a close friend of mine. As a kid I looked up to Brian Lara for cricket and it was Beenie Man when I listened to music. I got the opportunity to meet him for the first time in 2006 in Jamaica and I let him know that I love his music. Our friendship grew and I told him that he is my friend and we don’t have a song together. We did a song then and the first time in the studio was difficult. But, he made it a lot easy for me. So we have a couple of songs. And, I also have a Tamil song coming up. Every year I try to do something different. I try to test my talent in different areas.
CC: What can we expect from Dwayne Bravo, the celebrity?
DB: Dwayne Bravo the celebrity, I think more Tamil songs. More Bollywood stints, DB47 clothing line and more music — Caribbean and other. I love the entertainment side of it. Hopefully, I get the opportunity to do a stint with a Shahrukh Khan or any big Bollywood star.
CC: And the cricketer?
DB: Get back into the Test team. T20 World Cup is coming up again and Darren Sammy will captain. We would love to defend our title, which won’t be easy.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)