Carlos Brathwaite couldn’t have asked for a more thrilling start to his maiden match as West Indies T20I captain. Defending a mammoth 246 against India, his side managed a one-run win after Dwayne Bravo had Mahendra Singh Dhoni dismissed in the last ball at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium in Lauderhill, Florida on Saturday (August 26).
Brathwaite’s first reaction was one of relief, especially on a personal front. “It is a relief. Always wanted to get the first win and it’s a huge relief when it comes in your first game itself,” he said. “It was a fantastic team effort and a fantastic spectacle. The boys responded very well. It was one of the better T20 games I have played. Happy that my first game as captain could be so memorable.”
After being put in, Johnson Charles and Evin Lewis took West Indies off to such a blistering start, it seemed India would be piled under a mountain of runs as Brathwaite’s men posted 245 for 6, with Lewis scoring a 49-ball 100. Instead, there was an exhibition of batting. Where West Indies shot off the blocks with a no-holds barred approach, the Indian batsmen took calculated risks, with KL Rahul holding the innings together with a fine, unbeaten 84-ball 110.
With two runs required off the final ball and Dhoni, an acclaimed finisher, on strike, Bravo was involved in length discussions with Brathwaite, Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine. A slower delivery induced a mistimed drive from Dhoni, and a 489-run thriller came to an end.
Brathwaite revealed the discussions during the meet, and heaped praise on Bravo. “Firstly, I want to thank the guys who gave suggestions throughout the game which helped me ease in to the role,” said Brathwaite. “We were discussing setting some fields, then we were discussing about stopping the two or to bowl the double-bluff (the previous ball was a yorker). I asked Bravo, ‘what’s the plan’, and he said ‘slower ball’. I was not sure about the slower ball. But I said ‘I believe in you, I’m backing you, execute and express yourself’. He came out trumps. I know he has been doing this for so many years in T20 cricket around the world and he bowled a champion last over. He stuck to his guns to bowl that slower ball to one of the best finishers in the world cricket.”
Lewis, who set up the West Indies innings with his century – “I really can’t say how I’m feeling right now, it always feels good to get a 100” – also spoke highly of Bravo. “Eight runs of six balls, you always back the batting side to come out victorious,” he said. “But Bravo put up his hand up today and came good for us. I know he is always difficult in the death, I was glad to see him do it for the team today.”
Brathwaite has now been involved in a few veritable thrillers, including the World T20 final earlier this year when he hammered four sixes off Ben Stokes in the final over to snatch the trophy from England’s grasp. Asked to pick which he rated more satisfying, he said: “I really don’t know. They are all up there. It’s a tough one. Personal performances that helps the team achieve victory is always a treat. But it’s good to see someone who you look up to perfect your craft come up successfully. It really felt good when Bravo delivered.
“In the semis (World T20), Lendl Simmons came off the flight and played a cracking knock to take us over the line and, of course, there’s the finals. It’s tough to select one. But we are the world champions and we wanted to show that we indeed are and move up the rankings, which shows us at third place. The plan is to come up tomorrow and give it a big effort and move up.”
The two-match T20I series will be decided when the sides clash at the same venue on Sunday.