Subash Jayaraman (SJ): You made your first-class debut as a 16-year-old and you debuted for West Indies at 19. Who were your role models?
Kraigg Brathwaite (KB): In terms of role models, when I was a youngster, obviously everyone liked Brian Lara. As I started to get older and get into the game, I got to like [Shivnarine] Chanderpaul as well. The main aspect about his game is his concentration and he bats for long periods. I really admire that about him. Batsmen across the world – Hashim Amla and Alastair Cook – these are guys I like to watch scoring hundreds across the world.
SJ: Has there been an influence from within the dressing room on how you play, from Chanderpaul?
KB: No, not necessarily. As I said, I am learning a lot [from him]. Every chance that I get, I ask him a few questions. For me, it is just about playing my own game and not necessarily worrying about what people say. I still look up to him, he works hard. One thing I have learned from him is that if you put in the hard work, you will get the results.
SJ: You play for the Wanderers Cricket Club [in Barbados]. What is the influence of club cricket in your development as a cricketer?
KB: I think it is very, very important because I remember when I was dropped, against Australia. It was in 2010 I think. I went back home. You know, it’s easy to say you don’t want to play club cricket but I believe [playing club cricket] helped me a lot. Obviously, I scored some runs and that did a lot for me. I played for Wanderers last year. That has helped my game, my confidence. No matter what kind of cricket you play, you have to take it seriously.
SJ: Even when you played club cricket, your outlook on playing – you seem like a very focussed cricketer and you take that into club cricket as well.
KB: It is a habit, I think. So wherever I play, I play as seriously as possible, because you score anywhere, runs is runs. I believe it’s habit, whatever you do, wherever you are playing – whether you are playing Test cricket or club cricket, I take everything seriously.
SJ: How would you describe your growth as an international opening batsman?
KB: A lot has changed. When I first started, I had some technical flaws that I had to work on. I am better now. But I think I have batted well, especially in the last year. It’s about improving, and like I said, there is still some things to work on. It’s just about believing in your ability whenever you go out to bat.
SJ: People say that 90% of the game is played in your mind. From your point of view, what has been the mental approach and focus?
KB: I do believe it is a mind game. Coming in and playing here [in South Africa] against the No. 1 team, you tell yourself you can do it, but it isn’t easy. Obviously, they have some good bowlers, and you are going to have [to face] good spells and tough spells. You have to work through it. Once you fight hard, stay strong in the mind and say to yourself that you can do it, then you will get through. You have got to be strong.
SJ: You made your first century in your 11th Test, at Port-of-Spain against New Zealand. Did you feel any pressure coming into the Test, that you needed to produce a big hundred as a top-order batsman?
KB: I obviously felt the pressure. I had played before, and had four fifties then, I think. In the end, you are coming back, and you already want to show what you can do. I played against Bangladesh a year ago and got a hundred and played a first-class season and got three or four 90s, so I knew that I could do it. I had the scores behind me. I was hitting the ball well, too.
The feeling [on scoring the century] was unbelievable. I couldn’t believe that I had done it at first. I never thought that I would ever score a hundred for West Indies. Then it was a reality and I really enjoyed my moment. I just want to keep growing from strength to strength.
SJ: You come from Barbados, which has produced many legends. What does it feel like for you, coming from Barbados, and playing for West Indies?
KB: I am a very proud Barbadian. A lot of legends come from Barbados. Not that I feel any pressure to become a legend or anything, the aim is to score as many runs as I can. That’s my only goal.
SJ: Do you feel that with your technique and mental approach to the game you have arrived as a Test batsman?
KB: I believe I have what it takes to be a great Test batsman. But as I said, I am still learning. I am very young. No matter how many runs I score, I have to improve. That is my goal. No matter how many runs I have in club cricket or first-class or Test cricket. I have to improve all the time.
SJ: Where do you improve as a batsman from here on?
KB: Well, for me, it’s about being as mentally strong as possible, because I know sometimes you don’t score for a few innings, it can put you off. It’s just about keeping strong always.
There are different shots that you could work on. Also, there are various aspects of the game that I can develop. Different shot selections. So far, I have been batting well, hitting my shots with variety around the ground. Let us hope I get the confidence to play more and more.
SJ: How satisfying was it to get a hundred against the No. 1 team in the world [in Port Elizabeth], against bowlers like Steyn, Morkel and Philander?
KB: When you are opening [the batting], it’s about being patient, trying to hit the ball as straight as possible. As I said, I have been working on different shots. When I see the balls in my zone, I backed myself to go after them.
[Getting the hundred against Steyn and Co] was another unbelievable feeling. As I said, I knew I can do it. It’s about not putting pressure on myself. These guys are top bowlers, so just go out there and play and see [what happens].
SJ: In that match where you made a hundred against New Zealand, in the second innings Chris Gayle made 80 in 46 balls, chasing 93. How do you recalibrate your approach to batting when you see these guys at the other end who make batting look so easy?
KB: It may not be easy for me but I know that these guys are very good players. So all I have to do is make sure I don’t get caught up in it, not that if they are going after it then I must too. I just have to play my game and keep patient. Otherwise, you are going after balls that aren’t in your zone. Like I said, it may not be easy. Those guys go after it, but they are playing some good shots. You just have to make sure you are playing your own game.
SJ: What sort of captain are you? Are you laidback, intense, aggressive, or do you adopt a wait-and-watch approach, like your batting?
KB: I am still learning a lot about captaincy. I think I could be laidback, but I like to be aggressive, to tell you the truth. Especially, with spinners bowling, you don’t necessarily want to [be laidback]. You want to try and make the batsmen go over the top, with different field settings. At times I tend to be aggressive. Still learning, there is a lot to work on. I can’t say much as yet.
SJ: But there have been some voices around the West Indies saying that Kraigg Brathwaite is a possible candidate for the captaincy of the West Indies Test team. Your thoughts on that?
KB: Well, captaining my first-class team [Barbados] back home, I have some experience with captaincy. If the opportunity presents itself, obviously, I will be very happy. But I’m still learning a lot. When I go back home, I will be captaining my first-class team again and will try to learn as much as I can from that. Like I said, if it comes, I will be very happy to take it, but you have to keep learning.
SJ: Do you feel that you will be ready if and when it comes?
KB: Yes, absolutely ready.
SJ: Do you have any such goals, like 20 or 30 Test hundreds or 8000-10,000 runs?
KB: I obviously have a goal. For me, especially now, it’s focusing series by series. This series [v South Africa] I’m trying to get as many runs as possible. Later on, we have some tough series coming up. I just want to take it series after series from now and score as many runs as possible.