Home >Industry >World T20: ‘Champion’ Bravo perfects balancing act for cricket

Eight out of the eleven West Indies players who turned out against Sri Lanka on Sunday (March 20) night had played in the final of the 2012 World Twenty20, when Darren Sammy and his men etched their names in the history books by first registering a crushing victory over the hosts in front of a packed Premadasa Stadium, and then bursting into an eccentrically choreographed dance with the trophy in hand.

Two editions later, if you watch closely, the energy in the camp hasn’t dropped a bit, but the signature Gangnam hop is no longer part of the Caribbean drill. Instead, there is a new back and forth jig, where the players prop their arms up like a boxer, and move their legs to an imaginary fixed beat every time they pick up a wicket, or seal a win. As expected, millions of curious fans took to social media to figure what the new dance was all about, and it turns out, it is from a recently released music video titled Champion, featuring Dwayne Bravo, the multifaceted Trinidadian all-rounder.

“The Gangnam Style is no longer in fashion, it’s Champion all the way now," a beaming Bravo tells Wisden India on the sidelines of his team’s ongoing WT20 campaign, before moving on to explain the art of balancing serious cricket and the showmanship on the field.

“I am a strong believer of making people happy with my actions, and I am blessed to come from a nation where music and sports go hand in hand. Having been an international cricketer for 12 years now, I know how to handle my cricket, which has, and always will be on top of my priority list. I was born with the natural talent of playing the sport, and I am happy to be representing my country at the highest level. I do have a strong passion for entertainment too, but at the end of the day, all the dancing and singing has to be worked out around the cricket."

Though Andre Fletcher stole the show in Chris Gayle’s absence during West Indies’ chase in Bangalore, Bravo, along with Samuel Badree, played a big role in crippling Sri Lanka’s batsmen early on.

A look at Bravo’s bowling statistics in the two matches so far reveals his current role in the side – of picking up wickets in the middle overs while the spinners (Badree and Suleiman Benn) create the pressure by drying up the runs at the other end.

Incidentally, the trend started against Australia, West Indies’ old foes, in a warm-up game in Kolkata, where Bravo accounted for four important scalps, before a late cameo from Sammy sealed a win for their side.

“No disrespect to Australia, but every team loves to beat them in cricket," insists Bravo, unable to hide the grin triggered by the question. “They are among the top sides in the world, and if you want to be the best, you have got to beat the best. Whenever we play Australia, we know we have to bring our A game out on the park. That warm-up game gave us a lot of confidence, making us believe that if we can beat Australia in such tight circumstances, we can beat any other team. It was a great win, and the timing of the win was perfect – it set the tone for the tournament for us."

West Indies are ranked eighth in Tests and ninth in One-Day Internationals, but when it comes to T20Is, they are second only to India – one of the reasons why they are considered among the deadliest units in the shortest format of the sport.

“It is difficult to predict who will win a T20 tournament before they have actually won it, really," says Bravo, one of the most sought after T20 players across franchise cricket leagues around the world. “It is a format where any team can win – it could be India, West Indies, Bangladesh or even Afghanistan. I would of course love it if West Indies win the title once again, but it is a tough call to make."

But untimely injuries and other unfortunate circumstances have forced West Indies to leave some of their best T20 players out of the tournament, and draft in last-minute replacements to fill those gaps up instead.

“Yes, we had a major setback in losing some key players," admits Bravo. “But we are lucky enough to have quickly identified some great replacements, which preserves our confidence. We are an excited bunch, and are here to do well, and our first focus is on sealing a spot among the top four teams in the tournament."

Having won both their matches so far, West Indies are well on track with that goal, and Bravo believes it could be the youngsters who leave a mark from here on, as and when they get a chance to show their worth.

“We have so many young guys in the side right now," Bravo points out. “Ashley Nurse, for example, is a very good player. He has been knocking on the door for national selection for a while now, and has had a great domestic season too. Well, he is definitely no Sunil Narine with the ball, but he is a much better batter than Narine, I can tell you that. We have Fletcher, Carlos Braithwaite, Evin Lewis, and Johnson Charles too, so these are the guys you should be really looking forward to here in India this time."

Bravo is no stranger to the conditions here in India, having represented Chennai Super Kings for five seasons following his three-year stint with Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League. This year though, he will don the Gujarat Lions’ jersey, and be led by his former CSK teammate Suresh Raina.

“I am very excited about Gujarat Lions," says Bravo. “It will be an opportunity for me to share the dressing room with a new coach, a new management, and also some new players, though a lot of them are from my former team Chennai Super Kings. Playing under Raina should be really exciting, since this will be the first time he is going to lead an IPL team. We also have Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Aaron Finch and Ravindra Jadeja, so it should be good for us. Though I will miss (MS) Dhoni by my side, I would love to win a match for Gujarat against his team."

But Bravo can never forget the kind affection he has always been greeted with by the cricket-crazy fans in Chennai.

“Even though Chennai Super Kings is not in the tournament anymore, the city will always have a special place in my heart," he reveals. “In the next two or three months that I am in India, I will definitely make a trip to Chennai, just to maybe meet the people who have been so nice and welcoming towards me.

“Many people get intimidated by the over-enthusiastic fans here in India, but for me, I totally understand the feeling. When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a superstar like Brian Lara or Beenie Man (Anthony Moses Davis, the Jamaican record producer). I never thought I would get to meet them in person in my lifetime. But when I first did, it was an unbelievable feeling. That is when I realised what my fans feel when they meet me for the first time, and that makes me happy to greet them with a smile."

Whether 65,000 people at the Eden Gardens will dance to the tune of Bravo’s Champion on April 3 or not is up to destiny and skill, but the early signs that the side has shown points towards a rather settled West Indies camp, where the hunger for success is strong, and the intent towards shedding the image of ‘mere entertainers’ even stronger.

Mint is in content partnership with Wisden India for 2016 ICC World T20.

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