Three out of three—ahead of Thursday’s match against Kings XI Punjab, this was Sunrisers Hyderabad’s record in the 2018 Indian Premier League (IPL).

Despite missing David Warner, stand-in skipper Kane Williamson has guided them to the top of the points table within 10 days of the competition. He has been helped by a tightly -knit squad that has its bases covered in all key positions.

So much so that a hard-hitting all-rounder like Carlos Brathwaite has had to sit on the bench. “I spoke with coach Tom Moody and he was honest with me. He said my position in the squad is of a rotational player, and I will have to be patient for opportunities," Brathwaite said last week. “There are 14 matches, so it depends on opposition, grounds and conditions, as well as form."

Hyderabad are the only franchise in the IPL that have a pace-heavy line-up—other teams (Kolkata Knight Riders, for example) have had to change their strategy to counter them.

Even so, the West Indies’ Twenty20 International skipper isn’t getting fidgety just yet. He has been in this position before, with Delhi Daredevils, for whom he played only 10 matches across two IPL seasons (eight in 2016 and two in 2017).

“I was following the player auctions in January, and was a bit nervous. I am just happy to be here and excited knowing that an opportunity will come up shortly. It’s a happy bunch of players, and it feels like I am part of a family. They have retained their core of players so it is a settled team. I can also say this is easily the most welcoming franchise I have been a part of," he says.

A few years ago, when Brathwaite walked into the Delhi Daredevils team hotel, everyone—from team representatives and hotel staff to gathered media—broke into that celebratory “champions" jig. Brathwaite had just come off the plane after smacking England’s Ben Stokes for four sixes in four balls to steal a last-over victory in the 2016 World T20 final (at Kolkata), crowning West Indies champions for a second time.

Inside a franchise’s machinations, however, things can be a bit more complex. The Daredevils haven’t been through good times of late, chopping and changing, trying to find that elusive winning formula. They had perhaps hoped Brathwaite would provide that magical touch, riding on the high of an improbable victorious effort at Eden Gardens. It didn’t work out.

“After that final, all of a sudden, I was not seen as a batsman or an all-rounder any more. I was seen as a six-hitter. Although I have played good matches since then, obviously they never reached the heights of winning a world cup final in India. So there is a lot of expectation, and when it doesn’t match up, my efforts are sometimes looked down upon or not appreciated enough," says Brathwaite

“In some respect, that has been a hindrance. I have tried to break those shackles a bit, to perform as well as I can. Hopefully, I can continue on this journey of letting go and enjoying my playing time, while also learning and developing at the same time," he adds.

He isn’t the only one going through this identity crisis—this discontent can be observed in the entire Caribbean group of players, even if not in the same manner. Players such as Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Darren Sammy and others have been hounded for some time now as they have extended their playing time in various T20 leagues. This has had an impact on their standing with Cricket West Indies (CWI).

In turn, this T20 league versus domestic cricket debate has had an effect on their international prospects. It is but a microcosm of the existential debate that will soon crop up in other parts of the world too. How do you stop talented players from plying their wares in lucrative T20 leagues? Is it even right to do so, thereafter denying these professionals international cricket in the longer formats?

“As with everything, there is only good or bad, there is no middle ground. It is easy to hand out labels. West Indies cricketers hit boundaries and sixes, and take wickets like other players do, but we celebrate unlike others. I guess this makes us a bit flashier, and this is a way of life for us," says the 29-year-old all-rounder.

“I have spoken to the senior players about this, and they relish the opportunity to play in different parts of the world. You cannot do anything except letting those who judge you carry on doing it, while we cherish whatever opportunities come our way," he adds.

Meanwhile, away from this never-ending debate, Brathwaite will be hoping to celebrate whenever the Sunrisers reward him with an opportunity to play.

Chetan Narula is the author of Skipper—A Definitive Account Of India’s Greatest Captains.

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