Carlos Brathwaite, Remember the Name
Long before Carlos Brathwaite smashed his way to prominence on a sensational night at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, he gained the trust of the selectors and his team-mates through some sterling yet lesser-known knocks with the bat.
Brathwaite turned heads after slaughtering the Sri Lankan Board President's team with utter disdain. How else could that knock be described? Even though it was a tour game, the West Indians were in all sorts of trouble at the end of 30 overs when Jason Holder, their captain, was dismissed. The score read 109 for 7.
When Brathwaite joined Andre Russell, they had twenty overs to play out with three wickets in hand. What did they do? Plundered 209 runs in 120 balls. West Indies finished with 318 on board at the end of 50 overs.
Russell-Brathwaite partnership - 193 runs in 99 balls.
Russell pummelled a very predictable 89 off 54 balls. But it was the new batting beast on the block that captured the imagination. Brathwaite top-scored with 113 off 58 balls. The 50-ball ton, batting at 9, was studded with 10 fours and 7 sixes.
It was a freakish knock at every level. Consider this - eighth-wicket partnership of 193 runs, with No.9 batsman scoring a ton at a strike rate of 200. When I checked his first-class statistics, his batting average did not give away anything that said he was a force to reckon with, on a consistent basis. But his T20 strike rate was something else.
Fast forward eight weeks, and I saw him earn his Test cap in the historic Boxing Day Test at the magnificent Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). While most Australians took some time to find who he was, Brathwaite's whirlwind knock in Sri Lanka were still ringing in my ears.
Brathwaite did not set the stage on fire rightaway. With the kind of performance he put with the ball in Kolkata, one could probably attribute his no-show in Melbourne to just nervousness. Australia is never an easy place for debutants. The crowds tried to get into him but managed very little as he kept switching fielding positions in the ground. As a matter of fact, he notched couple of fifties that defined his character, even though it did little to change the fortunes for the West Indies in that tour of Australia.
His half-century at Melbourne was one of the bright spots in what was yet another forgetful outing for the Caribbean side. Even though it was a chancy knock, it was hard to not look at the authoritative stroke play he displayed. The clarity in his thought was even more evident with crisp shot-making in Sydney. On a first-day-turner, Brathwaite stood tall even when the dark clouds arrived to disrupt play. The consummate ease with which he dispatched Nathan Lyon and Steven O'Keefe over the boundary ropes showed a glimpse of what he could do with the long handle.
The big-hitting all-rounder was among the highest successful bids during the Indian Premier League Auction. Unsurprisingly, it did raise eyebrows. Why would Delhi pay so much for an unknown quantity? What does he offer in return? Less than a couple of months later, the Indian fans had a glimpse of it and the English were at the receiving end.
At the Boxing Day Test, I took Brathwaite's autograph while he was stationed at fine leg for Jerome Taylor. I am sure I must have been among the early birds who would have picked up his autograph. He can be sure of signing at least another thousand while playing for Delhi in the upcoming season of the IPL.
The autograph bat also had autographs of Darren Bravo and Josh Hazlewood. After returning from the game, it was neatly placed at home so that the guests who come home can see the small cricketing memorabilia that I have built here in Melbourne. Whenever my friends look at the autograph bats, they would point to the first signature and ask whose it is.
"Carlos Brathwaite... West Indies Player..." I would say. "Aah Whoever." was the typical response.
Every time they would say that, I would have to remind them of his powerful knock in Colombo and his twin-fifties in Melbourne and Sydney. Today, when my friends came home, they went "Oh Carlos Brathwaite! Wow!", when I showed them his autograph at the top of the bat. It took a game like the World T20 final for people to take notice of Brathwaite. It took a finish like that for people to take notice of Brathwaite.
Like Ian Bishop quipped from the commentary box, 'Remember the Name! Carlos Brathwaite'.