Couch Talk 152 (Play)
Guest: Kraigg Brathwaite
Host: Subash Jayaraman
Subash Jayaraman (SJ)– Hello and welcome to Couch Talk. Today’s guest is West Indies Test opener Kraigg Brathwaite. He talks about his role models, scoring his maiden Test hundred and his hopes of being captain of West Indies amongst other things.
Thanks for being on the show, Kraigg.
You made your first class debut as a 16 year old and you debuted for West Indies as a 19 year old. Who were your early role models and influcences in cricket?
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 in to the game, and 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 were guys I like to watch them play a lot, score hundreds across the world.
SJ– You mentioned Shiv, and a lot of people actually compared your batting to Chanderpaul’s batting in terms of how patient you are in building up your innings. Now, you play alongside him. Has there been influence from within the dressing room on how you play, from him?
KB– No, not necessarily. As I said, I am learning a lot [from him]. At every chance that I get, I ask him a few questions. For me, it is just about playing my own game and not necessarily worry 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 a 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 left the team, when I was dropped, against Australia. It was 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 with my game, the whole 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 intent cricketer and you take that to the 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. So, 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? [At the time of recording] This will be your 17th Test match, in Newlands. How will you describe your growth from when you had debuted to where you are now?
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 there is still have a lot to work on. But, I think I have batted well, especially in the last year. It’s about keeping on 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 they are at the highest level of the game, 90% of the game is played in your mind and at this level, you can say that pretty much everyone has the skills and ability to play Test cricket. So, what has been – from your point of view – the adjustment, the mental approach and focus, how the game is played in the mind?
KB– I do believe it is a mind game. Coming in and playing here [in South Africa] against the number one team, you tell yourself “You can do it” but it isn’t easy. They say that once you believe in yourself, and you have to be mentally strong, and everything is not going to be 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– It was not until your 11th Test match that you made your first 100, at Port of Spain vs New Zealand. Did you feel any pressure coming into the Test that you needed to produce a big hundred as a top order batsman? What were your thoughts, what was going on in your mind? How did you feel when you got to the 100?
KB– Coming back in to the team, I obviously felt the pressure. I had played before, and had four 50s then, I think. In the end, you are coming back, and you already want to show that 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 can 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– Talking about that, if you look into WI history, every person is a legend – take any name. You come from Barbados, which has on its own produced many legends – Sir Garry, the 3 Ws. What does it feel for you as a player coming from Barbados to don the maroon cap and play for the West Indies?
KB– I am a very proud Barbadian. A lot of legends come from Barbados. For me, not that I am feeling 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– Talking about the runs, you are in some sort of a purple patch. The 11th match was the first hundred, but you have already scored 3 – including one double hundred against Bangladesh at St. Vincent. 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 – always improve on my things. That is what I have to do – 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 out?
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. So, 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 shots selections. So far, I have been batting well, hitting my shots with variety around the ground. Let us hope I get confidence to play more and more.
SJ– The third Test hundred that you made was in the last Test in Port Elizabeth against the no.1 ranked team. There was a bit of spice on the pitch, even-though Port Elizabeth is not thought of being as challenging as Centurion or any place else. Still, it was a lively wicket. So, what was your approach to the innings and how satisfying was it to get a 100 against the no.1 team in the world, with he bowlers like (Dale) Steyn, (Morne) Morkel and (Vernon) Philander?
KB– For me, this year, I knew how I got my runs. 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 & 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– Your partnership with Marlon Samuels. When he is in flow, he makes batting look so easy, so simple. Talking about that match where you made a hundred vs NZ, in the second innings Chris Gayle makes 80 in 46 balls or something, chasing 95, 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 gett caught up in it, not that if they are going after it then I must too. i just have to play my game, and keeping 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 those guys are playing some good shots. You just have to make sure you are playing your own game.
SJ– Lastly, I want to ask about captaincy. You have captained your club side, and you bring the same approach to the club game as you do for the West Indies. What sort of captain are you? Are you laid back, intense, aggressive, or a wait and watch patient approach, like your batting?
KB– As a captain, I am still learning a lot about captaincy and leading [a team]. I think I could be laid back, 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 tryand 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 West Indies saying that Kraigg Brathwaite is a possible candidate for future captain of the West Indies Test team. Your thoughts on that?
KB– Well, captaining my first class team 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– Alright. People have some personal goals to what they want to achieve in their career. Do you have any such, like 20 Test hundreds or 30 hundreds or 8000-10000 runs.
KB– I obviously have a goal. For me, especially now, it’s focusing series by series. This series [vs SA] 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 much runs as possible.
SJ– Alright, man! Thank you so much!
KB– Thanks a lot!
Episode transcribed by: Bharathram Pattabiraman