Bravo, Gayle want seniors to inspire youngsters
Dwayne Bravo and Chris Gayle, believe that the presence of all the region's mercurial icons, presently back home for the inaugural Caribbean Premier League (CPL), is crucial to the development of West Indian youngsters, and the game as a whole. Bravo is leading the Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel, while Gayle is taking the reins of Jamaica's Tallawahs.
With the likes of Kieron Pollard (captain of Barbados Tridents), Marlon Samuels (captain of Antigua Hawksbills) and Sunil Narine (Guyana Amazon Warrior's franchise star) all helping fill the stands, Gayle and Bravo acknowledged that a break from international cricket was most welcomed. Both were adamant that the star players, playing back home, were all working together to raise the profile of the region.
"It's good to be back home," Bravo said. "We get to renew rivalries, and with this new franchise format, players are separated through the draft so that teams are more competitive and stronger. There's no longer one dominant force and this builds competitiveness, and allows younger players to touch base with a variety of experienced cricketers. The West Indians are certainly glad to be back and split around because we want to share the expertise from our tours abroad."
He deemed the CPL a success thus far, and hoped it would get bigger and better, as it seems the stars of the tournament so far have been the smaller names in West Indies cricket. With the likes of Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, Rayad Emrit, Ashley Nurse, Krishmar Santokie and Lendl Simmons all impressing in front of home crowds. Bravo was quick to add Fidel Edwards and Andre Russell as players to watch.
"The tournament's mood has been good because this allows us all to play at home and catch up with past team-mates and new ones too. Being back home as mentors allows players to keep the momentum up. We've been playing a lot of cricket abroad," Gayle added. When quizzed on his recent struggle for form, he replied in an unperturbed manner, "I'm taking it in stride, and it's a part of life, but I'm firm and positive. After this CPL ends, it's a couple of months rest to look forward to. But right now, we all want to give back to West Indian fans, and we're all back here for this CPL. We look forward to playing on the various pitches here, both with and against each other, and also with the younger players. They can learn from us and we'll strengthen the region moving forward."
Bravo, recently installed as the West Indies' limited-overs captain, also admitted to recent hiccups in form, but expressed his desire to recoup runs by playing against his team-mates. "We're here to spread the knowledge across the Caribbean, and it's important to ensure things remain intense, from ODIs to Tests to T20s. No one team will dominate the T20s as Trinidad did before. All teams will have the strongest lineups, but right now, we want to share our T20 insight with our various franchises, support each other, use the help from foreign players and coaches, and bring crowds out. The fans are why we play this game."
Gayle reiterated that the experienced stars coming back was part of a long-term plan to inspire young cricketers. Both stated that franchise cricket allows U-23 and U-19 players, who may not be breaking into their senior teams, to test their skills while making a good salary. The duo also allayed the skewed concerns of some fans that West Indies cricket was faltering again after mediocre home showings against India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. They referred to experienced players like Denesh Ramdin and Kemar Roach, who would help raise the quality of Caribbean cricket, alongside coaches such as Gordon Greenidge, Viv Richards and Curtly Ambrose, to name a few. CPL organisers reassured that Trinidad and Tobago would be this year's Champions League participants, but from the next edition on, the CPL tournament winners will represent the Caribbean.
When asked what would be his decision when the time came to select franchise or IPL team, Bravo, one of Chennai's influential stars, ended, "When that time comes, whichever team qualifies, the individual will have to make that decision. But for most players, the IPL team will be the number one."
Renaldo Matadeen is a sportswriter and social media manager for ESPN Caribbean