Bravo jets off to IPL after tour omission
Dwayne Bravo's surgically-repaired ankle has been deemed too fragile for West Indies' Test series in England, but strong enough to withstand the rigours of Twenty20 cricket. Bravo, speaking prior to boarding a Durban-bound flight on Tuesday, confirmed he will represent the Mumbai Indians in the IPL while his West Indian team-mates play two Tests against England.
"This is a situation forced on me," Bravo told Cricinfo. "It is not a decision I made. It was made by the [West Indies] team medical staff and the selectors. The situation is that I have been advised by doctors to get my ankle stronger before I can play five-day cricket. The plan is to join the [West Indian] team in England when the one-day series begins."
Bravo, who played all five one-day internationals against England in the recently-completed series in the Caribbean, insists his appearance in the IPL is not related to the simmering feud between the West Indies board and its players. "I think everyone knows that Test cricket is the most important," he said. "Everyone wants to play it."
That, though, contrasts with the views expressed by the all-rounder in an interview published last week, during which he spoke of the conflict experienced by West Indian players in deciding whether to tour England or play in the IPL. Speaking a day after his captain, Chris Gayle, hinted at a possible player boycott of the fifth one-day international in St Lucia, Bravo expressed dissatisfaction with the WICB for organising the tour of England, which overlaps with the IPL, without consulting players. The tour was arranged at short notice after the withdrawal of Sri Lanka - whose hand was forced when 13 players demanded they be allowed to play in the IPL - and falls outside the Future Tours Programme.
"[The] England tour came up, where the WICB went on and signed that tour without letting WIPA know anything about the tour," Bravo told Caribbeancricket.com. "We signed our contract to go and represent our IPL team, now we are in a position where we have to choose whether to go and play IPL for the first six weeks or go to England.
"It is a tricky situation. If we choose to go and play IPL, they will say why the players, they want their money. We will be going to play in England so I don't know where it came about from, but it is something we need to look at in the near future and see how the board do things. They have to understand that the Sri Lanka players pull out [of the England tour] because their board are aware that the key players have IPL contracts and therefore they allow the players to get income another way."
In the same interview, Bravo revealed he had not been paid by the WICB during his enforced eight-month lay-off after undergoing surgery to his damaged left ankle. "It is just upsetting," he said. "The little bit that I've made representing the West Indies for the last four years, I have to live off it."
Bravo was in a more conciliatory mood this week when discussing the circumstances under which he will be allowed to play for the Mumbai Indians while his West Indian teammates are engaged in a Test series in England.
"The tour is going on and the West Indies will take part in that series [in England]," he said. "I am excluded because of my situation with the injury. I have played five one-day games for the West Indies but I am yet to play in any longer forms of the game. I still am experiencing side effects [with the ankle]. I am trying to monitor it as best I can and work with the physio and the team doctor to get myself 100 percent fit. I will look to play in the Test series against Bangladesh later in the year and the one-day series in England before that."
Bravo, rated one of international cricket's premier all-rounders, was reported last year to have signed a contract worth between $200,000 and $250,000 with the Mukesh Ambani-owned Mumbai franchise, and rewarded them with 11 wickets at 21.09 and 178 runs at 29.66. So desperate were they for him to play a ninth and final game in 2008 - against Deccan Chargers on May 18 - the Indians agreed to fly Bravo to Jamaica via private jet to allow him to play the first Test against Australia beginning at Sabina Park four days later.
Mumbai might opt for a similar course of action in 2009, should Bravo prove similarly valuable in South Africa. The first match of the one-day series between the West Indies and England will be played at Headingley on May 21; the same day the Indians are due to play Delhi in their final home-and-away match of the IPL season.
Meanwhile, Kolkata coach John Buchanan has been informed Gayle, the West Indies captain, will be available for the first seven games of this year's IPL. Should that eventuate, Gayle will remain in South Africa until May 1, and join the West Indies ahead of the first Test at Lord's, which begins on May 6.
"As far as we know we've got him for about the first seven games here," Buchanan said. "We expect him at this stage to be leaving us in the first couple of days of May, so that under the current schedule means he should play about seven games for us this time."
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo