He might be the oldest member in West Indies' T20 squad for the Ireland series, but Dwayne Bravo feels like a "kid" after getting the national call-up that will mark his return to international cricket after a nearly four-year long hiatus.
According to Bravo, the three Ireland T20Is, which begin on January 15, were on his mind when he came out of retirement in December. So when he got a call from Roger Harper, the former West Indies allrounder and current chairman of selectors, last week, Bravo could not hide his excitement.
"It's a great feeling," Bravo told the Trinidad-based radio station I955 fm on Sunday. "I feel like a kid again when I first get a call Mr Harper that welcome back to the team and play international cricket and they were looking forward to have me back. It is something that was always on my mind since the change of leadership and stuff. So just happy I get the opportunity to represent the region again and I am looking forward to doing my best."
Bravo had a difficult 2019 after picking up a finger injury that kept him out of the Caribbean Premier League but he bounced back from that to lead the Maratha Arabians to win the Abu Dhabi T10 title last November.
"If you ask anyone in world cricket to name five death bowlers in the last decade, definitely my name will come along with Lasith Malinga, Jasprit Bumrah, Mitchell Starc"
Asked if he might be a bit rusty, Bravo disagreed, pointing out fitness was his primary focus during his rehab. "Yeah, (playing) a lot of cricket is important, but for me because of the experience I've gained over the years, I am more concerned about my fitness. Obviously, I had this broken finger, (which) kept getting stronger. I started practising, played a couple of games for Queen's Park (his local club in Trinidad), but over the years, despite not playing not much cricket, I am still able to go there and compete and contribute in a very good way.
"For example in the last T10 league, I hadn't played any cricket in about four months prior to that and still was able to go there and deliver and also win the title. It is just happy time for me. Since I announce my return in December, my mind and my motivation was on this series and now that I'm selected I am very happy."
Bravo added that he is a "smarter" bowler now, even if the pace has dipped. "I'm a better bowler, I'm a better all-round cricketer. Obviously I'm older, so I will not be as quick I used to be before, but I am also very smarter and have a bigger knowledge on the game."
"We lack a proper death-over specialist"
With the T20 World Cup scheduled in Australia in October, Bravo's return is clearly an indication that Harper's panel wants to not just blend experience and youth, but also plug holes. Harper had said that Bravo had been brought back with the "specific" intention of being West Indies' death-overs specialist.
Bravo is happy to take up the responsibility. "Death bowling is an art," he said. "Not many people around the world have really nailed death bowling to the T. If you ask anyone in world cricket to name five death bowlers in the last decade, definitely my name will come along with Lasith Malinga, Jasprit Bumrah, Mitchell Starc.
"It is not an easy time of the game, that's why it is called death. A special skill is required to bowl in those situations. Most times, if you have the ball in the death overs, and you don't win the game, everyone turn to you, and say, "okay, it is because of the last over". But you don't win or lose a game in the last over. So many times, I win a game in the last over and no one says anything. I have defended 6 runs in 6 balls. I have defended 11 runs in 6 balls. I don't have to prove anything to anyone. My stats over the years are there for everyone to see. Like I said, if you were to name three or five death-over specialists my name will be there."
According to Bravo West Indies' bowlers have struggled to close out games, especially during the World Cup and even in the recent series against India in December. Now that he is back, he wants to mentor the other bowlers and teach them the tricks that could deployed at death.
"Recently that is where West Indies did falter," he said. "If you look at the 50-overs World Cup, if you look at the series in India, both in T20s and in ODIs, we lack a really, really proper death-overs specialist.
"Again this is my motivation also to try and work with current bowlers. There's [Sheldon] Cottrell, there's Keemo Paul, there's Alzarri Joseph, there's Oshane Thomas, there's Kesrick Williams. Collectively all of us have to get better, myself included. But with the experience that I have, I can get them to understand the importance of certain deliveries and when to bowl certain deliveries and work on a better finishing game plan."
T20 World Cup - 'playing by ear'
Bravo said that he and Harper had not spoken about the T20 World Cup, where West Indies will defend their crown. The side still has 18 matches to go before that tournament and Bravo doesn't want to look too far ahead, though he did reiterate his "full commitment" to the West Indies.
"We never discuss anything like that (on T20 World Cup selection). Yes, a World Cup year, but it is only in October," he said. "There's this series and there's a Sri Lanka series right after. I guess if I do well in this series, chances are I might be selected for the next series. It is just a matter of playing it by ear, series by series. Obviously they will be trying players to see what is the best combination and the best squad they that they think and select come October. Starting off with Ireland series is just one step to something positive in the making."
"Looking forward to play with Gayle in maroon"
It was in 2013 when the cream of the Caribbean players including Bravo, Chris Gayle, Andre Russell and Sunil Narine last played together in a West Indies team. Recently Gayle commented that he would keep his options open for the T20 World Cup as he continues keeping himself fit by playing the franchise-based tournaments around the world. Bravo said he still was confident he would link up with Gayle soon.
"Well, he hasn't gone anyway so I don't think he has to make a comeback. He's been there all the time as the Universe Boss as we call him. He is our leader. He is our real, real leader after Brian Lara. Yes, there was Chanderpaul and Sarwan, but Chris Gayle is the next real batting icon of the Caribbean that all the players look upto. He's still playing.
"I'm looking forward to playing with him once again in the maroon. That will be good to see the Universe Boss and the Champion on the field again along with Russell and Narine - all these players who we all wanted to play. That's all we ever wanted to do. The Universe Boss will be there and about. Obviously he is on the other side of 40, so it is just a matter of managing him properly and picking different series to play him."