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Kraigg Brathwaite: Brisbane win is 'history' as West Indies face England challenge

Captain backs young players to learn on the job as Mikyle Louis prepares to make debut

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
09-Jul-2024
Kraigg Brathwaite says that West Indies' stunning victory over Australia in Brisbane is "history" as his team turns its attention to Wednesday's first Test against England at Lord's. However, he hopes that the confidence gleaned from that performance in January will help lift an inexperienced line-up as they prepare for another tough test of their mettle.
Going into the second Test of that Australia tour in January, West Indies were given next to no hope of competing at a venue where the hosts had lost just once in 34 Tests dating back to 1988, especially after an emphatic ten-wicket defeat in the series opener at Adelaide.
However, with battling half-centuries from Kavem Hodge, Joshua da Silva and Kevin Sinclair, allied to key second-innings runs from the likes of Alick Athanaze and Kirk McKenzie, the match was captured in extraordinary circumstances, as Shamar Joseph's second-innings figures of 7 for 68 in 11.5 overs blew away Australia's middle and lower order for a famous eight-run win.
Six months later, the challenge is no less stiff, as West Indies head to another country where they haven't landed a series win since their region's heyday in 1988. In their entire squad, only three players - Brathwaite himself, plus Jason Holder and Alzarri Joseph - have prior experience of playing at Lord's, but the captain believes from what he witnessed in Australia that his team can overcome the odds once again.
"It was a big positive for us to get a win, because it shows that we could we could get the job done," Brathwaite said. "Obviously the key for us as a group is to do it consistently.
"We could take a lot of stuff from that game as batsmen, because we had some important partnerships. Then the bowlers were outstanding. Shamar was the star. But pretty much all the bowlers put in a very good effort, and we caught well as well.
"But it's history, it's gone. We got to look forward to this, then the other Test matches in this series, but it at least gives a start that we could get the job done. We've just got to believe in ourselves."
Brathwaite confirmed his XI on the eve of the Test, with his new opening partner Mikyle Louis set to make history as the first player in West Indies' history from the island of St Kitts. The middle-order is scarcely any more experienced, with No.3-5, McKenzie, Athanaze, and Hodge, boasting a combined tally of nine caps and 453 runs between them.
Nevertheless, having each played a key part in the Brisbane triumph, Brathwaite is confident that they, and the rest of the rookies in his line-up, are ready to learn on the job.
"I think they're young and exciting," he said. "Kirk McKenzie got a few fifties in Australia, which was good, Hodge got a nice 80 (71) as well, and Alick got some confidence to show he can do it consistently. The more games they play, the better. They have a lot of talent and we are fully 100% behind them."
"My advice to all the younger boys in the group, like Mikyle making his debut, is don't just expect to play for West Indies, expect to be the first to score 30 hundreds."
Kraigg Brathwaite
The experience of Brathwaite at the top of the order, however, will be crucial, just as it was when his painstaking century in Barbados set West Indies on their way to a hard-fought 1-0 win in the spring of 2022, a result that has now extended their unbeaten home series record against England to 20 years and counting.
England's Bazball mentality means that Ben Stokes' team will not be seeking to emulate Brathwaite's innings of 160 from 489 balls in that Bridgetown encounter, but the man himself said he would not allow his proven methods to be hurried by his opponents' approach.
"My general style is taking my time, and that's me," he said. "All the batters must bat their game, and back their plan. That's what we will do, we focus on ourselves. Making sure we fight is very important. But every batter has a different style and one thing we urge is for guys to have their plans and back yourself.
"It's a young group, especially the batsmen, they have a lot of time to learn because obviously playing Test cricket it takes a while to really understand. You're always learning on the job, but it's a very decent team, for sure."
In his last appearance at Lord's in 2017, Brathwaite entered the history books when he became James Anderson's 500th Test wicket, courtesy of a massive inswinger that set Anderson on his way to his career-best figures of 7 for 42. And though he played down his own recollection of the moment - "I remember the ball, I don't think about it too much" - Brathwaite acknowledged the skills that his opponent had brought to bear in the course of their previous encounters.
"Obviously he's a legend of the game, he's very consistent," Brathwaite said. "He hits a line and length, then could determine whether it goes in or out, and that was obviously a skill in itself. Facing him in England is a good challenge, you've really got to be on it. But once you come out on the positive side by getting runs, it really gives you a lot of confidence."
In terms of the lessons he would pass onto his team-mates before Anderson's Test farewell, Brathwaite said: "You've got a couple of split seconds to decide. You've really got to trust your eyes. Obviously, it's not 90 miles an hour, so you have a bit more time to see it, but I would say trust your defence, whether you're going to attack or defend the ball, fully believe in yourself, and stay as still as possible. That's very important.
"My advice to all the younger boys in the group, like Mikyle making his debut, is don't just expect to play for West Indies, expect to be the first to score 30 hundreds. You got to think big, you know. Don't think too small.
"We have our plans, so believe in your plan. And enjoy it as well. Because it's always a great series playing here in England. And we truly look forward to it."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket