Renaldo Matadeen is a sportswriter and social media manager for ESPN Caribbean
Following another Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel defeat in the inaugural Caribbean Premier League (CPL), captain Dwayne Bravo is emphasizing that he is still maturing in his role as a captain. Bravo recently came in some flak following disappointing home series against India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, which also saw a dip in the all-rounder's form. With fans mulling over his leadership qualities, Bravo made it clear, "I'm backing myself to do well as a captain of any team I lead."
The most recent CPL loss to Jamaica Tallawahs has reignited talks over Bravo's ability to captain, as Trinidad's dismal form has been compounded by three consecutive losses. "I know fans in the region, and in Trinidad, may be questioning my ability to lead, but I ask them to bear with me. I'm growing as a captain. I see it as a learning curve and a patient process. It's not easy to adapt but I am trying. I'm confident I'm the man to do the job and I just need folks to rally around me."
In Jamaica's five-run victory, Bravo bowled the 19th over and was slaughtered by Vernon Philander and Danza Hyatt for 26, when the likes of Samuel Badree (0 for 7 in two overs) and Suliemann Benn (0 for12 in two overs) were expected to finish at the death of the innings. "I know we have good bowlers but I had good figures up until that point and I was confident as the most experienced bowler. I've been in this pressure situation many times [before] and pulled it off, but unfortunately today, it didn't work out. If we had won the game, people wouldn't be talking about the over, but we lost so it stands out more," he admitted. "I'll accept responsibility. I have to work on my bowling because it's been letting me down recently, but today I was glad to give a good batting display."
Bravo confessed that he would remain undaunted in his capacity to deliver. "80% of the fans will be for you when you're going through a rough patch. The other 20% would say otherwise, but I just need a win and some good individual performances to convince everyone otherwise.
"Everyone has ups and downs as captain - Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar and even Ricky Ponting, when he lost Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne to retirement. But history doesn't remember those periods as much, it remembers they were great captains. I aspire to be that same thing," professed Bravo rather dejectedly.
The loss exacerbated a miserable start by Bravo's unit, but he ensured that he was ready to make changes, reassess and lead the right eleven out in the future. He did say that it was frustrating coming off the heels of some off-key West Indies performances of late. However, he indicated that his role as mentor to the younger players was not deterred. Nicholas Pooran, who turned in another elegant cameo against Jamaica Tallawahs, is a player he wants to groom.
"He has the ability and talent [and I] can see him become the next Kieron Pollard. I'm the captain and I would like to see Nicholas continue playing his natural game, freely and organically, and we'll guide him. This keeps him grounded and we should support players like this. He can bat both left and right-handed, and I'm urging him to show this at some point in the CPL. I'm there to encourage youngsters to give it their all.
"A captain is as good as his team. I am aiming to improve for my franchise and the West Indies. It's a dream come true to lead my country and the West Indies, ever since I was a little kid. But I wasn't groomed in my career to lead. I've been learning through playing and it's been challenging. But I'm gathering experience and I'm hoping for support from the regional fans. I know I'll win you over and bring joy to you soon."