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Match Analysis

Brandon King is rising once again, but as middle-order batter

From 196 for 5 in a chase of 309, King's composed knock at No. 4 almost took West Indies over the line against India

Deivarayan Muthu
Brandon King worked his way around playing spin against India  •  Getty Images

Brandon King worked his way around playing spin against India  •  Getty Images

"It's a hundred for Brandon King! (pause). Batting royalty here at the Providence".
That was Ian Bishop on commentary after King had rumbled to a 59-ball century in the CPL 2019 qualifier. King's 72-ball 132 not out, which is still the highest individual score in CPL history, moved Johan Botha, who was the coach of Guyana Amazon Warriors at the time, to tears and signalled the rise of a new star in West Indian white-ball cricket.
After a breakout season, King was immediately called up to West Indies' white-ball squads to face Afghanistan and India in India in 2019. King's CPL star quality, however, faded out in international cricket, and he was dropped from the West Indies set-up after those stints in 2019 and 2020.
Having then made his comeback on a tour to Pakistan in December 2021, King is rising once again, but as a middle-order batter.
King had started his career as a middle-order batter for Jamaica, and after having two productive first-class seasons, he was picked for a similar role in the West Indies A side in August 2019. He also began his CPL career in the middle order for St Kitts & Nevis Patriots before Botha transformed him into a hard-hitting opener at Amazon Warriors.
Though King enjoyed some success at the top - he has also batted at No. 3 for West Indies B in the Global T20 Canada - his dream was always to become a middle-order batter for West Indies, like his hero Ramnaresh Sarwan.
King wears jersey no. 53 as a tribute to Sarwan, and against India at the Queen's Park Oval on Friday, where Sarwan has played a number of excellent hands, King produced one of his own - although he couldn't take his team over the line against India.
He came out to bat at No. 4 after West Indies were 133 for 2 in their pursuit of 309. Shamarh Brooks had just holed out for 46, and two overs later, King watched Kyle Mayers chase a wide ball and nick it behind for 75. When Nicholas Pooran and then Rovman Powell also fell, West Indies were 196 for 5 in the 37th over.
King, however, didn't panic and just focused on taking the chase deep along with the lower middle order. He loves pace on the ball, and has been vulnerable to spin in the past, but he worked his way around that potential weakness on a Port of Spain surface that slowed down considerably in the second innings.
King took 34 off 39 balls against Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel before Chahal ultimately trumped him. When Axar was just finding some grip and turn, King unsettled him by dashing out of the crease and clattering him with the turn over extra cover. Then, when Chahal erred too full with his wrong'un, he sank to one knee and slog-swept him over midwicket for a six.
"It's not too much about beating India. It's just about our batting formula and how you want to play cricket."
Brandon King on a close loss in the first ODI
When the asking rate shot past ten, King decided to take another chance against Chahal, but the spinner hid a wide legbreak away from his reach and had him skewing a catch to deep cover.
West Indies needed 57 from 33 balls at that stage, and they eventually lost by three runs despite late blows from Romario Shepherd and Akeal Hosein. However, West Indies' comeback, after they were swept 3-0 by Bangladesh earlier this month, made Pooran feel like it was a win.
In a way, it was a win for King too, who showed that he could cut it against India's IPL stars. It was a win for King's first West Indies captain Kieron Pollard, who was vocal about protecting him and other bright talents from "vultures that are out to take down their careers".
Fittingly, Pollard was in attendance at the Queen's Park Oval to see King blossom in international cricket. On another day, King could have finished it off for West Indies, but he took his dismissal and the other early wickets in his stride.
"Even though they [India] scored 300-plus, it was a lovely batting wicket," King said at the post-match press conference. "It wasn't a wicket where you had to take a lot of risks - just rotate the strike and take the game as deep as possible. That's all I tried to do.
"We always believed that if we bring the game down to the last five overs, we have the guys that can chase down any total, and I think [Romario] Shepherd and Akeal [Hosein] showed that today that we're always in the game. [We] would have liked it if some of the early wickets didn't fall and we could've had some of the batsmen there at the end; but it's part of the game."
West Indies still have many holes to plug in their batting - with or without the likes of Shimron Hetmyer and Evin Lewis - but Friday's chase was a sign of their progress, and perhaps, a cause for alarm for India.
"It's not too much about beating India," King said. "It's just about our batting formula and how you want to play cricket. Bringing down the game to the last ball chasing 300-plus was good for us. On another day, we would get over the line."

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo