Kraigg Brathwaite dons a badge on his practice kit with a photo of his late grandparents. Despite not being permitted to wear it during a test match, he keeps the pin with him at all other times, allowing him to carry their memory with him wherever he goes. Brathwaite’s grandparents are never far from his thoughts, and he cherishes the opportunity to keep them close, even when he is on the cricket field.
“Test cricket means a lot to us in West Indies,”
Brathwaite said, ahead of the second Test against South Africa in Johannesburg.
“Our fans really follow Test cricket a lot and they want the Test team to do well.”
The decline of West Indies in International cricket
It might appear overly optimistic to suggest this, considering West Indies’ decline as a Test powerhouse and their poor record on foreign soil. Their last triumph against a top-eight team away from home dates back to 1995, when Kraigg Brathwaite was only three years old, and most of the current squad members were not even born yet or were younger than seven. The team’s glory days are a distant memory, though they have likely heard stories of their past success and aspire to achieve similar heights. However, with the increasing focus on T20 leagues and a general lack of attention on Test cricket outside of matches featuring India, Australia, and England, achieving such a feat would prove to be an incredibly daunting task.
Considering this context, Kraigg Brathwaite is a true reflection of his predecessors. He now exclusively plays Test cricket, occupying the 13th spot on West Indies’ all-time top Test run-scorer list, and his last ODI was almost six years ago, with no T20 appearances to his credit. Brathwaite would prefer that the West Indies team played Tests more frequently and improved their performances over time, if given the choice.
“You learn from playing. These two back to back tours – Zimbabwe and South Africa – have been good. You get rhythm,” Braithwaite said. “Some guys may not have done well but I think the more you play, the more you get familiar. It’s just better for us, as cricketers. When it’s spaced out so far, sometimes it’s tough.”
South Africa is to play just two test series till 2026
South Africa may find it tough in the coming months. They do not have any Test cricket games scheduled for the next nine months, and they will only play two-Test series until 2026. They were the No.1 team in the world just over a decade ago, but they have quickly become less important. Everyone, from the star bowler Kagiso Rabada to the new coach Shukri Conrad, wants to prevent this decline. Rabada wants Tests to be given more priority, while Conrad thinks that the lack of interest in Tests is a sign that things are going wrong, even though Brathwaite had a different opinion.
“Our and their proud traditions and heritage should be ample proof that we need to play more Test cricket. We cannot be excluded on the basis of not being leading lights in Test cricket. We are, and so are the West Indies” Conrad said. “But the sad reality is, in places like the West Indies and hopefully not here, the lack of Test cricket might mean that interest starts waning. That’s a place you never want to reach, because once a youngster doesn’t have the desire to play for his country that spells the beginning of the end.”
Bazzball is a fresh approach to playing a longer format
Last week’s cricket match at SuperSport Park didn’t have many people watching. The game started on Tuesday and ended on Thursday, and only a few hundred fans came to watch. The match wasn’t well-attended because the schedule was inconvenient. This shows that Test cricket is becoming less popular in some places. People find it boring, so they are looking for other types of cricket like Bazball.
During the English summer, Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum made it clear that they wanted to play an entertaining style of cricket, even if it meant losing matches, in order to attract more fans. Surprisingly, they have only lost two matches since then. Their aggressive approach to the game has been praised as revolutionary.
Currently, South Africa is trying to determine their batting strategy with a line-up where almost no one is sure of their position.
“It’s a unique set of circumstances. We don’t play a lot of Test cricket, so I’ve got to find novel ways. If that plays itself out in giving everybody a go and seeing how they react, so be it,”
“That brand will take longer on the batting front. There’s patience required in terms of the batting side.”
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