Picture this: The MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai is packed. Chennai Super Kings are in town and thousands of fans saw MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina plundering for fun in the first innings. The pitch doesn’t seem to have many demons, which means it’s favorable for batsmen. But with CSK having so many games on board, they fancy their chances.
When their bowling games start, people in the stands celebrate. They’ve seen everything they came to see, and barring something spectacular, they should have enough to see off the opposition. The only problem with this though is that CSK’s opponents have a slightly different plan.
They attack and attack and attack. This reduces CSK’s huge total to a very chaseable target. The confidence that filled the stadium at halftime has now given way to tense murmurs and a sense of nervousness.
Dhoni as always is calm behind the stumps. He is aware that this game is leaving him and CSK. But he chooses to keep his cards close to his chest (of course he does; what else has he been doing in his career). There are two reasons for this – the first is because he understands that a moment of magic can turn the tide. Secondly, because he knows that he has someone who is suitable for this exact role.
And if you haven’t realized by now that the great MS Dhoni is counting on Dwayne Bravo to produce this moment of magic, well you missed a truly epic cricket story. Well done and Dhoni. Bravo and Chennai. Well done and IPL. Choose. Each is equally drool-worthy.
Dwayne Bravo has been sensational for CSK
Bravo, ever since he started playing cricket, he has been this dashing figure. Capable of producing what others can only dream of, almost all of his best cricket was played with the kind of flair you usually associate with West Indian cricketers. Chennai, however, is a bit more relaxed as a city.
They appreciate cricket and are not averse to applause even if a cricketer from another country plays well against India. But try to think of any international or top-flight cricketer from this city who would have danced after hitting the wicket or batted with such panache that you wondered how carefree and fearless a batsman could be. You won’t find much (if anything).
And that’s what made this marriage between Bravo and Chennai (extended to CSK of course) so special. They were different in their perception of cricket. For more than a decade, however, it was believed that Bravo was destined for Chennai and Chennai for Bravo.
Whenever we talk about an all-rounder, it should also be remembered that he has picked up more IPL wickets than anyone else. When T20 cricket was still a relatively new fad, not many thought that West Indies, armed with a myriad of variations, would end up taking on the more conventionally equipped bowlers in arguably the biggest T20 league in the world. But that was the beauty of it. You always knew you were in a competition with him, but you could never predict when he would outwit you.
In fact, after a few years, batsmen started telegraphing his slower deliveries. Nevertheless, he continued to pick wickets. It was almost as if he was telling hitters that they could throw their best shot at him and he would still have an answer for it.
This particular approach led to 183 IPL wickets in 161 matches. A few came for Gujarat Giants and Mumbai Indians. Most, however, have come for CSK, which means his latest stint with the franchise, as bowling coach, isn’t entirely surprising. If you want your next generation to develop the kind of wicket-taking guile that the all-rounder had, what better way than to have him in the line-up.
The one quality that endeared Dhoni, Chennai and almost everyone who watched the IPL to Bravo was his penchant for getting himself into tough situations. He used to bowl exclusively on death, which is not highly recommended given that runes can leak and these spells can destroy your confidence. All-rounder, however, thrived in this environment.
Whenever CSK needed him, he was available to answer their call. The miraculous comeback in 2018 will go down in IPL folklore as one of the greatest turnarounds of all time. In their first match back, however, things were not so rosy. Against MI, at the Wankhede Stadium, CSK found themselves in all sorts of controversies.
Dhoni, Jadeja and Raina were dismissed. Ambati Rayudu and Shane Watson didn’t score much either. Ahead of this match, the internet and social media were abuzz with memes about how CSK had signed ‘Dad’s Army’, mentioning that many of their stars were in their 30s. So the crushing defeat that seemed imminent could have thrown their campaign into disarray before it had even begun.
Only for Bravo to grab the bull by the horns and tell everyone that he, CSK or the thousands wearing yellow at the Wankhede Stadium will not be beaten. Or even if they were going down, they would never let the opposition know when they were going to be beaten. And this is just one of the countless times Bravo has taken charge.
So you kind of understand why he is such a cult figure among CSK fans and cricket lovers in Chennai. You would get all the brilliance, dance moves and flair from him. But then you’d also get the steely determination, skill and tactical awareness to be ahead.
That was Bravo in a nutshell. Cheerful, charismatic, and above all, a cricket champion. A cricketer who has forged a very unique relationship with a city and a franchise that will transcend eras and different competitions.
If you can gain the trust of Dhoni, a complete unknown city and almost all your teammates, then you are pretty special. And Bravo was a special cricket. In every sense of the word.