Veteran all-rounder Dwayne Bravo led the Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel to victory in the 2015 CPL, and (as Trinbago Knight Riders) to consecutive wins in 2017 and 2018. As he prepares to defend the title, he sat down with PARKITE Sports editor Sheldon Waithe for a frank interview at the Queen’s Park Oval
By Sheldon Waithe
Published in Parkite Sports Magazine
Bowler. Batsman. Fielder extraordinaire. Singer. Dancer. Multi-tasker. Entertainer. Hero. Champion.
“I think I was born to play cricket, it’s my gift.” Dwayne John Bravo is laid back for our chat, inside the walls of the Queen’s Park Oval (QPCC) that honed that gift and where he would have toiled away perfecting his cricket, no doubt with his trademark smile the entire time.
He’s in a post-IPL chill zone – his efforts have helped Chennai Super Kings (CSK) to the final – before gearing up for the pressures of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) and leading the Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) in their defence of the title.
Despite his hectic globe-trotting schedule and the demands on his time, “DJ” is as enthusiastic as ever about the game, his passions, and laying foundations for the future, for both himself and the children of T&T. This isn’t public relations spiel; kids who approach him are greeted with a smile and given the same piece of advice – “Stay out of trouble.” It’s advice based on sincerity and honesty, which are exactly the sentiments that Bravo exudes on a number of topics.
The 2019 IPL saw him near to his best with the ball. “It was a better bowling performance, like the old me. Last year I was recovering from a hamstring injury that took me ten months to get back into full flow. This year I got injured again and missed four games, but I came back feeling stronger. It’s also a matter of experience and understanding my game a lot more now.”
Which leads on to the lingering questions all athletes must face regarding age, particularly for an all-rounder involved in all facets of the game (including celebratory dancing).
At 35 years old Bravo has confidence in a lifestyle geared towards extending his career. “I stay away from alcohol, smoking, gambling, I take my fitness very seriously. There are some injuries that you cannot prevent no matter how fit you are, you just have to accept that.
“It also helps how I manage the way I play the game. Early on in my career I would stand at backward point, cover point, extra cover; now I will stand at mid-on or mid-off. If the field is spread, maybe I’ll go to long off or deep backward square, where the ball won’t come too often [laughs].
“I don’t want to be in hotspots in the later stages of the game when I also have to bowl. MS (Dhoni, the CSK captain) is aware of that, and he doesn’t want me to dive or chase balls unnecessarily because the two overs that I have left to bowl are more important than saving four runs in the field.”
Bravo mentions Dhoni several times, not just because of their roles as Super Kings team-mates, but due to a connection that runs much deeper. “MS and I have developed a relationship where we now call ourselves a ‘brother from another mother’.
“My career turned for the better when I joined CSK back in 2011. I realised the trust he had in my ability – say, for example, where death bowling is concerned. For someone like him, one of the best captains in the world, to trust in my ability as a finisher … it gave me a lot of confidence. I enjoy time with him on the field, off the field; the respect is mutual.”
The former Indian captain has spoken of the pressures of captaincy in a cricket-mad nation, something his pseudo-sibling Bravo also has to cope with annually at CPL time. On the days after a TKR match, social media is filled with criticism of his leadership, his bowling or field placement, and often this is following a narrow win! Lose, and it is magnified a hundredfold.
Does he feel the strain? “Definitely! In Trinidad I feel it the most. It’s strange, despite all my achievements over the years, the amount of pressure I receive when I play here for TKR. As someone mentioned to me, it’s a kind of love/hate relationship. They see me as the hero to deliver.
“Obviously, if I don’t deliver, the passionate fans let you know [laughs]. We as a people don’t shy away from telling our players how we feel about their performance. You see the likes of Stern John, Kenwyne Jones on the receiving end, Brian Lara at some point. As the captain I try to shoulder it and protect the other players, I take the heat and jamming and the responsibility. I enjoy representing the red, white & black and playing for TKR, and always try to have a positive impact and make a difference to the nation.”
When he looks around the 2019 TKR dressing room, Bravo could be forgiven for thinking that he was running out for his alma mater, QPCC. The addition of Kieron Pollard to the list of Parkites – Sunil Narine, Khary Pierre, Tion Webster, Akeal Hosein and Darren “Lil” Bravo – is no doubt a boon.
“It’s a big, big bonus. He’s one of the best players in the world in this format, he has a great cricketing brain; we have a great relationship. Apart from all of that it’s another superstar in the squad. It was a great move by the TKR management to get Pollard to play for us.”
And who does Bravo see himself, Pollard & Co. battling for the CPL title? Here he assumes all the diplomacy of a seasoned press officer.
“In this format anyone can beat anyone on any given day. All games are big games because all the other five teams have match winners. The biggest games will always be Trinidad v. Jamaica: Trinidad v. Guyana is also a big one, but for me and TKR, we respect every opposition.”
It’s evident that his beginnings in Santa Cruz keep Bravo grounded amid the adulation, stress and criticism that come from being an in-demand T20 star. There’s a deep sense of fondness when he recalls his early days in the sport, something that he clearly carries with him every time he crosses that boundary rope to play.
“As a kid, I used to call myself the right-handed Lara. My dad used to pick up all the kids between ages 11 and 14 in Santa Cruz and take them to Harvard Coaching Clinic every Sunday morning. I used to tag along. Then one day when I was five I tried to register – but I think they only allowed from six years of age, so my dad changed my date of birth and they took me in [laughs].
“When I was eight years old, QPCC were playing Santa Cruz and a gentleman called Charles Guillen saw me and said, ‘I want you to come and join Queen’s Park Cricket Club’. We couldn’t afford for me to attend, but Charles said that he would sort it with the Club. My dad said, ‘Now your career will go in a different direction. Once you’re in QPCC you already have one foot down on the runway.’ That’s where it all started, at age eight.”
It’s not yet full circle for his playing career, but Bravo is aware of the sportsman’s bane of retirement. “Everyone wishes that they can play forever, but I’m going to allow my body to dictate when I leave the game, especially at the highest level. As long as my performances are good and I’m in demand I’ll continue, but one thing is for sure, I will not cheat myself by trying to stay in it too long.”
Bravo has the cushion of already scoring major success in another field, with 2016’s catchy anthem “Champion”. Surely this is the retirement plan?
“Obviously I have a serious passion for music, and currently I have a music studio being built; I believe that sports and culture go hand in hand: entertainment.”
When asked if we will soon see him collaborating with the big music icons of the Caribbean, he takes a different turn, in line with his philosophy about uplifting the young. “I would love to (collaborate), but I’m a big fan of helping the underdogs. So the unknown artistes, the ones not as big as the Machels (Montano) and the Bunjis (Garlin), I wanna work with them and try to create an avenue and a platform for them, expose them. T&T is one place, but there’s the outside world. I’m also aware that I have a very big kid’s audience, so I’ll continue putting out happy, positive, inspirational music.”
Bravo has struck the perfect balance between mature professionalism and child-like enthusiasm, which is why he endures in cricket. When allied to his skill, it makes him box-office material. And it’s all genuine – “I’m a very level-headed individual, I don’t fluctuate with success or failure” – from the guile of his slower balls taking wickets at the death of a game to his playful dancing in front of losing Tridents captain Kieron Pollard in last year’s CPL.
If DJ Bravo is all about the kids, he’s setting a fine example, and maybe the adults could learn from him as well. Let’s enjoy him while he’s still on the field, because Dwayne Bravo is certainly enjoying himself.
Why 47? Everyone always asks that. There’s no deeper meaning, it was just that when Ian Bradshaw and I made the Windies ODI squad he got number 46 and I got number 47. It was given to me and I turned it into the ‘23’ (Michael Jordan) of cricket . . . or the CR7 [laughs].
Favourite catch? It was the caught-and-bowled against Shane Warne in 2005. It was a Test match in Australia and getting six wickets in that game was a great achievement.
How will T10 evolve on the world stage? It’s going to be the next big thing. It’s one hour of non-stop entertainment, and once you have the best players it will take off.
Heroes & favourite teams outside cricket? As kids we always wanted to be Ato Boldon, Brian Lara, Dwight Yorke. We all tried to emulate them at some point . . . My favourite football team is Manchester United because of Dwighty, and I continued to back them after he left. I’m also a big Cristiano Ronaldo fan. In World Cup terms I’m a Brazil fan. In basketball I back the Lakers because of Kobe’s (Bryant) time there.
STATS: BOWLING & FIELDING
|Tests||40||86||6 for 55||39.83||41|
|ODIs||164||199||6 for 43||29.51||73|
|T20Is||66||52||4 for 28||28.26||35|
|T20||450||490||5 for 23||24.61||221|