LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 31: Ashley Nurse of the West Indies celebrates catching Shahid Afridi of the ICC Word XI (not pictured) out with Carlos Brathwaite of the West Indies during the Hurricane Relief T20 match between the ICC World XI and West Indies at Lord's Cricket Ground on May 31, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)

Carlos Brathwaite: “I’d like to see the Test cricket format stay as it is”

The West Indies captain Carlos Brathwaite may be powerful and aggressive on the pitch, but he gives off a relaxed and calm impression away from the game. In his post match press conference, Brathwaite was softly-spoken and witty, as he infused humour into his replies to some rather probing questions.

The West Indies vs ICC Rest of the World XI match was a huge success. It drew a large crowd to the ground and thanks to Sky Sports’ fantastic coverage, thousands of fans all over the world were able to tune in for free.

Nominally it was a charity match, but the international status of the event ensured that it was played in a competitive spirit. Brathwaite remarked “it was a proper game of cricket, it did not feel like a charity game at all”. The West Indies went in with the intent of treating it like any other international fixture.
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Indeed, the West Indies put in a complete performance as they were ruthless with both bat and ball and took some stunning catches in the field. Evin Lewis led the way with a 28 ball 56, while Marlon Samuels and Dinesh Ramdin both hit cameos to take the Windies up to a total of 199/4. Samuel Badree and Andre Russell caused havoc early on with the ball, to reduce the Rest of the World XI to 8/4 and they were subsequently all-out for just 127.

Nevertheless, despite acknowledging that his side “did justice on the field”, Brathwaite reminded us in his post-match press conference that

“regardless of win or loss it was about raising the funds”.

Last year, I had the privilege of attending Jason Holder’s press conference at Lord’s ahead of the England vs West Indies Test match. A few days earlier news of the hurricane had broken and we saw the extent of the damage. Brathwaite yesterday gave us some more insights into the terrible effects of the storms.

He said that “it put everything into perspective” and “everyone in the Caribbean felt it in some way”. Although it was great to get a win at Lord’s, Brathwaite reminded us “most important going forward is the funds collected, going into infrastructure” to aid the restoration of five grounds damaged by the passing of the two hurricanes.

The West Indies captain was very grateful to have the opportunity to play in such a match and repeatedly thanked the ICC, the MCC and the players from the Rest of the World XI for giving up their match fees. Also, Shahid Afridi announced that his foundation would be donating $20,000 to the cause.
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On Tuesday, Brathwaite had spoken about wanting this to be an annual event and he felt it was suitably successful for it become a regular fixture in the calendar. However, he did concede that:

“the summer in England is very hectic and may not be able to host a T20 game ever year… but every year we need something like this… we do not know when disaster will strike”

For many of his players it was their first time playing at Lord’s and he told them to make the most of it. When I asked him about whether his side had made any plans to combat Rashid Khan, he laughed and said that he had faced him in the nets in India, but that his side on the whole had not watched any footage or done research. “Some of the guys were in fitness camp and some of them were playing in the IPL”, Brathwaite said, “but for the players it was a matter of expressing yourself”.

Many of the journalists at the conference were keen to hear Brathwaite’s views on Test cricket and the growing rise of T20 and franchise cricket. When he was asked about what we could do to get Test cricket back to prominence in the West Indies he laughed and joked “I would be a multi-billionaire if I knew”. However, he went on to say that he would like to see the Test cricket format stay as it is but noted that he was “not sure if it is financially viable for a lot of Test nations”.

Brathwaite elaborated: “the game is changing, there are new fresh challenges in T20” and remarked that the most important thing is to “try to find a way to continue to grow it globally”. He still insisted that the West Indies pride themselves on their Test cricket, but they have “got to be flexible” and the “we have to try and get people into the game”, with the implication being that this may be at the expense of Test cricket.

Part of Sky’s coverage yesterday involved Nasser Hussain commentating whilst standing on the pitch. For Mitchell McCleneghan’s opening spell, Nasser was firmly planted at first slip wearing a go-pro camera on his hat. He was later spotted at deep-midwicket and even at mid-on interviewing the bowler between balls.

I asked Brathwaite whether he found this distracting as a captain and if it had a future in the game. His response was humorous again saying it would be great if he could help pass the ball round the field but said that it was great “to see Sky something different at least” and the game happens so quickly that you don’t really notice him there and so “he wasn’t a massive distraction”. He also likened it to spider-cam and umpires wearing cameras, which at first were a shock to the system, but have soon been accepted by most fans and enhanced our watching of the game.

Looking ahead to later this year, the West Indies, the reigning champions, will be hosting the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup. Brathwaite was delighted that such an event will be played in the Caribbean. “I think it will be massive”, Brathwaite said, “to have a tournament of that magnitude back in the Windies”. “It’ll do wonders for cricket in the West Indies”, he continued, and described how it would hopefully inspire lots of young cricketers to try to emulate the role models in front of them.

After a turbulent year in the Caribbean, there is hope on the horizon for the West Indies cricket team.

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