Kraigg Brathwaite bats long. Really long. His last century, a mammoth 182 against Zimbabwe, lasted a massive 468 minutes. A masterclass in patience and communication, the Barbadian hit just five boundaries on his way to three figures. For reference, the lowest boundary count in a Test ton since 2002 is four.
Sniffing out singles, Kraigg rotated strike religiously, reaching the landmark with a late cut in the 82nd over. The dogged knock helped form the ninth-highest opening partnership of all time – a gargantuan 336-run stand with the fresh faced Tagenarine Chanderpaul. More on him later…
While the partnership shocked many, Kraigg’s tenacious ton surprised few. Over the past decade, the Windies skipper has, often single handedly, held together a turbulent top order. Since the 2013 Test retirement of Chris Gayle, West Indian openers have scored 13 tons. 12 of those have been Brathwaite’s. That’s every single century scored by a Windies opener in the past ten years, until last month.
And he’s only getting better. The thirty-year-old averages an impressive, if a little modest 34.96 from his 85 tests. But this is in no way representative of his current form. Since the start of 2022, Kraigg averages a splendid 52.61, having come up against the likes of England, Australia and South Africa.
Paramount to his success is the Barbadian’s approach. It’s patience personified. Brathwaite is unbothered by the brisk pace of modern cricket. Opting instead for a calmer, traditionalist method, he places great impetus on playing the ball as late as possible.
Take his first successful series as skipper. Kraigg was named player of the series against England last March, averaging 85.25 to lead his nation to a historic 1-0 victory. In the second Test, he faced an agonising 673 balls across his two innings, scoring a combined 216 runs at a Boycott-esque strike-rate of 32.09. Leaving anything remotely treacherous, Kraigg’s stoic 160 in the first innings is the perfect example of the unbothered, unbusy batting that’s served him so well.
In one spell, the West Indian was bombarded by a barrage of Ben Stokes bouncers. Kraigg kept his cool. Unfazed by the English chin music, he ducked, swayed, and blocked. Over and over and over again. Eventually, Stokes gave up. Kriagg did what Kraigg always does, he just kept batting.
Brathwaite’s attritional technique has rewarded him down under, too. In conditions that have time-and-again got the better of Joe Root, the thirty-year-old has stood tall. He averages 47.22 in Australia with one hundred, a typically dogged 110 of 188 balls. The knock typified his role for the Windies – a steady rock in volatile seas. While his compatriots fell around him, captain Kraigg marched on, remaining patient and punishing anything over-pitched. When he finally fell in the seventy-second over, so did the rest of his side, capitulating without their helmsman.
His captaincy too deserves a mention. Off the pitch, West Indies cricket is in a state of disarray. A smorgasbord of structural and financial issues has the future of Caribbean cricket uncertain, especially in the Test arena. So, doubly impressive is the period of calm and relative competitiveness that Braithwaite has overseen on the pitch.
The right-hander endured a nervy start to his captaincy – a scoreless draw in his first series was followed by series losses to South Africa and Sri Lanka. Yet, one year on, the Windies would turn a corner. Braithwaite’s boys are unbeaten at home since their domineering victory over England last March and are steadily improving overseas. Although they lost both Tests, the side put up a reasonable fight in Australia this winter too, mainly thanks to their skipper. Their recent series loss to South Africa wasn’t pretty reading either.
Yet, Kraigg has reason to be hopeful for the future of his side. After a decade of failed attempts, the Windies may have finally found a partner equal to Braithwaite, both in quality and mindset. Tagenarine Chanderpaul looks the real deal. Worthy of his famous name, he too bats very long. After his first six matches, the crab-like batter has already faced almost a thousand deliveries.
His first century, which was also his first double-century, was a dominant display of grit and patience. Alongside his skipper, Tagenarine batted Zimbabwe into the ground, eeking out the runs to reach 207* off 467 balls. He’s shown promise down under, too. A 79 ball fifty in his first innings preluded a steady first series, Chanderpaul finishing the two-match tour with an average of 40.0 in Australia. “If he can emulate what his dad did, he will be a legend in the game as well,” boasted teammate Roston Chase.
It’s early days for Tagenarine Chanderpaul, but all the signs are there. Should he follow in his father’s footsteps, the Guyanese could indeed prove a worthy partner for Kraigg Brathwaite, finally.
West Indies cricket isn’t what it once was. Gone are the days of Brian Lara and Viv Richards. In recent years, their batting has been as troubled as their administration. Yet, Kraigg Brathwaite has held his side together, both with the bat and as captain. He’s no Gordon Greenidge, but for what he’s achieved, in the period that he’s played, Kraigg Brathwaite can certainly be considered a great of West Indian Test cricket.