About 20 minutes after winning the match for Chennai Super Kings with a flurry of sixes in the dying moments of what looked like a losing cause, Dwayne Bravo was asked in the post-match press conference about his strategy in the death overs against Mumbai Indians. Bravo asked the journalist a question in reply: “While batting or bowling?”
Bravo was fully aware that his bowling had counted for a lot, too, even though he had stunned the Wankhede crowd primarily with a 30-ball 68. He came out to bat when Super Kings were reeling at 75 for 5 with the asking rate nearing 12. But his barrage of boundaries in the end snatched a win from the hosts.
“[While batting] I wasn’t thinking much actually, I was just trying my best to bat till the last over,” he said. “I thought that if I bat deep and till the end, we have a good chance of winning the game because Wankhede is a ground where if you miss your length and yorkers, the ball can travel. So you mistime a few, a few edges go your way and the bowling team is always under pressure because margin for error is so small in this format, you miss your yorker by an inch, it can go for six as you can see tonight.
“When I reached 50, I didn’t even raise my bat. I knew the job wasn’t finished, there was still a long way to go. I was in a zone. I was just focusing on trying to get the game done for my team. I was disappointed that I was out in the last over. But I played the innings that put my team in a position to win. I am just happy that I was able to contribute with the bat. It has been a while that I haven’t been able to make runs with the bat. This one will always be special to me.
“It was just my day, I’ll take that. It’s always good to start any tournament with a win and this is a special win for us personally because our fans have been so loyal to us and they waited for this opportunity and people in Chennai and throughout India as well, our CSK fans and our captain MS [Dhoni].”
Bravo’s task became stiffer and stiffer as each over went by. He watched Kedar Jadhav walk back with an injury, he saw Deepak Chahar dance down to be foxed by debutant Mayank Markande‘s googly, and then witnessed soon Harbhajan Singh and Mark Wood hole out in the quest for some desperate boundaries.
Ultimately, it was down to Bravo when Imran Tahir gave him strike in the 18th over and Super Kings needed 46 from only 17 deliveries. Two sixes and a four in that over against Mitchell McClenaghan and three sixes in the next off Jasprit Bumrah, another death-overs specialist, brought it down to seven from the last over.
“I just wanted to stay still, keep my eyes on the ball, have a good swing,” Bravo explained. “Here at Wankhede the ball travels every time you miss the length. Just get a good contact and the ball will go. Those two overs, we needed 15 an over. So, at some point, I had to take a chance and it worked off. Anytime you hit a boundary, whether it is a six or a four, automatically the bowler is under pressure.
“I know how you feel as a bowler when your first ball goes for a boundary. No matter how good a bowler you are, in these tense moments if you’re put under pressure, you tend to fumble. Again, I was hitting the ball nicely in the nets. I had the confidence and the belief that I can win the game despite losing wickets. I can bat deep. Can’t forget Jadhav, who came back and showed a lot of fight and a lot of guts. To hit that six is a special, special moment. From thereon, we had the game.”
Much before that, Bravo had quietly curbed Mumbai to 165 for 4 by conceding only eight runs in two of their last three overs. Bravo clearly said performing in the death overs, with the bat or ball, was his “specialised” role in the team and a lot of planning and training went behind it.
“I think it’s a challenge for me,” he spoke of bowling in the end. “I mark myself against the best in the world so in moments like this is where it really matters and I don’t enjoy bowling when there’s not much pressure on. When there’s pressure I need to focus a lot more and in the nets, I prepare very well when I bowl to guys like MS and Suresh [Raina] and these guys, who are good hitters. Even when I’m playing for West Indies, I bowl to [Andre] Rusell and [Kieron] Pollard and those guys so it gave me confidence.
“I don’t just turn up in a game and it happens naturally. I prepare in the nets, I make sure I’m executing my yorkers properly so whenever I call on those special deliveries, I deliver more often. Tonight was a little tougher because I bowled the last three overs and the skipper asked me if I’m able to do it and of course I said ‘yes’. And again, bowling to these guys is a big challenge, I embrace it, I enjoy it and tonight was just my night.”
Bravo was not only helping Super Kings return on a good note in the IPL, he was himself returning to the league after a two-year gap after missing last year’s edition with a hamstring injury. Since then, he has played three tournaments – the CPL, BPL and BBL – before returning with the yellow jersey. Now 34 and having undergone plenty of rehabilitation, Bravo said he had to be “careful” with his workload.
“Well, it’s on my mind in terms of I had to be more careful and I’m no longer 24 like how I used to be before so I have to be very cautious,” he said. “I started very slow and just needed to get momentum going into the game. But as you can see, as the game picked up especially in the later stages, this is where I’m more specialised and this is where the team needs me the most at the close of the game. The captain showed faith in me and this is basically my role in CSK team to finish off games with the ball. Each game now I’ve to make sure I can cover properly, we travel now and fitness is very important but I have a very good medical team and I’m happy that we won tonight’s game.”