In October 2016 at Sharjah, Kraigg Brathwaite made history by becoming the first opener in Test history to carry his bat in both innings of a match. Scores of 142* and 60* helped West Indies to a five-wicket win, their first away from home in four years. That he achieved the feat in the same match that Pakistan’s Azhar Ali registered a golden duck only served to emphasise that Brathwaite’s durability was far from a foregone conclusion.
Eight months later, Brathwaite would make a sizeable contribution to another famous away win for West Indies. The stakes were higher than in Sharjah with the series still alive at Headingley as West Indies faced England having been destroyed at Edgbaston in the first Test. Shai Hope stole the headlines with twin hundreds as the visitors chased down 322 but Brathwaite was just five runs shy of beating his team-mate to the accolade. His scores of 134 and 95 were just as vital in guiding the visitors to their first away victory against one of the ‘big three’ of England, Australia and India since 2000.
Brathwaite is a rare breed in the modern game. He has been a regular in the Test team since his debut in 2011 but, at the time of writing, is yet to feature in a T20 match at professional level. However, what he lacks in firepower he makes up for in obduracy and determination. During 2016 and 2017, Azhar Ali (147) was the only opener to average more balls per dismissal than Brathwaite’s 107 and only Australia’s Matt Renshaw (42%) played a higher percentage of defensive shots than Brathwaite’s 37%.
Unflappable and unflamboyant, Brathwaite is unlikely to win many plaudits for flair, though his technique is organised, solid and correct. In an era where many critics bemoan modern batsmen’s inability to ‘bat time’, Brathwaite should be applauded for his patience, determination and application that allows him to succeed in all conditions. So much so that he averages more away than at home and has passed 50 in an innings in every country he has played in, besides Sri Lanka.
In an era where so many of West Indies’ most talented individuals have been lured away from the national team to lucrative T20 leagues, Brathwaite has been their rock at the top of the order. Only five men have scored more runs opening the batting for West Indies in Tests, and Brathwaite has many more years, and seemingly plenty of desire, to climb that list and become one of his country’s most prolific opening batsmen.