Dwayne Bravo’s wicket-taking ability in the closing overs when pressure on bowlers hits the peak is music to the ears of Chennai Super Kings teammates and fans. Proud of fitness and reflexes at 38, the all-rounder is willing to put fielders to the test by stealing sharp singles and retains the power to deliver big hits as any other slog-overs batter. The responsibility on muscular shoulders is huge, he is game for the task.

The smiling West Indian’s show so far in IPL 2022 is one of few happy stories to emerge from the CSK camp. Wearing the flaming yellow jersey, Bravo is among experienced hands expected to rise to the occasion, regardless of age or adversity, in a squad of champions struggling to avoid the freefall. He is one of the leaders on the pitch, assumed to be the delivery man when it comes to devising match-winning situations.

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CSK is in a transition phase as a bowling unit, Bravo proved value for money by bagging 16 wickets in nine appearances this season already and is among the first 10 wicket-taking bowlers in 2022. “I am feeling good, I am happy to be competing with a young generation and the new stars in IPL,” said the two-time Purple Cap winner, going past slinger Lasith Malinga’s 170 scalps tally in the list of IPL’s highest wicket-takers.

The West Indian’s bowling, off a loping run-up, can be described as a bewildering mix of slower deliveries coming at the batter from different angles, at varying paces. Six different balls in one over can only keep batters wary at the crease, dealing with each delivery on merit. Three wickets for 20 runs in four overs against Kolkata Knight Riders at the Wankhede stadium was an example of the surprise packet he is.

In the first game for CSK, he sent back Venkatesh Iyer, Nitish Rana, and Sam Billings to play a part in his squad’s defence of a meagre 133 runs against a mighty rival batting line-up. Each wicket was a celebration for the bowler, the left hand stayed on the hip and the right hand swayed across, with a finger up to notify the dismissal. KKR chased down the target with ease as the defending champions faced the first of many losses.

The West Indian and MS Dhoni form the squad’s backbone, delving into the experience to stand up and perform when things are drifting away from the team game plan. Bravo and the CSK captain (assumed charge from Ravindra Jadeja after six defeats in eight games) feed off each other’s energy, clearly relishing every opportunity to assess their agility, and acumen against younger players in rival squads. Both veterans stand out in a format supposed to be driven by youth.

The rapport between Bravo and Dhoni, fighting fit at 40, is visible amidst the anxiety of match situations. The former got a pat from his captain for a fielding effort, the latter pushed CSK’s second-oldest player in IPL 2022 to run swiftly between wickets. Amidst mutual respect, each one is challenging the other. Dhoni keeps emotions in check, his teammate from Trinidad is a funster on the ropes. Bravo creates a happy feeling after a catch or dismissal…giving T20 fans something to celebrate, beyond the action in the middle.

The bowler’s mind keeps ticking away amidst the frolic, the easy smile conceals a hard-nosed pro ready to perform at every opportunity…. with the ball, bat in hand or in the field. For teammates ready to learn, tips are relayed to the player under pressure, laced with a smile. The hunger to catch rivals by surprise with a stinging blow can always be expected from Bravo, one of the crowd-pullers purchased by the most successful IPL franchise for Rs 4.40 crore in 2022.

Three seasons with Mumbai Indians gave him a chance to team up with Malinga (second-highest wicket-taker in IPL history with 170 victims), then a move in 2011 to be a part of Team Dhoni was the start of a flourishing career for the Trinidad all-rounder. Gujarat Lions got his services when CSK was suspended, he returned to the flaming yellows under Dhoni in 2018. Bravo’s feat of 32 wickets in one season (2013) remained a benchmark for bowlers, till Harshal Patel equalled the feat in 2021.

The all-rounder has few equals on the entertainment quotient, making him a fan favourite in stadiums amidst the match excitement. Music is part of life for the one-time West indies captain and T20 national squad player till 2021. A multiple World Cup winner in ICC tournaments, singing alongside cricket made him famous as DJ Bravo for the song ‘Champion’, created after WI emerged victorious in the 2016 T20 World Cup, beating England for the title at Eden Gardens.

Flair for picking up popular dance moves in India, ensure the cameras track him. Bravo feeds on the attention, and gives back via trademark dance shuffles on the pitch to the emotional CSK fans and beyond.

Movies and mentoring may happen in future for this singer-cricket. For the present, a roar from the stands after picking up another wicket will be music to his ears. For kids watching him and trying to copy his dance steps, the joy of competing, hunger for wickets, and fitness routine at 38 can be more useful as markers in cricket careers.

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