An iconic final over and an iconic piece of commentary. Carlos Brathwaite, Ian Bishop and Samuel Badree look back at the four sixes and the rest
At 11 minutes past ten o'clock on a steamy Sunday night in Kolkata, as Daren Sammy carved a ball straight into the gullet of the deep-point fielder, leaving his team wobbling at 107 for 6… as the bowler David Willey broke into the "Champion" jive… as Samuel Badree, slotted to bat at No. 10, regretted that his team had "given the game away" with three wickets in ten balls… as a boisterous Eden Gardens crowd willed the game on to a dramatic finish… as Ian Bishop thought back to the 2012 World T20 final in Colombo, another time the odds were against West Indies, when he had still given them a better chance than he did now… 27-year-old Carlos Brathwaite, playing his eighth T20 international, glanced around the dugout.
"And for a short moment everyone was looking around and wondering who should go in next - myself or Denesh Ramdin."
Brathwaite does not pause at this recall. The moment's hesitation seems unremarkable to him.
The indecision came from his deep respect for Ramdin, he says, a senior figure playing his 58th T20I, known for manoeuvring tight chases with "cricket smarts". As his captain, Sammy, trudged off the outfield into the dugout, Brathwaite asked himself if it was better for Ramdin to play out the next ten balls - "to stop the procession of wickets" - or for him to go in and attack all out. The asking rate was creeping up towards 11. Someone had to make the call.
"In situations like that, there is no right or wrong way," Brathwaite recently told ESPNcricinfo's Raunak Kapoor. "You just take a decision for each situation. At that point, I thought the logical decision was for me to try to use my power to complement Marlon Samuels, who was batting fantastically well. I think I had the support of my team-mates, and I just got up and sprinted out. I was like - this is why I am selected, to finish games. it felt good to be able to chart my own destiny."
Brathwaite: 'It felt almost like divine intervention'
Brathwaite: 'It felt almost like divine intervention'
If we view a cricket match as an aggregate of split-second decisions, and if we concede that our memories of matches are shaped, rather unreasonably, by the most luminous moments - Kapil's running catch to dismiss Richards, Wasim bowling Lamb and Lewis, Dhoni lofting Kulasekara, Starc bowling McCullum - it's worth considering the twist in this plot had Ramdin walked in. How would the game have unfolded, and, as importantly, what would we now remember?
Brathwaite emerged from the dugout both well known and unknown. Delhi Daredevils had paid US$626,000 for him at the IPL auction two months earlier, though he had just two fifties and six wickets in his 16 international matches. What they saw was a potential superstar who had a strike rate over 155 in each of the two previous seasons of the Caribbean Premier League, obvious six-hitting prowess, and fastish medium pace that was vital in the middle overs. Bishop had tracked Brathwaite's improvement over the previous two years, and saw the value he brought to that West Indies side.
"A day or two before the final, I had been to a businessmen's meeting with Sourav Ganguly, and we had a Q&A session about the final," Bishop remembers. "They asked me which players they should look out for and apart from the obvious ones - Gayle, Badree and so on - I just thought of Carlos Brathwaite. Because Carlos had been really working on his bowling for a year or two prior to that. And from what I saw in the tournament he was doing it well. So I mentioned him and said, 'He is as big as a house and he can smack the ball as well.' And because of way the question was phrased, I had told the businessmen: 'Remember this name.'"
Braithwaite entered with 49 runs needed from 27 balls. For six deliveries he watched the action from the non-striker's end. Leading up to the World T20, he had worked with assistant coach Andre Coley on ways to score rapidly from the outset. To break down the chase into small blocks; to focus on the immediate rather than the eventual target; to hit long but also nudge and glance; to stay still at the crease but to occasionally throw the bowlers off by moving about.
Trip like I do: Darren Sammy gets danced off the field by David Willey, "Champion" style
© Getty Images
Trip like I do: Darren Sammy gets danced off the field by David Willey, "Champion" style © Getty Images
When he finally faced up, with 40 required off 21, Brathwaite drove Willey inside-out with great ferocity but Moeen Ali's gymnastic stop in the covers kept it to a single. Five balls on, his second, he backed away and thudded the ball through the covers once more, but another athletic stop from Moeen, this time on the boundary, turned four into a two. Before the final ball of that over, the 18th, Samuels had instructions for Brathwaite. "Marlon was like, 'You got to get a two or a four, I'm not running a single.' So one option I had was the scoop behind the wicket. I was playing that a lot in the nets." Willey stayed full and straight. Brathwaite folded himself at the waist and ramped it over the wicketkeeper. West Indies needed 27 off 12. And Samuels was now on strike.
In an alternative universe, Chris Jordan's final over - the penultimate of the innings - is the most overpowering memory of that final. A four off the first ball was followed by four runs in the next four. Yorkers wide of off stump required the batters to manufacture strokes to the longer boundary; they could only squirt the ball into the infield for measly singles. For the final ball, Samuels and Brathwaite discussed two options: a boundary to ease the pressure, or a single for Samuels to retain strike. They got neither.
"I had little bit of a panic when Marlon missed that ball," Brathwaite remembers. "Even if I got a single off the first ball [of the last over] it becomes 18 off 5, and there is not much room for error."
In the dugout, Sammy was sat beside Gayle. "In the nets, we work on the equation of the final six balls, 15 runs needed," Sammy said on Sky Cricket Watchalong four years on. Both agreed they needed a four or a six off Jordan's final ball. "When it didn't happen, Gayle turned round to me and said, 'That's going to be tough!'"
For Badree, the final-over target was not 19 but 18. "We knew three blows could get us to the Super Over. And in Eden Gardens, once you get hold of the ball, it goes for six. In typical West Indian thinking we only thought sixes. No four fours and a two. No three fours and a six."
The beginning of the end: Brathwaite scoops Willey for a four off his last ball in the 18th over
© Associated Press
The beginning of the end: Brathwaite scoops Willey for a four off his last ball in the 18th over © Associated Press
Samuels had just one piece of advice for Brathwaite: "Swing for the hills!" Even if he were caught on the boundary, they would at least cross over.
"I looked up at the scoreboard and stopped all my calculations," says Brathwaite. "To be fair, I had an idea of Ben Stokes' plan simply because of the dimensions of the ground. Chris Jordan was trying to bowl wide yorkers, forcing us to hit to the longer end. So obviously Stokes was trying to bowl straight and get us to hit leg side. I knew what the line would be but I wasn't sure whether it would be yorkers or into the wicket. After that it was all instinct. Watch the ball and react to it."
Stokes' first ball was angled down the leg side and Brathwaite, who recalls how it "felt like divine intervention", airmailed the gift to the crowd beyond fine leg. Once he saw it flying off his windmilling bat, Brathwaite says he ignored all the noise - as well as Samuels, who was running around jubilant - and waited for Stokes to run in again.
There was little wrong with the second ball: full on middle and leg, it would have likely cramped most top batsmen for room. Brathwaite took his front foot out of the way, exposed his stumps, and created space to get under the ball. The toe of the bat shifts from 11 o'clock to 12 o'clock in a split-second, and down it comes to send the ball soaring above midwicket. Badree remembers the ball hanging in the air, the white sphere shrinking into the black sky.
Sitting in the gallery square of the wicket was 30-year-old Tanmay Mukherjee, one of 66,000 dots in the crowd, most rooting for West Indies. "And some of us rushed down the aisles as the ball was in the air - the police didn't stop us. The ground went berserk. Everyone was standing, not just on their feet but on their chairs! That second six was the victory shot. You just knew they would win it."
Stokes' assessment in retrospect was brief and telling. "Serious shot, that!"
Could he have done anything different at this stage? "Every time I went back to my mark, I was trying to remember to bowl a yorker," he said on the Sky show. "I'd practised, practised, practised, and I'd got confident with bowling them - I'd done well against Sri Lanka and New Zealand.
Swing when you're winning: Stokes is dispatched over long-off for the third six
© Associated Press
Swing when you're winning: Stokes is dispatched over long-off for the third six © Associated Press
"Looking back on it - I'm more experienced now - I would have slowed it down a bit more, as opposed to getting back to my mark and going again. I didn't feel like I composed myself as well as I would do now."
The third delivery was a close cousin of the second. Brathwaite removed his front foot out of the way and targeted the horizon at long-on. This ball was straighter, though, and met the outside edge of the bat to swerve - "like a poor golf shot," according to Brathwaite - over long-off. "At that time, Stokes was probably thinking, no matter what I do here, this guy is in the zone," says Badree. "It probably was a self-defeating moment for him. Everyone realised this game was the West Indies'."
For three balls Brathwaite had been laser-focused: watching, reacting, waiting, watching. Now, with the ball lost in the crowd, there was a break.
"And that's when I realised: we needed one off three. I saw the West Indies women's team chanting. They had stayed back to watch us after winning their final. My girlfriend was in the stands. Marlon was going up and down. The phones were up, the camera lights were on.
"To be that person who had created that hysteria - you don't often get those days on such a big stage where you can be the main man. It was time to soak it in."
Ian Bishop is one of those rare commentators who prefers to stay silent on air. Playing the role of colour commentator, rather than ball-by-ball caller, gives him a chance to "take in the game and read the strategies" and only speak if he thinks of something insightful. "Sometimes you get the director saying, 'Hello, you're being paid to talk.' But I'm quite happy not saying anything for as long as it takes."
Having called the third six, David Lloyd patted Bishop on the back. "And he said, 'Your time.'" Bishop was unsure of his next move. Hearing him recall it, you can imagine him squirming within. "Initially I didn't want it because I respect roles in the commentary box," he says. "If I talk over a delivery when the lead commentator should have called it, I chide myself for encroaching on someone else's job. At that time, I had to make sure it was what David wanted me to do. Because to call the moment or not call the moment is of little significance to me. The biggest thing is that as a broadcast team we convey the story professionally. Whoever calls the moment is irrelevant."
Ben Stokes learns why 6, 6, 6, 6 is a beastly number
© Getty Images
Ben Stokes learns why 6, 6, 6, 6 is a beastly number © Getty Images
But is it irrelevant for those watching? Doesn't Bishop's West Indianness - his history as a player, his accent, his intimacy with many in the team, his long-standing friendship with coach Phil Simmons, his knowledge of the players' dispute with the board, his awareness of the team's siege mentality during the tournament, his empathy for their challenges - doesn't all this make him an obvious candidate to call the victory?
"I had never paid attention to this until then," he admits, "but I recognised the significance of the voice of a team calling a moment. I think it's easier to have empathy with players when you know them, when you know their struggles, when you know their family life. You feel a bit more passionately about it. Like Ian Smith calling the 2019 World Cup final - the emotion just spills over. You don't have to search too hard or too deep for what you are trying to communicate."
It might not have mattered where the fourth ball was pitched; Brathwaite was going to swing anyway. For the record, it was straight and drifting onto leg. Brathwaite took a side step and lifted the ball, celebrating with his arms aloft the moment it cleared the infield. He wasn't aware, until his team-mate Ashley Nurse told him later, that it too went for six.
In the commentary box Bishop responds with an eruption: "Carlos Brathwaite!" Then he repeats the name, this time with controlled excitement, emphasising some syllables, revealing his wonderment, before uttering the three immortal words: "Remember the name!"
"I don't know whether it was stuck in my head subconsciously," says Bishop, "but I regurgitated it at that moment perhaps because of the weight I had put on it the day before."
There is an emphatic ring to "remember the name": at once a full stop and an exclamation mark, an exhortation and a declaration. But it is also a cheeky little riddle. What exactly did Bishop mean? Was he heralding the arrival of a global superstar? One delivery earlier he had spoken about a "superstar under construction" laying the foundation for his future. Was he taking a swipe at those who underestimated Brathwaite? None of this may have mattered on that night in 2016, but as Brathwaite's career has lurched and stalled, those three words have carried more heft.
What's his name again?
Saurabh Das / © Associated Press
What's his name again? Saurabh Das / © Associated Press
"Yes, people have interpreted it in different ways since then," Bishop says, "and it has put a lot of pressure on Carlos and he put a lot of pressure on himself. He recently admitted that he carried too much of that burden. And he tells a great story about getting the monkey off his back when he realised that what he was on that night is not necessarily who he is as a player day in, day out.
"My own meaning for it was that no matter whatever happens to Carlos and Marlon, but particularly Carlos, from there on, we will always remember what he did. People interpreted it as: Carlos would go on to be a world beater. And they go, look at where Stokes went and look at where Carlos went, but that was never my intention. All I wanted to convey was that the guy has done a historical thing for the Caribbean and we would remember the style in which he did it. Now give Carlos a break. He did what he did. It will be recorded for ever. And he doesn't have to do it in every game."
Brathwaite last played for West Indies in August, 2019. Two months prior, in a World Cup game against New Zealand at Old Trafford, he thundered a 82-ball 101 that took his team within a hair's breadth of a stunning victory. As he fell to a catch inches from the boundary - with West Indies six short of the target - it was Bishop once more who called the action: "The dream is diminished for Carlos Brathwaite here in Manchester."
Most people dream alone, reassured that no one else is watching, unworried about living up to them. Brathwaite's dreams were telecast worldwide, millions rejoicing and agonising over the result. They have followed him to the point of exhaustion.
"Sometimes I used to hear 'Remember the name' and would think it's a curse," Brathwaite reflects, "but now I have more time to listen to people who came up and say, 'I believed you would do it' or 'I was there' or 'I shed a tear'. The burden is kind of off now and I'm more accepting of the privilege that was bestowed upon me because of the four sixes.
"There are certain moments in sports when I never forget where I was or what I was doing, when I wished I would have been a part of that. To be the person to have one of those moments in some people's lives is humbling."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is a writer and editor based in Seattle. He hosts the 81allout podcast and is the author of the novel What's Wrong with You, Karthik?
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.