Samuel Badree is a two-time World Twenty20 winner, but you would not be able to tell from his LinkedIn page. “International cricketer/ Physical Education Teacher at Barrackpore East Secondary,” reads his profile. It sums up a cricketer who is the antidote to the razzmatazz of the West Indies side.
Badree is a prematurely balding 35-year-old. He has never played an ODI, let alone a Test match. And he does not match the ebullience of his teammates when he’s dancing. Maybe he doesn’t want to give the pupils he teaches any excuse to rib him.
The Indian Premier League has brought most of the West Indies squad great riches. They have passed Badree by. Over eight seasons of the IPL, the sum of his involvement is 18 overs. He was not involved at all last year. This season he has got a contract, with Royal Challenger Bangalore, but he went for his base price of 50 lakh. That was because no one else wanted Badree.
And yet, according to the ICC’s T20I rankings, Badree is not merely the best T20I bowler in the world today, but the best there has ever been. His statistics - 40 wickets at 14.70, with an economy rate of just 5.39 an over – are utterly remarkable, yet even these do not give a true account of Badree’s worth.
The wonder of Badree is that, without fail, he bowls during the Powerplay; the period which conventional wisdom suggests is toughest for bowlers. In every one of his 28 T20Is, Badree has opened. Normally he bowls three overs during the Powerplay, and has bowled out by the end of the tenth over. In the final he had bowled out by the end of the seventh over.
For all the rightful acclaim given to Carlos Brathwaite’s four thunderous sixes, Badree’s contribution was every inch as important. His first ball, the first of the match, trapped Jason Roy on the pad, triggering a huge lbw appeal. Roy was repreved, but no matter: the second ball was a slider that removed his legstump. England’s semi-final match-winner, who smeared 78 against New Zealand, had been and gone in the final.
The West Indies team now descended on Badree. Amid all the high-fiving and backslapping Badree looked unperturbed by it all: he was just a cricketer doing his job, like a teacher does theirs.
In the next over of the game, Roy’s opening partner Alex Hales tried to relieve the tension by flicking Andre Russell to the legside boundary. But he was reckoning without Badree who took a smart catch at short fine leg.
Hales’ wicket meant that Eoin Morgan came to the crease. England’s skipper has been in wretched form, but is renowned as a supreme player of spin and one at his best under pressure.
Badree was in no mood to let him prove it. Now he reveled in showing off his art. He is not a huge turner of the ball, but delivers his wicket-to-wicket legspin with unyielding accuracy and parsimony, bowling with pace, bounce and variation.
All these weapons combined to flummox Morgan. In the third over of the match, Joe Root scored a single, leaving Badree five deliveries at Morgan. He did not score a run, and barely got his bat on the ball.
In his next over, Badree had Morgan completely in his spell. Three more balls followed, Morgan unable to get on strike. All the way Chris Gayle lay in wait at slip. The fourth delivery was a googly, and Morgan edged it meekly to Gayle’s grateful hands. England were 23-3 in the fifth over: a position that, on a flat wicket, left them far too much to do to haul themselves up to the 180 or more than constituted par.
In the seventh over of the match, his last, Badree bowled a full toss which Root smashed through midwicket as the ball deserved. Badree was furious, knowing he had erred. But it was the only rank ball he bowled, the only boundary he conceded in a bewitching four overs: 2-16 were the result, and, after the hold he had given them on the final, it should never have been so close. For Badree, it was a performance even more influential than his 1-24 from four overs, including the wicket of Kumar Sangakkara, during the West Indies’ previous WT20 triumph.
As superstars cricketing and otherwise are reeled off in DJ Bravo’s ‘Champion’, how incongruous it feels that the name of ‘Badree’ is slipped in. But at Eden Gardens he again proved he is worthy of such acclaim.