YORKSHIRE have signed West Indian batsman Kraigg Brathwaite for the last two games of the County Championship season.
Brathwaite, who helped to guide West Indies to victory in the recent Headingley Test, has been recruited for the fixtures against Warwickshire at Headingley (September 19-22) and Essex at Chelmsford (September 25-28).
The 24-year-old opener will replace Australian overseas batsman Shaun Marsh, who is returning to Perth to play for Western Australia in the Matador Cup after next week’s game against Surrey at the Oval. Yorkshire are also considering Brathwaite as their overseas player for next year, with Marsh also understood to be in contention for a possible return.
Commenting on his short-term switch to Yorkshire, Brathwaite – who scored 134 and 95 in the Headingley Test to help West Indies to a five-wicket win that levelled the three-match series – said: “It’s a bit of a surprise.
“Initially, coming to England (with the West Indies), I knew there would be a lot of opportunities and one of my goals was to score as many runs as possible.
“I wanted to lead the West Indies batting from the top and earn a chance to play some county cricket.
“Before the second Test (at Headingley), I was speaking to my agent and he was telling me that he was talking to Yorkshire’s coaching staff.
“After the game, he came back to me telling me he was getting some quality feedback. They really wanted me and I was very happy because Yorkshire is a very big club in England and I’m very happy and proud to have been selected by them.”
Brathwaite, who narrowly missed out during the Test on becoming the first man to score two hundreds in a first-class game at Headingley, an honour that instead went to team-mate Shai Hope during the same match, revealed that he sought advice from several former West Indies players before joining Yorkshire.
The dogged right-hander, who likens his batting style to the limpet-like Shivnarine Chanderpaul, added that county cricket has always been high on his bucket list.
Playing in England, playing county cricket, will help me learn with every game, every day.Kraigg Brathwaite
“Playing county cricket was always one of my goals, and coming over here to play against England for the West Indies was going to get me one step closer if I did well,” said Brathwaite, who will be hoping to help the tourists to a series win in the final match at Lord’s that starts tomorrow.
“Many of our past players have played in England, and they always say it’s the place to develop a better technique and learn more about batting, predominantly because the ball does a lot throughout the day.
“Playing in England, playing county cricket, will help me learn with every game, every day.
“It’s a new experience playing with a county side, and so firstly I’m looking forward to making new friends.
“In any team, all I’m looking to do is lay the foundations as an opening batsman.”
Brathwaite’s recruitment addresses a key problem for Yorkshire, who have split up their regular opening partnership of Adam Lyth and Alex Lees for this week’s match against Middlesex at Headingley.
Neither batsman is averaging 25 in this year’s Championship, with the openers having failed to provide the sort of solid foundation that they have in the past.
Marsh is due to open with Lyth against Middlesex, with no play possible on yesterday’s opening day due to rain, so Brathwaite would act as a like-for-like swap.
Throughout the season, Yorkshire’s batting has struggled collectively, putting paid to any hopes of a third title in four years.
“When we found out that Shaun (Marsh) wasn’t going to be available for the last two games, we looked at options to replace him,” said Yorkshire’s director of cricket Martyn Moxon.
“At such a late stage, and with Kraigg getting the runs he did at Headingley (during the Test), it all came at the right time.
“We enquired about his availability, and it was pleasing he was keen to play and the West Indies Cricket Board are keen for him to get more experience playing in England, so it fits well for both parties.
“Importantly for us, he’s currently playing in English conditions, which was important with regards to anybody we brought in.”
Brathwaite, who hails from Barbados, will be making his 40th Test appearance this week as he attempts to build on a record of 2.584 Test runs at 37.44.
He is also a useful part-time off-spinner, although his action was reported after the first Test at Edgbaston and is currently under investigation.
On the prospect of Brathwaite returning to Yorkshire next year, Moxon said: “If he gets a lot of runs for us, he’s going to stake a big claim, so it’s certainly a possibility going forward.
“We’ll just take one step at a time and see how these two games go.
“If he goes well and enjoys his time here, it could be something we do going forward.”