Cricket runs in the family for late bloomer Michael and he is making the Bracewells proud. (More Cricket News)
After his jaw-dropping 140 off 78 balls in the first ODI against India on Wednesday, the 31-year-old New Zealander has made a strong case to be rated as the most feared number seven batter in the world.
Chasing 350, his team was down and out at 131 for six but Michael stayed in the moment and slayed the Indian attack to all parts of the ground to single-handedly take his team on the brink of an improbable win before falling just 12 runs short.
Such was his zone that he picked a spot and the ball followed, whether it was an audacious scoop off Mohammed Shami or an outrageous driver over cover off Kuldeep Yadav. Overall, as many as 10 sixes came from his blade.
Having made his international debut in March last year, 10 years after his maiden first-class appearance, Michael is surely making the opportunity count. It wasn’t the first time he found himself in a hopeless situation. In only his fourth ODI, he had smashed an unbeaten 127 against Ireland to chase down 301 after New Zealand lost six wickets for 153 runs.
He could not get his team over the line on Wednesday but won a lot of fans for his fearless display. His family, which includes three Test cricketers in John Bracewell (uncle), Brendon Bracewell (uncle) and Doug Bracewell (cousin), must be proud too.
His father Mark, his coach since childhood, played first-class cricket in New Zealand.
Speaking after his epic innings, Bracewell said years spent in domestic cricket is helping him massively at the highest level.
“I would say most international cricketers are pretty motivated but the benefit that I have is that I was able to get experience in domestic cricket and understand the way that I want to play.
“I came into international cricket sort of knowing this is how I am successful domestically and I am going to try and emulate that in international cricket.
“So far, there have been some patchy moments but when it comes off it feels pretty good. Unfortunately, could not get the team over the line tonight,” said Michael after the game.
Michael shared a record 162-run stand with Mitchell Santner to take the game down to the wire. When he came into the crease in 29th over, New Zealand needed as many as 219 runs. However, he feels the dire situation worked in his favour.
“I think you are just trying to win the game of cricket really. It is just about coming in and trying to do your role. It sort of takes the pressure off when you are losing so many wickets. You just try and rebuild and not get too far ahead of yourself,” he said when asked about his mindset while batting alongside Santer.
“It is one of those things once you get over the line you start believing you can do it again. We watched Shubman bat for 50 overs and saw that it was a pretty good wicket. You could play your shots, especially down the ground looked pretty small straights.
“We were just talking about to give ourselves a chance and take the game deep. We did not really talk too much about winning the game at that stage but if you are able to do the ground work early you give yourself a chance at the back end. We were able to get close but unfortunately wasn’t enough.”
Besides a 100 first class games, Michael, who also has been effective with his off spin, has played a lot of T20 cricket in New Zealand. So, it wasn’t a surprise that he played an ODI innings in T20 style.
“T20 has been a huge influence on one day cricket and that is what makes one day cricket so exciting. You can be in a position like we were in and you can still work your way up to a position of power. I don’t think we got ourselves to a position of power but we got ourselves in a position where we could have won the game .
“The skills that players are learning in T20 cricket are hugely beneficial for the one day game,” he reckoned.
Talking about cricketing tradition in the family, Michael said he is spoilt for choice when it comes taking advice but values his father’s opinion the most.
“I talk to a whole of people about the game and keep it like a closed circle. My dad is probably the one I talk to the most. He gives great advice since I was 2.
“I certainly value his opinion more than anyone else but being away from home, the coaching staff at BLACKCAPS has been amazing and fantastic to bounce ideas off.”