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The world of cricket has been graced by many stalwarts who have enthralled the audience with their gift-wrapped skills. West Indies’ 25-year-old batsman Darren Bravo is one of those willowy wielders who has been bestowed with god-gifted talent. In his brief career, he has made cricket pundits sit up and take notice of his burgeoning potential. Bharath Ramaraj has more about the attractive batsman and half-brother of Dwayne Bravo and a cousin of the great Brian Lara.
On November 25, 2010, Darren Bravo strode out to the middle to take guard in the second Test of the series against Sri Lanka at Colombo (RPS) and demonstrated oozing class, and unruffled elegance to essay a sublime knock of 80. A flurry of strokes flowed like a gigantic river in a 360 degree-arc. Those few who witnessed the glorious artwork of batsmanship could only marvel at the flash of genius on show. Actually, other the pristine grace glowing brightly from Bravo’s magical willow, there wasn’t much to remember from what was a rain-ruined Test match.
Trinidadian Bravo plays with a free spirit that is seldom seen in the present age of over-coached trigger movements. The quaint charms of those classical, vintage and breathtaking drives and flicks takes you to the bygone era of batsmen who relied more on precise metre of timing and piercing the ball with chronometric precision through gaps. Here is a batsman who was born to wow the crowd with his rapier-like sword of a bat.
Bravo, who idolises none other than the Prince of Trinidad, Brian Lara came into the prominence in 2008-09 season in a First-Class game against Windward Islands. Now, Windward Islands rarely boast of a fine bowling line-up. Yet, Bravo’s century was a breakthrough innings for him. By then, he had already played a few seasons of First-Class cricket for Trinidad, but with little success. However, when Bravo played like a master painter painting a master piece against Windward Islands, it gave genuine hope to the Caribbean fans that here was a batsman who could turn out to be a great in the years to come.
In his short Test career, he has good numbers to speak of. He has scored 2,011 runs in 27 Tests at a fine average of 44.68 would make most batsmen proud. But with Bravo, one always gets the feeling that he can touch even more heights.
In 2011 in India, he certainly did take his game to towering peaks. At Mumbai in the final Test of the series, those silken drives off pacer Varun Aaron, felicitous cuts off Ravichandran Ashwin and some shots that bordered on sheer arrogance took one’s breath away. With an array of magical tools at his disposal, he simply was toying with India’s bowling. Lara himself showered him with a garland of praises during that time.
Just like any other sportsman though, he has had his fair share of peaks and troughs. During the tour of England in 2012, he found life difficult while batting on seaming decks and against the Dukes ball. He did cross 20 a few times, but looked ill at ease on most occasions. It has to be mentioned though, that West Indies have been using the Dukes in their home games during the last few years.
By the time West Indies arrived on the shores of New Zealand in 2013-14, there was an inkling that just like a slew of Caribbean cricketers who disappeared into the oblivion after promising much, Bravo too may turn out to be an inconsistent batsman wafting between sheer brilliance and mediocrity. Those constant and never-ending comparisons with Lara and detractors reckoning that he is a minnow basher (Bravo has been hugely successful against Bangladesh) weren’t helping him either.
In the Test match played at Dunedin against New Zealand with West Indies finding themselves down in dumps, Bravo finally rose to the occasions like a phoenix to chart a Houdini act. He had his fair share of moments where his nerves would have jangled. Trent Boult, the awe-inspiring swing bowler tested him with late swing and movement off the track. The honest trier Neil Wagner landed blows on Bravo’s body with his short pitch stuff. A few catches were dropped as well. But Bravo weathered the storm by standing tall to take West Indies to safety from turbulent waters with his monumental double ton.
When Bravo with perfect balance and perfect position leaned into a cover-drive off Tim Southee and then followed it up with a similar shot off Boult, it made those watching the game shaking their heads in sheer disbelief and pure admiration. His coup de theatre act knock of 218 was the sole bright spot for the West Indies team in what was a forgetful tour for the enervated set-up.
However, just when it seemed like Bravo was going to be the colossus of West Indies line-up for many years to come, he returned home due to what was said as ‘personal reasons’ by the West Indies board. It is still unclear as to what exactly was the reason that forced Bravo to quit the tour of New Zealand and that too when he was batting at the peak of his prowess. The encouraging sign is that he has signed a contract with West Indies board, so should be hopefully back on track.
Bravo still has a long way to go in his fledgling career. He needs to prove his worth in alien conditions. His One-Day International (ODI) record of 1,861 runs at a modest average of 32.64 with a solitary hundred to his name doesn’t do justice to his talent. His fielding too leaves a lot to be desired. But for a West Indies side that is looking out for some light at the end of what seems like a never-ending tunnel, he brings a dawn of new hope to the beleaguered setup. From West Indies’ perspective, hopefully he can turn out to be a symbol of true excellence.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)
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