The similarity between Darren Bravo (left) and Brian Lara goes beyond their style and mannerisms. After 12 Tests, both Lara and Bravo scored the same number of runs and had the same average! And both crossed the 50-run mark eight times in this phase! © AFP © Getty Images

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

Darren Bravo’s magnificent century on Thursday lit up the Eden Gardens with a dazzling display of expansive strokes. West Indies were asked to follow-on after conceding a huge first innings lead, but Bravo walked out with positive intent and played his natural game. The cover drives, the punches off the back foot blazed the park.

 

Bravo has been often likened to Brian Lara. Not known to many is the fact that the two are related – Lara’s mother is Bravo’s grandfather’s sister. One can say that Bravo has picked up a few traits from the same lineage.

 

The similarities between the two are very evident when you look at Bravo’s mannerisms, his celebration on getting his ton, etc. When Bravo reached three figures in the second Test, he took off his helmet, jumped and punched the air with his bat. One couldn’t avoid picturing Lara doing the same after reaching his many milestones.

 

The similarity becomes more interesting when you juxtapose Lara’s record after 12 Tests alongside Bravo Test match figures in the same number of Tests. The number of runs scored and their average are exactly the same! And both crossed the 50-run mark eight times in this phase – Lara had scored one hundred and seven fifties, whereas Bravo has two hundreds and six fifties to his credit!

 

M

Runs

Avge

100s

50s

Brian Lara

12

941

47.05

1

7

Darren Bravo

12

941

47.05

2

6

 

There are, however, dissimilarities as well. Bravo’s backlift isn’t as high as Lara’s and he also doesn’t put his weight on the backfoot when the bowler releases the ball. It is only when he connects that we see glimpses of the great Trinidadian. The drives of the backfoot through the offside in particular are very Lara-like in authority and elegance.

 

There are a few things Bravo could learn from Lara. On a number of occasions, Bravo has displayed tentative footwork against the spinners. As a result he has lost his wicket to those bowlers quite a few times. Due to the tentativeness, he is unsure whether to go on the front or the backfoot and is caught on the crease trying to manufacture something.

 

Lara’s footwork against the spinners was a work of art. His battles with Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne are a testament to his greatness as he played them with authority and aggression. Warne dismissed Lara seven times (in 20 matches) and Murali scalped him five times (in eight matches), but it came at the cost of a mountain of runs. During the 2001-02 tour of Sri Lanka, Lara redefined the word prolific by amassing 688 runs in a three-Test series. He dominated the Sri Lankan spin attack led by the wizard Muralitharan in their own backyard.

 

Though, it must be said, Lara wasn’t able to replicate the same proficiency in India as he toured the country just once for a Test series. He had decent returns on that tour and didn’t have another opportunity to improve upon it.

 

When Bravo looks back on his memorable innings at Kolkata, it would give him immense satisfaction and confidence. He looked far more assured against the spinners than he does and moved well at the crease. Any ball pitched close to him was treated with disdain as he wasn’t afraid to launch them over the bowler’s head. Even when they were pitched a touch short he was quick to judge the length, rock back and blaze it through the off side.

 

In the first Test at Delhi, Bravo fell to Ravichandran Ashwin in both the innings. One felt that off-spinners, in particular, troubled him the most. Mohammed Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal had caused him quite a few worries earlier this year. The problem against the off-spinner seemed to continue into the first Test. However, in the second innings at Kolkata, he played Ashwin with good application and didn’t allow him to get the upperhand. The aggressive shots put pressure on the bowler and helped him a great deal to get out of a possible mental block against the tweaker.

 

Another thing Bravo can pick up from his idol is the hunger to play long innings. If one looks at Lara’s tons, one would find that there are a number of marathon efforts. So far, Bravo has managed two Test hundreds and both have been big scores. It augurs well for the future of West Indies cricket.

 

Clive Lloyd, the former West Indies captain, was optimistic about West Indies’ cricket in the days ahead. He pointed out players like Kirk Edwards and Andre Russell to take them forward. One could well add names like Adrian Barath and Devendra Bishoo who have the potential to excel at the top level. But Darren Bravo stands out as an exceptional talent. He truly signifies the hopes of a better tomorrow for the West Indies.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)