Darren Bravo, the name has been missing for quite long in the Windies cricketing circles. The left hander’s batting style has often been reminiscent of his cousin Brian Lara, whom he idolized growing up. Ever since Bravo’s early days in cricket, his flamboyance has often drawn comparisons with the cricketing giant.
He had a kickstart to his international career as well. Does it occur to his critics that it was Bravo, not Chanderpaul who mesmerized one and all on his maiden tour to India, courtesy that 166 at the Wankhede, in the Indian summers of 2011?
You knew you weren’t witnessing just any other batsman to be compared to Lara given that most struggle to get going in the sub-continent, right?
However, the promising start didn’t transform into something extraordinary. After 13 Tests, his batting average stood at a scintillating 52.50. The cricketing pundits had already touted him as the next Lara. A downfall followed and thereafter his batting average slid to below 40. It wasn’t that he didn’t play any knock of significance. His consistency diminished in the succeeding years.
Following a brawl on Twitter with the CWI President Dave Cameron, his career got derailed for a couple of years. The cricketer wasn’t amused after he was downgraded in the contract list. Of course, Bravo had his own reasons. The Windies cricketers have attracted lucrative deals ever since the emergence of T20 leagues. Yet this is a man who opted out of two IPL seasons as well as the 2016 WT20 campaign to focus on his first class career. His return to test cricket after a gap of two years wasn’t quite merry at Barbados.
However, the 30-year-old didn’t take much time in finding his feet.
At a time when the Windies were looking forward to gaining a lead, Darren Bravo went on to register the slowest fifty by a Caribbean cricketer. A well-constructed innings that irritated the English bowlers as Windies slowly gained control over the match.
A supreme effort that manifested itself through a 216-ball stay at the crease went on to define his wonderful temperament which wasn’t unleashed for a reasonable duration. In conditions that challenged the batsmen to another level, Bravo’s splendor half century was no less than a hundred.
The Jason Holder- led team went on to win the game and also sealed the series 2-nil. Bravo failed to replicate his excellence in the third test as he got out for single digit scores. So did Darren manage to secure his spot back in the team? Did he establish himself again as a mainstay in the Windies batting lineup? The lone effort at Antigua can certainly not be termed as his arrival to prominence.
But Bravo has shown signs even if it came in a single match.
His career has been derailed owing to the exclusion since the last two years. But in no way has his progress been hindered. Everyone who witnessed him will agree. Darren Bravo is still 30. And the dream to play 100 Tests is very much in the cards. But for that, Bravo will have to embrace consistency and provide the reliability Windies require at the middle order. Their next test assignment is against India as the World No.1 team takes a tour of the Caribbean islands after the World Cup. This will also mark the start of the World Test Championship.
The Trinidadian will be looking to inspire confidence from his amazing knocks in the past. In here lies the perennial question- can the man who recently made one of Test cricket’s finest blockathons against England (third-slowest Test fifty, in a game Windies, won) redeliver the promise he himself offered?
Truthfully speaking, some of his finest hours have come away from home which further arrests the excitement Bravo generates.
His phenomenal century against Pakistan in 2016 had bought the Windies really close to scripting a famous win in Dubai.
Or back to 2013 at Dunedin where his 218 allowed Windies to avoid defeat even after being asked to follow on by the Kiwis. A curious case of his batting can be witnessed in his home and away records. While most batsmen in the world relish the conditions at home, it has been quite contrary for someone like Bravo who averages 27.49 at home and above 50 overseas.
How long before Darren Bravo fulfills his potential and plays a defining role in the middle order?
Only time will say.
At the moment, the Caribbean dressing room will be glad to have him back in the mix. His presence surely strengthens the Windies batting even though he is yet to find his zone. Darren may have missed out on some crucial years but not everyone gets a second chance.
While the comeback wasn’t quite a fairytale, Darren Bravo, the man behind Windies’ famous 2015 Barbados win as also the figure behind a crafty patient fifty at Antigua has ample time to pick himself up. Becuase at 30, he’s still yards away from being at the edge. So the question is, will he rediscover the lost groove?