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Bravo! But will there be an encore?

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Darren_Bravo_West_Indies_cricketIf Brian Lara’s square drive chose to reincarnate itself, it couldn’t have chosen a better blade than that of Darren Bravo. The more one watches the square drive, the more nostalgic and more delighted one feels. If imitation is an art, then Bravo has mastered it.

But Bravo isn’t here just to imitate the greats or make one feel nostalgic. He is here to score runs and not just be a Lara lookalike.

To someone who has followed Darren Bravo’s batting, frustration has stayed longer than it was expected to, while glee has dried up sooner than it needed to; Just like the passage that unfolded at Hobart in the 2nd innings, the glorious back foot drive followed by the inside edge onto the stumps.

Bravo crafted a fine test century at Hobart. But it hasn’t been easy for the Trinidadian. In his short career span, bad patches have stayed alarmingly long and purple patches have never really had a long visit.

Stepping into another’s shoes is never an easy job. At that, to step into Lara’s shoes is a burden in itself. Throughout his career, there is little doubt that he will be spared of the comparison. It would be unjust to compare him to the Prince but it doesn’t mean his talent is to be left out of any examination and left alone. He is too good a batsman to not to be considered.

There is a startling similarity between Darren Bravo and his counterparts - Kohli, Root, Smith, and Williamson. They all belong to the same age group, started their careers around the same time, all have played around 40 test matches, and all are extremely talented in their own right. Kohli, Root, Smith, Williamson are already touted as the modern greats and more likely to be considered as legends one day. But where does Bravo stand as of now and why isn’t he part of the group yet?

Williamson has 12 test centuries, Smith has 12, and Kohli has 11. Root has comparatively fewer centuries (8) but nevertheless averages 54. Bravo’s Hobart ton was only his 7th, and he averages the lowest - 41 - of them all.

 

A batsman’s career is often judged on the lines of what he could have scored, what he should have scored and what he has scored. With Root, Kohli, Smith and Williamson there isn’t a much of a difference as to what they could have done and what they have done. But the same cannot be said of Bravo. There is a big difference between what he could have, what he should have and what he has. Bravo has to catch up soon. He has time and talent. There is little doubt among us that he too should be a part of the elite group of modern greats.

Though the flourish and flair of Bravo is the same as that of Lara, he hasn’t been as expressive as the great man. There were times when he looked at his dominant best – like in his back to back centuries at Kolkata and Mumbai - but more often than not Bravo has looked largely timid, caught between two minds of aggression and caution, which has led to his downfall. To rise, he has to express himself more confidently and stop doubting his potential.

To be fair to Bravo, he has been part of a side that has fallen to new lows and keeps falling lower every day. He has mostly walked in very early at No. 3 – though being able to cope is required of that position – which hasn’t helped him either. In all the 15 innings he’s played at No. 3 this year, he hasn’t walked in to the crease with more than 35 runs on the board even once. This is compounded by the lack of able partners to either guide or hang on to during his difficult times. Samuels at 4 has been a major disappointment.

But great men find ways and defy odds, keeping aside the adversities. They rise above the rest and stand alone at the peak the way Tendulkar and Lara did in the 90s. Will Bravo be able to do the same?

In 2004, the Champions trophy victory was seen as a West Indies resurrection. But nothing of the same followed. In 2012, World T20 win was thought of in the same lines. But again, West Indies disappointed. In 2015, apart from a solitary victory against England at the Kensington Oval, West Indies has done very little to gain confidence and march forward. This only shows life isn’t going to get any easier for Bravo. In fact, it will only get tougher. Will he be able to overcome the adversity and walk in the paths of the greats?

As in the past, every time he scored a ton, his stock went up. But he hasn’t followed it up as expected. Is this Hobart ton going to be along the same old lines, or are we going to see a turnaround?

Cricket needs West Indies, West Indies needs Darren Bravo. When the great Brian Charles Lara hung up his boots, the world dozed off sadly into an eternal sleep. As Darren Bravo announced his arrival, the world woke up to a dream.

Will Darren Bravo be able to carry that dream?



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