x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Darren Bravo revisits history for a brighter West Indies future

The West Indies strokemaker bears a resemblance to Brian Lara but he will go up against another batting great in the shape of Sachin Tendulkar today.

West Indies batsman Darren Bravo exhibits the exaggerated back lift, which has earned comparisons with Brian Lara, his famous cousin, during a net session in Chennai yesterday. Prakash Singh / AFP
West Indies batsman Darren Bravo exhibits the exaggerated back lift, which has earned comparisons with Brian Lara, his famous cousin, during a net session in Chennai yesterday. Prakash Singh / AFP

CHENNAI // The last time West Indies played a World Cup match against India, at Gwalior in 1996, Darren Bravo was seven.

He had just graduated from hitting pebbles with a stick to the coaching camps at the Queen's Park Cricket Club in Trinidad. His grandfather's nephew, a certain Brian Charles Lara, played in that game and though India won, West Indies went on to reach the semi-finals.

They have not scaled such heights since and Bravo is part of a new generation with next to no memories of a time when the men from the Caribbean dominated their sport.

He will play in his 19th game today. At the other end of the experience scale, Sachin Tendulkar will be playing his 450th.

"A lot of us are very willing and we want to go out there and give a good account of ourselves," Bravo said. "It might take time but we'd like to put West Indies cricket back on track."

More than most, Bravo is conscious of the legacy of which he is part.

"I'm someone who tries to speak to the players of the past so I can understand what West Indies cricket is all about and what it means to people back home," he said. "I try to get as much as I can when I meet the legends.

"I've had one or two conversations with Sir Viv [Richards], and a couple with Sir Garry [Sobers], as well.

"Those guys have inspired me. I ask them how West Indies cricket was, back then, compared to now."

Lara never played a World Cup final, but his influence on Bravo is apparent the moment the young man marks his guard.

"The way he went about his batting was like watching a movie," Bravo said of his illustrious cousin. "He'd often give the first half an hour to the bowlers and then do his thing.

"He usually hit the ball exactly where he wanted to."

Bravo first played in front of Indian crowds during the Champions League Twenty20 in 2009, but the World Cup experience has really brought home to him just what the game means to people in the region.

"It's been great to be part of this World Cup and not just because it's my first," he said.

"We all know how fanatical Indian supporters are. It's the No 1 sport and it's been great to see the excitement about the World Cup. I've enjoyed every minute of it and I'm sure it's something I'll look back on."

He started the tournament with a classy 73 against table-topping South Africa but has not been able to match it since.

"When I'm playing well, I can dominate any bowling," he said. "I have decent concentration and I know when to go on the attack. But I'm still young and learning."

That learning process continues away from the field, as well.

"I often lie on my bed and watch a lot of the great players on YouTube," he said. "You can see what worked well for them."

Today he will be up against the legend who matched Lara stroke for stroke in the 1990s and who now stands poised on 99 international centuries.

"The most important thing for me when such guys walk out to bat is the numbers on the scoreboard, all that they have achieved," Bravo said when asked about Tendulkar. "That touches me.

"At team meetings, those kind of names always come up. They can dominate games. One day, I'd like teams to think of me the same way."

For now, the focus is on restoring glory to the famous maroon cap.

"I've learnt that there was a lot of passion and pride in representing West Indies," he said.

"It's not that the team today can't compete. But back then, they probably believed in their ability a bit more.

"And that gave them the edge to come out on top."

 

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