Many would argue that the most remarkable recent Darren Bravo knock came in the third and final ODI versus Sri Lanka earlier this year in March. It was a knock that resulted in 102 vital runs and importantly, in a fourth ODI century.
Moreover, a series-whitewash makes the century a relevant one, even though it took Bravo 132 deliveries against not the most threatening attack in the world to reach the milestone.
Though those who’ve witnessed a career that’s as attractive as elegant as any would disagree.
To them, Bravo’s third ODI century, one that came against a potent South Africa- a 102 off 103 would appear as his most fluent recent score.
Back then Bravo was up against Morkel, Rabada, Tahir, and Morris.
This time around, he was up against newbies like Hasaranga, Asitha Fernando and company.
Back then, he found himself in greater physical preparedness and perhaps on a higher mental plane than where the Darren Bravo of 2021 finds himself, a man who finds himself with an average of 30.5 from 117 ODIs, a man whose strike rate of 70 is remarkably low for a man who hits the ball back over the bowler’s head so gracefully and craftily that one can’t help but applaud the art piece.
Here’s a batsman who can make perfume powerful shots with a whiff of grace.
But take a good close look at the time where the third ODI century was constructed versus the Proteas (down in the Caribbean in a tri-series, featuring Australia).
What’s terrible and painful, in equal measure, is that in order for the greatly talented batsman from the land of flair and ebullience- Trinidad and Tobago- to move on to the fourth century has taken half a decade of time.
That should certainly not have been the case.
Well, not for a batsman whose international returns conjure nearly 7,000 runs.
For a batsman who lost nearly two years of his prime thanks to comments levelled against a clown presence in the West Indies Cricket board whom Bravo would’ve been much better off having not referred to as a clown in the first place, time’s running out.
Or, at least, that’s what it seems.
Nearing 33, he’s neither old nor a brand new cricketing commodity.
But that’s not what’s painful to endure about Darren Michael Bravo, a man who would spend hours in front of the mirror emulating his role model, Brian Lara.
A man whom Brian Lara himself thought of as being the one who would march ahead with the baton of West Indies batting in his hand.
Yet, forget consistent run-scoring, Darren Bravo, with all due respect, isn’t the most bankable name in a batting order either where the die-hard fan as also the purist would consider Shai Hope to save the day for Windies, not the man who is 6 years senior to the Bajan (by playing experience).
In fact, Bravo’s returns for his national team are about as underwhelming as seeing a mega Hollywood star-cast failing to drive packed crowds. Think Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep-starrer The Post, which had all the substance, a great narrative, a bitingly good tale, and yet disappeared from movie halls within weeks in the pre-covid era.
To how many of us does it occur that Darren Bravo made his international debut in 2009, a time where none among the greats including Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Dravid, Sachin, Laxman, Hussey, Kallis, Watson had retired.
To a team that already boasts of a powerful line-up of batsmen, young and raring to go in a useful trinity comprising Hetmyer, Hope, Pooran and mustn’t we forget- Lewis, Darren Bravo needs to set the record straight.
He needs to produce such high standards of scoring that he sets a tournament alive putting all that desire that rarely takes form into plundering of runs.
When he had that chance in the 2019 World Cup, Bravo reverted with 19 runs from 3 games. Just not good enough with the bat. Holder decided to play another instead of relying on Bravo.
When he had a chance, having been selected for the 2015 World Cup, Bravo held himself back rather inexplicably, citing personal reasons for his refusal to tour to Australia.
Not that it was all over for the flamboyant hitter of the ball who appears princely like Lara when he gets into the groove.
One year later, determined and dogged like never before, he returned wearing the Test whites and smashed a Mohd. Aamir and Yasir Shah-powered Pakistani attack under bright lights of the UAE, scoring the first Test century against the pink ball.
It was a world record in that no batsmen before Darren Michael Bravo, more than DJ Bravo’s cousin, more than Lara version 2 had scored a Test ton with the pink ball in a day-nighter.
His 116 should be considered as among the greatest centuries ever scored by a left-hander in any run-chase. That he all but took Windies home, before an excellently flighted one by the leg-spinning ace Shah prompted a return catch, spoiled all the good work done by a batsman who pushed crowds to hold placards that read Bravo vs Pakistan.
Never again has a West Indian scored a century of such high class, defined by the magnitude of concentration as Bravo’s. While for sure Roston Chase, on his own, has fired two hundred against the same opponent, albeit in the Caribbean a year later after Bravo’s UAE valiance.
The trouble that persists with Darren Bravo is that at a time where he should’ve been putting faster gears in his car, expanding his envelope further, having played many matchwinning innings, including one way back in 2013, such as where an exceptional double ton in Kane Williamson-land prompted a draw when defeat was certain, we see a guy engaging in drudgery today.
That Bravo who produced definitive attacks, slicing away at the likes of Boult, Wagner, Kallis and Rabada, Johnson and Patterson, Yasir Shah and Rangana Herath, is today still collecting runs and on occasions, gives a glimpse into a somewhat paradoxical career- one that longed for the Lara-like fluency, having based itself on Brian Lara’s craft but hasn’t quite yielded the goods his team would like.
Why aren’t there Darren Bravo fan clubs and an unabashed coterie of devotees that to this day, remain awake until midnight reminiscing the Prince of Trinidad’s genius knocks is something no fan can answer and no soothsayer can decipher.
Remember, this was the man, who upon his maiden India adventure, circa 2011, smashed a 166 at the Wankhede. In the very year, in the World Cup contest versus the Proteas (Kotla, Delhi) fired perhaps the most gorgeous 73 by a West Indian ever.
In a side where AB, Kallis and Smith were the daunting run makers, Bravo alone fought for the West Indies.
Where’s that keen gatherer of runs gone? Is this Darren Bravo, one who walked back cheaply in the first ODI the other night at Barbados reminiscent of that younger, more keener Bravo?
Time to get back among runs Lil B. All’s not lost yet. A nation looks up to you for you can deliver, you’ve already done it many times in the past.