Bravo stresses on confidence factor ahead of second Test
Take a look at the scorecard from West Indies' tour match in Geelong at the weekend and you'd be forgiven for thinking it was as meaningless as warm-up games get. A two-day match against a Victorian XI featuring only two players - neither of them bowlers - with first-class experience. But Darren Bravo hopes that if his fellow batsmen gained just one thing from the game it is this: confidence.
West Indies have been sorely lacking it of late. In Sri Lanka in October they were roundly defeated and none of the batsmen scored centuries in the two Tests; in fact, only Bravo and Jermaine Blackwood managed so much as a fifty. That was followed by a tour game in Brisbane that the team lost to a rookie Cricket Australia XI, which in turn was followed by a crushing three-day loss in the first Test.
But as poor as West Indies were in Hobart, there were a couple of encouraging signs. Bravo himself scored a classy 108 in the first innings, but was let down by the complete lack of support from the rest of the batting order. In the second, Kraigg Brathwaite found himself in a similar position, posting 94 out of a total of 148. A bit more back-up in either innings and it could have been a much tighter contest.
So, as weak as the Victorian attack was in Geelong, West Indies were still pleased that Blackwood, after making a pair in the Hobart Test, managed 69, that Brathwaite backed up from his Test effort with 78, and that Marlon Samuels and Denesh Ramdin at least spent some time in the middle. Bravo did not bat in Geelong but was pleased with what he saw, and hopes that the batsmen will be better for it come Boxing Day.
"It's just a matter of confidence," Bravo said. "Coming in to this series most of our batsmen didn't really have that confidence. We lost the series in Sri Lanka, we lost the practice game as well in Brisbane. It's a matter of confidence.
"It's important that whenever we go to bat we spend some time out in the middle. If we spend time we're definitely going to score runs. Naturally we play aggressive cricket where batting is concerned. It's just a matter of us spending time out in the middle and putting up a very good fight.
"It's very important we look at the positives. In the practice game young Blackwood played pretty well, as well as Kraigg Brathwaite. The bowlers had a very good run, including Jerome Taylor. The guys are putting in the work, it's just a matter of us going out there and executing."
West Indies trained at the MCG on Tuesday for the first time ahead of the Test, which starts on Saturday, while the Australians will begin training on Wednesday. The Victorian fast bowler Scott Boland has been added to Australia's squad as an injury replacement for Nathan Coulter-Nile, and while Josh Hazlewood, Peter Siddle and James Pattinson remain the likely attack, Bravo knows from his Hobart ton that scoring opportunities will present themselves.
"The Australian bowlers, they have a plan exactly how they want to get us out," he said. "You respect the good balls and put away the bad balls. Yes they are a very good team but at the end of the day they are still humans. They're going to present bad balls and it's just a matter of putting it away. I don't think you should be bogged down too much. Don't be intimidated by the Australian bowlers. Just back yourself and your ability.
"When you're not scoring runs it is difficult to pick yourself up. I believe the guys have that sort of resilience in them. Most of us have scored international hundreds. We have proven that we are definitely capable of playing at this level. It is just a matter of going out there and spending some time."
It was also easy to forget after the three-day result in Hobart that at lunch on day one, West Indies were arguably in the stronger position, having picked up three wickets after Australia chose to bat. However, they then allowed Adam Voges and Shaun Marsh to compile a record fourth-wicket partnership that batted West Indies out of the match.
"It's very important that whenever we're in the driver's seat we try and stay there," Bravo said. "I remember in the first Test match we had Australia three for 100 or something like that. We were in the driver's seat and we let loose. We need to maintain the momentum in the game."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale