Destiny drives Bravo in ultimate battleground
The night before he scored the century that revitalised both his West Indian team and the Frank Worrell Trophy series, Dwayne Bravo lay in his hotel bed watching boxing on the television. The combat, the valour, the bloody-minded determination struck a chord with Bravo, the Trinidadian allrounder, and he later relayed to team-mates a quote from one of the duelling pugilists: "Destiny is in my hands."
It was a motto that resonated throughout Bravo's innings on Friday, and one that stands as a beacon for his side to follow in this series and beyond. The dispiriting Brisbane defeat still weighing heavily upon them, West Indies might well have been expected to capitulate when Adrian Barath, Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan fell inside the first session, only for Bravo and Shivnarine Chanderpaul to combine for a century stand that was as much sweet science as precise batsmanship.
Whereas Chanderpaul, fighting out of the crouch, was content to counter-punch on a bouncier-than-usual Adelaide Oval wicket, Bravo advanced. Risks were taken and luck was ridden, but when Bravo raised both his half-century and century with hard-driven boundaries down the ground, the Adelaide patrons offered generous ovations to a born entertainer and a battle-forged fighter.
It may have surprised them to learn that this was Bravo's first Test century since Hobart in 2005; the result of a long battle with an Achilles injury, wavering application at the crease and the distractions caused by the Twenty20 game. The current series is Bravo's first in whites since Australia's tour of the Caribbean 18 months ago, and his match-turning efforts have provided the region with hope that the once flashy youth is maturing into a responsible veteran capable of inspiring a new generation.
"I was very confident coming here to play in Australia," Bravo said. "I think they're the best team in the world and I'm the type of person who loves challenges. After being out of the game for so long I took this tour to make sure I got my Test career back on track. I have a lot of starts at times and tend to give it away. I'm just happy that I got a start in this game and carried on. It's long overdue and I'm happy to get another hundred behind my name and looking forward to the innings ahead of me."
For so long, Bravo has been the embodiment of all that is right, wrong and worrisome about West Indian cricket. Here is a man blessed with athletic gifts the envy of his peers; an allrounder with the hubris and flair to snap Caribbean cricket out of its decade-long malaise. It was this Bravo who defied Australia in its own backyard with a century of pure power and panache, lifting his side to a competitive first-innings total in the process.
But there has been another side. Fairly or not, Bravo has been portrayed as one of the poster children for the Twenty20 game. That perception wasn't helped when Bravo did not represent West Indies during their ill-fated Test tour of England earlier this year, yet was deemed fit enough to represent the Mumbai Indians in the concurrent IPL. Club over country debates raged, as they had the previous year when he made an 11th-hour arrival for the Test series against Australia in a Mukesh Ambani-sponsored private jet.
A tentative peace has taken hold between players and the board of late, and perhaps with it will come a more dedicated commitment to international cricket. Certainly, Bravo gave every indication after play that he remained committed to both the region and the five-day format in an oration every bit as refreshing as his innings.
"Test cricket to me is the ultimate," he said. "I think all players have to make a name for themselves through Test cricket. It's the only way you can become one of the best players in the world and be recognised by the best players in the world. Once you've dominated at Test level then you become a world-class player. I really love playing Test cricket. I think it is the ultimate.
"I'm very happy to be back in the team playing Test cricket again. After that first Test I was very disappointed for us as a team. We regrouped after that first Test and identified where we went wrong as a team. We knew coming into this Test that we would play better and make a better showing of ourselves."
So far, so good.
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo