India v West Indies, Champions Trophy, Group B, The Oval June 11, 2013

Lara's heir falls short on flair

Darren Bravo's inspiration was Brian Lara but he played an innings that was the antithesis of his hero's career at The Oval

When Darren Bravo was in his early teens, he watched cricket for just one man. Perhaps he still recalls the famous innings; the 153 in Bridgetown or the 400 in Antigua. As soon as Brian Lara was dismissed, Bravo would turn away. There was perhaps little else to enjoy in West Indies' cricket as their empire fell. Dreaming one day to play like his idol, Bravo went out to bat.

In the hours before he strapped on the pads, he had absorbed Lara through the television screen. The "Prince" is Bravo's first cousin, once removed, on his mother's side. Maybe he figured his blood ran blue as well.

Now 24, the languid lunge that precedes Bravo's cover drive bears the same royal air. The hands and feet glide through the crease like liquid, like Lara. Bravo lacks for a touch of majesty, but the high backlift, the chin that grazes his shoulder in his stance and the leap upon reaching a ton are all there. Only, at The Oval, against India, he played an innings that was the antithesis of his hero's career. Where Lara had waged a lone, lionhearted war while a once-great side withered beside him, Bravo's knock robbed West Indies of their early momentum, and amplified the burden on the surrounding batsmen.

Upon arrival at the beginning of the sixth over, Bravo blocked a few, then glanced a four. Nothing was awry yet and Johnson Charles soon began his surge, hiding to some extent, the pedestrian strike rate Bravo nursed. Spin came into the attack and Bravo's plight worsened. Having made only 18 from 38, he dead-batted Ravindra Jadeja's first over, though there was no alarming turn or exceptional skill on the bowler's part. After Jadeja removed Charles, next over, Bravo made no move to assume the responsibility for run-scoring, 46-balls old at the crease though he was at the time. His innings grew more laboured still.

R Ashwin bowled another maiden against him, after Marlon Samuels and Ramnaresh Sarwan had floundered and fallen at the other end. Having gone at over five runs an over in the first 20 overs, West Indies managed only 25 in the next 10. Finally resolving to attack, Bravo skipped down the track to Ashwin in the 34th over, only to change his mind midway, and find himself comprehensively beaten and stumped. There were many occasions during his 83-ball stay that Bravo might have seized the initiative but instead he oversaw a meandering middle-overs effort that made the task of achieving a par score nearly impossible.

How differently Lara might have handled it. Unconquered by the two best spin bowlers to ever play the game, he relished attack, and planned never to let a bowler settle when they began against him. Bravo is proficient against slow bowling, and it is unfair to expect him to replicate the success of the brightest raw batting talent of the last 30 years but, though he has mined Lara footage to recreate his idol's style, there are vital lessons on substance yet to be gleaned.

"This innings to me was one of Darren's worst innings," Dwayne Bravo, West Indies' captain, said. "We're aware of it and we've already spoken to him. Batting on top of the order, we expect a bit more from him, but at the same time, while he stayed in there, we kept losing wickets. So it also makes his job a lot more difficult."

"But it's all in the experience with him. He's young, and he's one of our better batters, and once we show a little faith in him and try to let him know where he went wrong, he can improve. Definitely it will do good for him and for us as a team once we can get him scoring runs and turning over the strike a bit more. Like I said, it's a learning curve."

Dwayne Bravo's point about rotating the strike is a crucial one. The West Indies batting order carries artillery at the top and furious finishers lower down but, in between, they are short of an engine room. Of the 300 legal deliveries West Indies faced today, a staggering 194 were dot balls. In Tests Darren Bravo has displayed the aptitude to become the link man, whose graft glues the innings together, but in ODIs, the gear in between stonewall and sprint has eluded him.

A score of 260 or 270 might have made for a different result, Dwayne Bravo reflected, but perhaps the strength of India's batting in this tournament would have made easy work of any total on the lighter side of 300. West Indies now enter a shootout with South Africa for the second semi-final berth in their group. If Darren Bravo can imbibe a little more of Lara before that encounter, perhaps the West Indies cannonade will have a sturdier base from which to launch.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on June 12, 2013, 21:41 GMT

    very well written article.....its the truth...he is a poor comparison to lara even at his best.... just look at his horrid odi career..he can become good though......people are now saying you shouldnt compare him the brian......but when he made two test centuries...people where saying he is the next lara...that shoud never have been said....

  • khali on June 12, 2013, 17:55 GMT

    Why everyone is on Sarwan's case he is a no 3 batsman and an experience one as well why not send him in in his usual position or open with him like against Zimbabwe. Also what has the pollards gayle bravos ramdin samuels done. Its a team game and no one person should be blame so get off sarwan's case and focus on the real problem putting performance together

  • Dummy4 on June 12, 2013, 15:49 GMT

    I still say bring back Shiv who can rotate the strike very well and still have the ability to put away the bad balls. Surely eh can't do worse than Sarwan? Also why not use Pollard at the top of the order where the can play himself in and then have time to go after the bowling? Maybe its also time to give Darren a rest and bring in Dwayne Smith who also offers an additional bowling option.

  • Dummy4 on June 12, 2013, 14:45 GMT

    So far Bravo has found the majority of his success in the sub-continent, anywhere else he has struggled for consistancy. He's got the ability and talent to go far, but his temperament and shot-selection, as well as adjusting to conditions out of his comfort zone, he's been found wanting. For a guy that bats no.3 in ODIs and no.4 in Tests, he's not delivering on his potential. But I believe that will change with experience, it's just a matter of how much patience the selectors will have with him.

  • kent on June 12, 2013, 12:19 GMT

    The primary problem with WI is their lack of discipline and thus failure to stick to their strategy. Yes I am certain that Gibson and Co would have worked out a strategy for each game and against each opponent. Yet time and time again one witnesses both batters and bowlers unable to take charge of situations as the game progresses and as things change. How can batters just give away their wickets at attempted rash shots? How can bowlers repeatedly bowl short and wide? Until WI can recognise that a game is won by consistent well though out and executed action, driven by disciplines performance, WI will continue to possess an ordinary record in ODI and test. Yes occasionally on a good day they will blow out any opposition with brilliant batting, bowling and even fielding, but without consistent performances, borne out of disciplined activity on the field of play, those good days will be intermittent, sporadic and occasionally achieved.

  • Kamau on June 12, 2013, 12:18 GMT

    Darren Bravo had a 'bad day at the office', it was as simple as that. He has taken on better bowling attacks and come good, so shake it off Bravo, and next game get YOUR GAME ON!! Now, my bigger issue is why are WI playing Sarwan, who is clearly out of form, instead of Dwayne Smith, or Darren Sammy, who showed the type of player he is once again (I am sure the Sammy haters will comment). We have enough batsmen to score 300 (Gayle, Charles, DM Bravo, Samuels, DJ Bravo, Pollard), so it does not require another one. With Ramdin (naughty boy) in then Narine, Rampaul and Roach you can include the 'missing' part of the artillery, and that is the extra fast bowler (Best, get ready). As the game against India showed, you can drop Ramdin and include Sammy for the extra batting/bowling option. So for the game against SA - Gayle, Charles, DM Bravo, Samuels, Pollard, DJ Bravo, Sammy, Narine, Rampaul, Best, Roach. No more percentage cricket, we go for de jugular!!

  • Dummy4 on June 12, 2013, 11:37 GMT

    Bravo need improvememt to find the gaps and rotating the strike. It is of no use to keep on blocking the balls.

  • collis on June 12, 2013, 10:29 GMT

    i wait to see what becomes of young bravo. when sarwan batted at such a slack strike rate in the world cup he was dropped from west indies squad. i have been saying it for a while young bravo is not as good a player as people make him out to be. i think the way he batted made the world of difference to the eventual west indian total soaking up so many balls because west indies did not run out of wickets at the end they ran out of balls. with sammy batting the way he did another 15-20 balls would have made west indies score that much more competetive,

  • Dru on June 12, 2013, 9:47 GMT

    I dont think this is a fair comment on Bravo or Lara! Firstly Bravo is not alone - Whole Pakistan batting, Mathews, Sanga appear to be playing the waiting game in Eng presumably due to the two new balls and the idea of having wickers in hand to take advantage of the new field restrictions.

  • Joshua on June 12, 2013, 9:24 GMT

    West Indies failure in this match and potentially others lies in their team selection policy. It has long been established that on any decent wicket where there are fast men operating Batsmen from the sub-continent are very circumspect. The Oval is a well-known hunting ground for the men from the West Indies. Why have they decided to omit Tino Best from the starting XI beggar belief. Likewise, why do they persist with Sarwan over Dwayne Smith is yet another detrimental decision. Dwayne Smith got an IPL contract and not Sarwan for very good reason. Take nothing away from the Indian Batsmen, they batted splendedly as would I, if served up with long-hops, short-wide stuff or half-volleys.

    T20 cricket and ODIs are not too dissimilar. Infact, one could go as far as to say that ODI is T20 played over 2 halves. Why therefore can't someone like Darren Bravo adapt to the change at his age is beyond me. Sammy did little fuss.

    I agree in full with the sentiment echoed by Muski.