'When I'm playing well, I can dominate any bowling'
Many have already heard the comparisons to Brian Lara. Similarly built and related by blood - his grandfather and Brian Lara's mother are brother and sister - Darren Bravo is aware of the buzz each time he marks his guard. He too bats left-handed and plays his strokes with an elegance that comes easy only to the very gifted. But as much as he admires Lara, Bravo has no desire to be just another imitation. West Indian cricket has plumbed several depths over the past decade and Bravo is part of a new generation that Ottis Gibson, the coach, hopes is capable of putting smiles back on fans' faces. Before the match against India in Chennai, Bravo spoke to ESPNcricinfo about his nascent career and the hopes he has for the future.
What are your earliest cricket memories?
From the time I can remember, I would be doing things like throwing up pebbles and hitting them with a stick. By the age of six I was at the coaching camp at the Queen's Park Cricket Club in Trinidad. And it was there that it all began.
How much did Dwayne [his half-brother] influence you?
Whenever Dwayne played Under-15 or U-19, my dad and I would try and watch him. Sometimes I'd have a game to play myself. But I quickly realised that this was what I wanted to do with my life.
Is there less pressure on you because you're part of a generation that can't even remember a time when West Indies were the strongest team in the world? Is there a feeling that things can only get better?
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. I try to get as much as I can when I meet the legends.
As you say, I'm new. A lot of us are very willing and we want to go out there and give a good account of ourselves. It might take time but we'd like to put West Indies cricket back on track.
Who are the former players who've made an impression on you?
I've had one or two conversations with Sir Viv, and a couple with Sir Garry as well. Those guys have inspired me. They've spoken to me about batting and building an innings. I ask them how West Indies cricket was back then, compared to now.
I've learnt that there was a lot of passion and pride in representing West Indies. 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.
The inevitable question - how much of a factor has Brian been in your career?
When he was playing, and even now, I've always looked at the way Brian batted. These days it's on Youtube. He was obviously my hero and role model and someone I look up to. I can remember games I stopped watching once he was out. I've been really lucky that we're so close.
What do you think made him so special?
The way he went about his batting was like watching a movie. He'd often give the first half hour to the bowlers and then do his thing. He usually hit the ball exactly where he wanted to.
The kind of money there is in Twenty20 cricket these days, a player can comfortably get by without ever winning a Test cap. What effect do you think that will have on the younger generation?
At the end of the day, I didn't start playing cricket with money on my mind. It's something I love, a part of me. There is a lot of money going around in the shortest form of the game. Yes, we have to live and support our families, and we need money for that. But cricket is what counts.
So, your aim is to be recognised as a great Test batsman?
That's my ultimate goal, and I hope I can achieve that.
Who are the individuals who have had the most influence on your technique?
I've had different coaches at different age-group levels. They've all given me good advice. But it's ultimately up to you how you shape your game.
Last year, when I was struggling a bit, I was rooming with [Ramnaresh] Sarwan during a coaching clinic. I asked him to look at me batting because I felt something wasn't right. That helped me a lot. I also make it a point to speak to former players about my batting. And if they suggest something, I'll try it.
I watch a lot of the great players on Youtube. You can see them all and what worked well for them. I often lie in my bed and do that.
What do you think are your strengths as a batsman?
When I'm playing well, I can dominate any bowling. I have decent concentration and I know when to go on the attack. But I'm still young and learning my trade.
How has this World Cup experience been? Not just on the field, but away from it?
It's been great to be part of this World Cup and not just because it's my first. The first of many, I hope. We all know how fanatical Indian supporters are where cricket is concerned. 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.
What do you think you'd be doing now if not for cricket?
To be really honest, I never sat down and studied. I was always playing and I hoped that I could make it in cricket. Cricket was always my priority. I never represented teams at other sports, but I do play a bit of table tennis and basketball.
How do you relax away from cricket?
It's important to take your mind away from the game sometimes. I like to go shopping, and party now and then. I like spending time with family and making people laugh.
In this World Cup you've come up against Jacques Kallis. On Sunday you'll play against Sachin Tendulkar. What comes to mind when you think of such players?
The most important thing for me when those guys walk out to bat is the numbers on the scoreboard, all that they have achieved. That touches me. It's nice to know that if you go out there and give it everything, you too can be like that. 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. Hopefully, that will be the case.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo