The curious case of Darren Bravo
The similarities in batting style and technique between Darren Bravo and Brian Lara were written about even before Bravo made his international debut. A year into Bravo's Test career, there was even more reason to celebrate: in 12 Tests during that period, he had scored 940 runs at an average of 47.05, which were exactly Lara's stats after he had played 12 Tests. As if to celebrate that fact, Bravo scored 166 in the first innings of his 13th Test to push his career average up to 52.50; Lara had made 167 in his 13th. Things were moving in a parallel direction for these two: one had been a jewel in West Indies' batting line-up for several years, and the other was just taking over the mantle, it seemed.
Much has changed since that story of November 2011, though. After 40 Tests, which is Bravo's current tally, his average has dropped to 41.34; after averaging more than 60 in three of his first five series, Bravo has repeated the feat only twice in his next 11. At a similar stage in his career, Lara's average had risen to 55.86, and his exploits included a record-breaking 375 against England in Antigua in his 16th Test. Lara had truly captured the cricket world's imagination with his flair and was among the top three batsmen at the time, while Bravo is currently lagging behind in the pecking order among current batsmen, well adrift of Kane Williamson, AB de Villiers, Steven Smith and Joe Root.
|Till Dec 2011||13||1155||52.50||3|
|Jan 2012 onwards||27||1698||36.12||4|
Bravo's problem, though, is a peculiar one. Most batsmen tend to relish home conditions and struggle abroad. With Bravo, the reverse is true: he averages barely more than 30 at home and nearly 52 overseas. In eight home series, his average has never touched 40. The highest it has reached is 39.50, against England earlier this year. When Australia toured there in June 2015, Bravo scored only 49 runs in four innings, a tally he more than doubled in just one innings in Hobart on the current tour. In eight away series, on the other hand (excluding the ongoing Australia tour), he has averaged more than 60 five times. Six of his seven Test hundreds have come overseas, including his highest of 218 in a stirring fightback against New Zealand in Dunedin in 2013.
Among West Indies' specialist batsmen (those batting in the top six) who have played at least 20 Tests at home - there are 26 batsmen who meet this qualification - Bravo's average of 31.25 is fourth from the bottom. There is symmetry with Lara there too: his average is fourth from the top. Lara averaged 58.65 at home and scored 17 centuries in 111 innings, which works out to one every 6.5 innings; Bravo has one century at home from 37 innings. (The lowest home average belongs to another batsman in the current team - Marlon Samuels averages 25.69 when batting in the top six.)
Bravo's away average of 51.73, though, is the highest for West Indian batsmen with a 20-Test cut-off. It is one run higher than Garry Sobers' average. They are among only three West Indians who have a 50-plus away average: Viv Richards is the third with 50.50. Lara missed out on this landmark, averaging 48.26 in away Tests for West Indies. (He also played one Test for the ICC World XI in Sydney, hence his overall away average was 47.80.)
The difference between Bravo's away and home averages is 20.48. Among all batsmen who have played at least 30 innings in home conditions and overseas, only one batsman has a higher difference: Mohinder Amarnath played some famous innings for India in away Tests - most notably in the West Indies and in Pakistan - but invariably struggled at home. Only two of his 11 Test hundreds came at home, but nine out of 12 ducks were in India, including five in one series against West Indies in 1983-84. His numbers are very similar to Bravo's Test stats so far: a home average of 30.44, an away average of 51.86 and an overall average of 42.50.
Among West Indians, the next-highest difference belongs to Samuels, who averages 28.38 at home and 38.21 overseas, a difference of 9.83. He is followed by Larry Gomes, a contemporary of Amarnath who was outstanding in Australia and in England, but couldn't put it all together at home. Gomes scored six centuries in 26 innings in Australia and England, but only three in 30 innings in the West Indies.
|Batsman||Home Runs||Home Ave||Away Runs||Away Ave||Diff|
In the Hobart Test, in an otherwise dismal performance from West Indies, all the pundits were raving over Bravo's classy century in a performance that was several notches above those of his fellow batsmen. With that sort of ability at his disposal, it is inexplicable that he is languishing at 34th place among 44 specialist batsmen who have played at least 25 Test innings in the last three years. To start moving up that list, he could begin by improving his home numbers.
S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter