Resilient Bravo shows overseas prowess
The idea was to try and write a piece about Darren Bravo without referencing a certain cricketer whose initials are BCL. But then Bravo played two cover drives off Neil Wagner through a tightly packed off-side field. It was no longer possible to resist.
The stories are already familiar. Growing up in the same Trinidad village, Bravo idolised Brian Lara and his bedroom at home was plastered with cuttings. If there was a doppelgangers reward, Bravo would have it nailed. Lara had spoken to his protégé after the first day of this Test, telling him to "let the world know the true Darren Bravo."
"It's no longer a secret; growing up as a kid, Brian was the only guy I looked at when West Indies were batting," Bravo said, happy to tell the story again. "As a kid growing up, whenever Brian's photo was in the newspaper or a magazine, I would cut it out and stick it up all over my room. Everything I wanted was to be just like Brian. I look up to him a lot. He has been there for me ever since and that's something I hold very close to my heart."
The connections don't end there, either. When he went to his 150, passing Lara's only hundred in New Zealand - 147 in Wellington - Lara, who made his Test debut on this day in 1990 and was following the Dunedin Test in the UK, tweeted: "Keep it going." And Bravo did. The batsman went past his previous best of 195 and onto a maiden double-hundred, which was greeted with a leap, a punch in the air and an embrace from the hobbling Darren Sammy. It was just the third double ton by a West Indies batsman in New Zealand after Gordon Greenidge (213) and Seymore Nurse (258).
"I had a bit of nerves, while the bowler was running in and all the fans were clapping," he said. "I didn't want to do anything rash. I knew a single was right around the corner. I had batted all day, so why not wait a couple more balls. It's a great feeling. It's one of my most special moments and hopefully I can continue where I left off today."
Bravo has looked a Test batsman since making his debut against Sri Lanka in 2010 where he notched three fifties in the series. It set a tone for him, where his batting has flourished away from home. His only extended problems on foreign soil came against the moving ball on the 2012 trip to England where he did not pass 29 in five innings; the recent tour of India was not prolific, but he was often solid there before getting tied down against spin.
The difference in his returns is stark - at home he averages 29.88 and away, as he stands overnight, it is more than double at 59.64. His away average is currently the highest for all West Indies batsmen in overseas conditions who have played at least 10 Tests abroad. He's not a player for home comforts.
"Before I left India, I didn't really perform well. I was spending some time, like an hour, hour-and-a-half at the wicket, but I wasn't scoring big runs," Bravo said. "I remember telling Kieran Powell that I'm going to score a double hundred in New Zealand. I just backed myself. I knew I was going to have a special innings in New Zealand."
It was not an innings without fortune - escaping a run-out chance on 76 when Brendon McCullum threw to the wrong end, dropped on 82 by Neil Wagner in his follow-through, edging between the keeper and slip on 188 and what appeared a glove to slip on the third evening - but it was the type of display that those long-suffering West Indies fans, who are put through the trying time of watching this side, have been imploring to see. Resilience, control, longevity and a hint of flourish.
This was a formidable Test hundred. In terms of balls faced, it is already the 15th longest for West Indies and he has been at the crease over nine hours. New Zealand's attack is far from weak and, although the surface did die, there was just enough to keep batsmen honest, as the brief period either side of Narsingh Deonarine's wicket showed; a delivery scuttled past Bravo's off stump before Corey Anderson made one climb to take Deonarine's edge.
New Zealand should still wrap this match up on the final day (weather permitting, and a few afternoon showers do loom) but Bravo has tested their resolve. When Marlon Samuels and Shivnarine Chanderpaul - the previous two West Indies batsmen to score Test double hundreds - fell within the first hour the expectation was that the resistance had been snapped. There was another heartening fact about this day's play: the support came from others even as the plaudits were all going to Bravo. And something else: there have been six previous double hundreds in follow-ons, and none have been in a lost cause.
Hopefully it is the sort of innings that will inspire a young cricketer back in the Caribbean to cut out some pictures (or nowadays, perhaps, to save them on his Facebook page) with the hope of following in those footsteps one day. Sadly, though, most cricket fans in West Indies will have to do with still pictures of this innings because there is no TV coverage. It was worth so much more.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo