West Indies tour of New Zealand, 2005-06 March 29, 2006

Bravo's rain dance in vain

Tony Cozier

Incessent rain forced the umpires to abandon the Test © Getty Images

As he returned to the team hotel from dinner at a nearby restaurant with West Indian team-mates Monday night, a visibly damp Dwayne Bravo went into a brief, impromptu and self-choreographed rain dance.

"Rain, rain, stay away," he chanted. It was an understandable sentiment for bad weather is the bane of all young, enthusiastic cricketers-and there are few younger and more enthusiastic in international cricket than the 22-year-old Trinidadian.

But there was more to his incantation than the loss of scheduled playing time in the third and final Test. It was the frustration of being denied the chance of a gratifying finale to what has been an unsatisfactory tour, for him personally as for the team.

As it turned out, his optimistic efforts were in vain. Heavy rain on Sunday night left parts of the outfield so saturated not a ball could be bowled on the scheduled third day, in spite of a dry Monday. There were more persistent showers on Tuesday, scratching play of the fourth day as well and, although the sun broke through intermittently on the final morning yesterday the ground had taken so much water that umpires Daryl Harper and Ian Howell deemed play impossible at the scheduled 10 a.m. start. They announced they would make a further inspection an hour later, when they took the decision to abandon the match.

The West Indies had made 256 for 4 from the 78.1 overs that were available on the first two days, their best start of the series. Bravo was set to resume with 22, runs gathered on the abbreviated second day with due care and attention in an unbroken partnership of 67 with Runako Morton. The climate change that came over New Zealand's north island in the past week, a legacy of the remnants of a passing hurricane off Australia, was as unkind to Morton as it was to Bravo and others wanting to use the last Test to atone for earlier setbacks.

But Morton was one of the few who needed no such redemption. In both the one-day series and in the two Tests for which he was chosen, the powerful Nevisian transformed himself from a minor player into one who has shown he has the heart for the demands of the game at the highest level. He was unbeaten 70 and his disappointment would be of the loss of a chance for a maiden Test hundred to follow that in the fourth ODI on the same McLean Park two weeks earlier when the sun shone from a cloudless sky.

Unlike Morton, Bravo had already established himself in the team with strong performances with bat, ball and in the field in his nine Tests that preceded New Zealand. He was especially so away from home in England in 2004 and Australia last November. This was the occasion to confirm his position as the genuine all-rounder so beneficial to any team, but it was spoiled virtually before it began.

A torn intercostal muscle in his left side in the Twenty20 International that opened the tour prevented him from bowling his nippy medium-pacers, with their clever variations, that have earned him 28 Test wickets at 33.53 runs each. His returns in his two Tests in Australia four months earlier, when he scored the second of his Test hundreds and averaged 53.5, were enough to persuade the selectors to use him strictly as a batsman.

As Chris Cairns, New Zealand's outstanding all-rounder of the past decade, noted on television, it was not the same for a player accustomed to being involved in every facet of the game. It is like tying one hand behind his back. Bravo began with a sound, purposeful 59 in the first innings of the first Test, sharing a partnership of 89 with Ramnaresh Sarwan that dragged the West Indies out of the mire at 90 for five.

He should have had more but was out to a catch at mid-on to a careless on-drive. His next three scores were 17, nine and seven and, if he might twice have survived close lbw decisions, he seldom appeared settled. His miscued hook that lobbed to square-leg early on the fourth morning of the second Test was the shot of a batsman lacking conviction and concentration. He set about putting things right in his hour and 20 minutes in the middle on the second day here and was looking forward to a long, fulfilling innings. The weather hasn't cooperated-even after his rain dance.