Sarwan and Bravo turn their form around
Darren Bravo and Ramnaresh Sarwan are at contrasting points in their careers; Bravo is trying to find his feet while Sarwan is fighting to stay on his, as he reaches yet another pivotal juncture in his international career. Two men whose struggles with the bat mirrored their team's troubles early in the series did the job for West Indies today.
"I want to thank Sarwan. He told me to just bat on and that I can make up in the end," Bravo said after playing his best knock of the series. It's something that Sarwan has repeatedly tried to do from the World Cup on, but he had failed every time. He would bat long but the runs wouldn't come and the match would slip away. Everything came to fruition today.
Sarwan has a very fine record against India but he entered this series without runs and confidence. By his own admission he was struggling for fluency in the early part of the series. The local press hasn't been hostile to him but tough questions were asked about his form. He dealt with the criticism honestly.
He didn't even avoid questions about Chris Gayle and extended his support to him. The turmoil within the camp, over Gayle, must not be easy to deal with. The West Indies board, it appears from the outside, isn't too chuffed about the seniors in the team. Add to it the fact that the runs weren't coming. And today, his younger partner Bravo wasn't flowing early and the required rate kept climbing. The pressure must have been suffocating.
Sarwan responded to the crisis by playing his best knock since his comeback. It was a stirring knock under pressure. He was scoreless for seven deliveries before a short ball from Ishant Sharma allowed him to breathe easy. He swivelled to pull it ferociously to the boundary and suddenly, the tide turned.
It was his next four that really set him free. In recent times, Sarwan had been almost reduced to two shots: the cut and the square drive. He tried to fit everything into the framework. When you are down in form, you fall back on your stock shots, your trusted allies, and although that was his plan, that frame of mind was dragging him further back.
The second four came like a breath of fresh air. It was a full delivery around off and middle from the leggie Amit Mishra and Sarwan eased forward to play a neat on-drive past mid-on. You wondered then whether the form was coming back. Two balls later further proof arrived when he backed away to blast a short delivery from Ishant over extra cover.
After that he was flowing. There weren't any boundaries immediately but he nudged, and dabbed into gaps, punched and drove the ball, and generally was looking good on a pitch where the ball came on. By the time the cramps set in, he had taken on the part-timers and reduced the required run-rate.
It was then that Bravo had to take the baton. He nearly let it slip. Though he hit a six almost immediately after the exit of Sarwan he started to freeze. He played out a few dot balls, the asking rate escalated and considering that the West Indies haven't done too well in the batting powerplay in the recent times, it appeared as if Bravo was going to let his team down. The rate kept shooting up and you almost felt that it would be better for West Indies if Bravo got out.
It was at that time of desperation that Bravo suddenly found his mojo. "I like to get the balls under my belt and as long as it happens I tend to make up in the end," Bravo said later. Even he, one suspects, would have wondered whether that "make-up" would happen today.
What was he thinking at that point? "I told [Marlon] Samuels that let's just take six or seven runs and get the run rate to 10. We have Kieron Pollard and Darren Sammy to come. It was a nice feeling to execute our plan. Powerplay has given us trouble in the past and it was nice to play it really well today."
In a blink, everything changed. With 78 runs needed 45 deliveries, his luck started to turn. He lifted R Ashwin over long-on and slog-swept him over midwicket boundary. Game on. In the next over, he looted two more sixes and Bravo's and West Indies' turnaround was official.
The inevitable question of West Indies winning dead rubbers came up. "Yes It happened against Pakistan as well, "Bravo said. "People might say that we see the best of West Indies after the series is over. But we are young team and we are learning. We will get it right in the coming series."
The fans will hope that this day also marks the turnaround in Bravo and Sarwan's immediate future.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo