Long way to go

This boy is too good to keep giving it away like that.
Whether or not it was a case of merely delaying the inevitable, the fact of the matter is that Dwayne Bravo's dismissal just after lunch triggered the collapse that paved the way for England's seven-wicket victory on the last day of the fourth Test to complete a 3-0 trouncing of West Indies in the four-match series.

It may seem unduly harsh to be critical of the only Caribbean player other than Shivnarine Chanderpaul to come out of yet another disastrous campaign with some credit. However, instead of settling with being a little better than the mediocrity that surrounds him, this gifted allrounder must demand a considerably higher standard from himself, much in the way his illustrious fellow Cantaro villager was motivated to excel in the midst of the worst period in the region's cricket history.

Indeed, he need look no further than Brian Lara to appreciate that successful batting at the highest level does not only require a wide array of shots, but also a ravenous appetite for runs. In a very different way, Chanderpaul is also a testament to the adage that you can only score runs out in the middle and, at the end of the day, it is scoring runs in great quantity that will win or save matches, while also enhancing individual reputations.

Throughout this series, Bravo has delighted with the audacity of his strokeplay. The extravagant flourishes that decorate his shots on both sides of the wicket, the willingness to use his feet to the spinners and the eagerness with which he scampers every run have put smiles on glum West Indian faces over the past month.

Instead of settling with being a little better than the mediocrity that surrounds him, this gifted allrounder must demand a considerably higher standard from himself.

But for a player of his obvious ability, it definitely is not enough that he should so often get in and get out, spending enough time at the crease to be well set, having seen what all the bowlers have to offer, only to give his wicket away through poor shot selection.

Five times in seven innings he was dismissed between 40 and 60. On almost every occasion, beginning with the pull to deep midwicket at Lord's and ending with a miscued lofted drive to mid-off at the Riverside Stadium, his demise was of his own making.

Finishing with 291 runs at an average of 41.57 is above average for what would be expected from an allrounder. Yet it is nowhere near enough if it is appreciated that he has it in him to turn those attractive starts into really big ones more often than not.

This is the challenge for Bravo, to blend steely resolve and greater powers of concentration into the mix without losing that so very obvious enjoyment of every aspect of his game. As I've said before, it is a credit to this 23-year old that, despite not experiencing victory in the 23 Tests since he made his debut three years ago, he remains such an ebullient, infectious cricketer.

He has not enjoyed much success with the ball over the four Tests, yet there have been a couple excellent spells without much luck. His cleverly-disguised variations in pace will be even more of an asset during next week's back-to-back Twenty20 Internationals and the three ODIs that follow. In the field, he is very much a leader whether in the outfield or the slip cordon, and the chance he missed diving to his left at second slip that gave Andrew Strauss a temporary reprieve off Fidel Edwards could be described as a genuine aberration in a series where, at times, the West Indies didn't seem capable of catching a cold in almost freezing conditions.

It can only be hoped, for his sake if no-one else's, that he has really listened to people like Ian Botham. The fact that he sought out England's greatest allrounder for some advice during the third Test in Manchester suggests that he is really keen to improve and not fall into the trap of complacency that has ensnared so many of the current West Indies cricketers.

And just in case anyone of influence is seriously considering Bravo's leadership qualities as a future option, that is probably the worst thing that could happen to him as far his cricket career is concerned. Being such an important all-purpose player is demanding in itself without the burden of captaining a team that will remain in the doldrums for the foreseeable future.

If that appears unnecessarily pessimistic, there was more than enough evidence yesterday to reinforce that depressing forecast, from Daren Powell's astonishing repetition of his criminally reckless first innings shot (especially with Chanderpaul again standing firm at the other end) to a succession of errors in the field that had everyone except embarrassed West Indians laughing their heads off amid the gloom at Chester-le-Street.

So the first Test series in the post-Lara era has ended very much like most of the campaigns when he was around. There seems to be no one or nothing capable of even slowing the 12-year decline, especially with selectors as inconsistent as ever and the administrators finding new ways to attract ridicule (the fact that an injury-riddled squad won't have the services of their limited-over specialists for the first warm-up match tomorrow is a case in point).

In this environment, Bravo's value is magnified many times over. But he still has a very long way to go. Hopefully he knows that.