As if growing up in the shadow of a very successful sibling – even if a half-brother – was not enough, Darren Bravo comes into his first World Cup with some more pressure than most aspiring batsmen – that of being touted as a remodelled version of a legend who represented high-quality West Indian batsmanship even when the team’s results were going into a tail spin.
Brian Lara left the 2007 World Cup with possibly the most stylish farewell in cricket, by asking a question to his adoring audience: “Did I entertain?”. Bravo steps into the 2011 World Cup with an understanding that this is now the time to seize his moment and of course, entertain.
“Anywhere you pass, you can see a World Cup poster,” he said in India. “It’s always reflecting in your mind that hey, this is a really big tournament. That this is one stage where you really want to perform and make the world recognise you.”
Bravo, 22, has time and opportunity to be recognised in this tournament, coming into the West Indies batting line-up just like Lara did – a left-handed No.3. Just after his debut, his captain Chris Gayle spoke of his resemblance to Lara, both in technique and appearance. Viv Richards has been upping the ante around him on Indian television, talking about the similarity between the two Trinidadians.
Bravo feels it is an “honour and privilege” to be spoken of in the same breath as Lara. In his brief two-year international career, Bravo and his natural way of batting has done enough to keep the faith alive in the next generation of West Indian batsmen and their ability to both entertain and perhaps even control the course of matches.
In the rain-drenched series in Sri Lanka just before the World Cup, Bravo’s batting contained consistency as well as composure against quality spin. This is his second visit to India, after the 2009 Champions League Twenty20 as part of the T&T team.
It is the other Bravo, Dwayne, who is better known in international cricket, particularly for his prowess in the Twenty20 format, which has made him one of the world’s most sought-after overseas signings for Twenty20 franchises.
Junior claims to be as comfortable with all formats. “I believe I’m the kind of player who can go and make the transition in all formats quite easily.”
In the last domestic Twenty20 tournament in the Caribbean, Bravo said: “I was the star of the tournament. Prior to that we had a series in Sri Lanka. It was my first Test series and I did reasonably well. Ultimately, you have to make the transition and go out and bat depending on the situation of every match.”
No matter what they could sound like, they were not the words of a current fin-hairstyling and tattoo-wearing GenX-cricketer but belonged to another age where confidence and common sense, more often than not, shared the same space. Bravo’s relationship with his Twenty20-star sibling, who is older than by five years, does, for the moment, not look like a cutting sibling rivalry.
“Dwayne has a lot of experience, he has played in all different formats of the game, in all different parts of the world and he always gives me encouragement. He works out a game plan quite nicely and he tends to make it a bit easy for me and I really appreciate that.”
Whenever the talk comes up of one versus the other, Darren says that Dwayne has a simple message. “To back my ability, to believe in myself because at the end of the day I can only do what I can do. And I can only do my best. Dwayne is always willing to giving me that 100 per cent support and I can’t ask for anything but that.”
The carrot of an India Premier League contract does not distract Bravo at the moment because he is “taking it one step at a time, and I’m more focussed on West Indian cricket at the moment and we have the World Cup now. Sometime in the future, hopefully, I may get into the IPL, but that’s in the future.”
West Indies’ chances at the tournament, he believes, rests on two factors. One of them is momentum. “Each team is going to play competitive cricket. It doesn’t matter where you are in the rankings. Momentum will carry you through the tournament.
“As long as we keep playing together, keep believing in one another, I’m sure we are going to go there and give a good account of ourselves and make people back home very proud.”
West Indies’ first World Cup game, against South Africa, is on Thursday in Delhi.