Darren Bravo's doggedness, and the Windies' bid to be great again
When did we last see the West Indies having their foot completely on the opposition's throat in all departments? Or perhaps, when did we previously see glimpses of the Michael Holdings, Joel Garners, and Andy Roberts against an esteemed Test playing nation? The Caribbean fast-bowling speedsters' list keeps getting bolstered. The tenacity and the hardheadedness of Darren Bravo, however, was overshadowed by some unforgiving and venomous display of quick bowling.
The Trinidadian, often compared to his fellow countrymen and his cousin Brian Lara in terms of his stance, technique and his journey from the dressing room to the batting pitch, has at his disposal enough talent to replicate what Lara had done for his nation.
The younger Bravo's numbers in the longest format of the game do not do justice to his stature, class, and the temperament he holds to play Test cricket along with the reason as to why he made a comeback to the side after a two-year hiatus.
The 30-year old, who was not so long ago framed as a T20 specialist, turned things around remarkably well in the second Test at Antigua to suck the life out of the English camp and enveloped the beam of light that could allow the opposition to take a breather.
Darren Bravo hardly looked in an attacking spree in what was reported to be the slowest half-century in Tests in terms of minutes. His inaugural boundary came off his 25th delivery when he went aerial route down the ground. At one point, he went nearly 30 overs without scoring a boundary.
Darren Bravo did what no other English batsmen preferred to do. Having the one-day mindset ingrained in their minds ahead of the 2019 World Cup, the English had been taking on everything with hard hands that resulted in most of their dismissals going to the slip cordon. Bravo understood that the attacking mindset had to be gulped if the home side is to survive on a wicket with a variable bounce and which holds up a bit.
It wasn't like a knock played by the dashing Viv Richards or like a comfortable one played by another former Windies prodigy Clive Lloyd. It was far from that. However, it might have just managed to put Bravo within sight of taking over Lara as the leading run-scorer in Test cricket for the nation.
It is determination and perseverance which the West Indian batsmen were looking for in this series, given that the Caribbean outfit have fallen from grace drastically in the past few years, particularly in the Test format.
The vigilance of Bravo was one of the many reasons that kept the hosts in the hunt and enabled them to take an invaluable lead that could oust an in-form England out of the game. His tenacity and the persistence of Jason Holder who stood like a rock and weathered the storm, coupled with a fiery pace bowling attack, paid rich dividends after years of struggle.
Although the Englishmen had the Windies batsmen in check, the left-hander routed the elite bowling attack of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Ben Stokes, Sam Curran, and Moeen Ali. It is indeed commendable that Bravo has had to work his way from the bottom to emerge as an example for a team who have been working exceptionally hard to restore the glory days of the past.
The elegant left-hander's fifty was also testament to a side, languishing at the bottom of the table for quite some time now, roaring from the shadows to make their presence felt.
The tourists, who landed into the Caribbean Islands after annihilating Sri Lanka in their own den, face a formidable task to circumvent a series sweep. They will have to play out of their skin to restore their lost pride.