(Photo Credits: Sports Max)
This land has produced batsmen who’ve possessed exuberance and flair.
It’s also a land of daring and guile.
And few have embodied the above with such consistency as a certain Brian Charles Lara.
Lara to West Indies’ opponents was akin to that shark that went after its hunters. Common wisdom suggests that you don’t hunt what you can’t kill.
But like all good things that come to an end, Lara, after a flurry of records and a long stay in the game, called time on his career.
This great aftermath, heightened fears, rather concerns, whether their game would see another who’d even come close to matching the ‘Prince.’
And just when everyone had gotten used to the presence of bling-wearing, easy-going, skillful Dwayne Bravo, there came along a certain Darren Bravo.
Darren, who turned 30 on February 6, was, according to some, the answer to the ‘Lara void.’
But is he?
Rather, does he even have to be Brian Lara version 2?
Pardon the flurry of questions. Why is any capable modern day cricketer, a successor to a famous predecessor, supposed to carry forward the past tense’ legacy?
Hasn’t the world done this enough and on one too many occasions already?
When Tendulkar arrived and emerged and established himself, along Sehwag.
We called him Sachin part II. Things became rather interesting, not to mention endlessly fascinating when both engaged with bowlers as openers.
Soon, we realized Viru was in his own league.
In another part of the world, Rohit Sharma suddenly mirrored Mark Waugh’s lazy elegance.
To many, there cannot be another Mark Waugh. The silky on drives, the elegant backfoot punches. Rohit does a bit more apart from sending number crunchers on an endless stint of record keeping. He strikes frequent double hundreds.
Moreover, when Dravid’s Wall stopped fortifying India, we looked around and captured Pujara as the next best man for the job. Kindly do not forget that a few years before him, there was another Dravid-like man in Gambhir. Soon, both would find competition in Rahane.
Today, after striking those solid Test hundreds Down Under, the fan has warmed up to Pujara again, who’s once again been entrusted with the task of ‘batting like Dravid.’
Perhaps what we do not realize in this thrill to rechristen cricketers with the identities of those who’ve walked on the same sacred ground before is that we sap the energies off our existing heroes.
Here’s borrowing a quote from Formula 1’s Kimi Raikkonen, the former Ferrari world champion.
‘Leave me alone; I know what I’m doing!’
If you were to think about this- you’d know, this makes sense in cricket.
Can’t we simply let these batsmen be?
Comparisons are like guilty pleasures; we know they are exciting.
But we also happen to be aware that they often do no good to anyone, the subject of the comparison and the yardstick against which someone’s standard has been set.
Who wouldn’t like being compared to one of the game’s greats: Brian Lara?
But does Darren have to be Lara.2?
Can’t he be allowed to be himself; does the burden of carrying forward Lara’s legacy, thankfully it’s not strictly come down to that, need to be shouldered by someone who’s not Lara?
For someone who grew up admiring his ‘cousin’ in the picturesque Trinidad, a land of ebullience and charisma, Bravo didn’t just idolize the man behind cricket’s only quadruple hundred.
He modeled his technique on Lara.
Nostalgia lovers, one would imagine, could well be placing Lara on the left side of their mind with Bravo adjacently on the right, to compare the elegant stroke play, the crouching stance, the backlift.
What adds fuel to the fire of comparisons between two enigmatic left-handers born in different eras could be that semi-jump, semi-cavorting movement that precedes all strokes- whether the whip off the hips or the drive toward the square region.
And herein rests the curious case of Darren Bravo, a cricketer who, despite having played cricket for a little over 9 years, hadn’t yet reached the 50 Test mark. By the estimation of his own goals, another 49 are left.
But would it be fair for us to let Bravo walk on the path to his ultimate dream with the burden of the ‘Lara’ comparison?
Reaching this three-figure mark is no less fantastic an achievement for a cricketer as is striking a couple of Test triples. Consider also winning your side back to back series, especially when you were asked to follow on.
That Bravo can reach Lara’s greatness isn’t spectacularly worthy of skepticism. But here’s a point in context.
Maybe Bravo, it would make more sense, should just be allowed to focus on constantly improving his game.
Thus far, he’s still a few shy of 4000 Test runs. An average of 40 hasn’t yet been achieved.
And if you are to be a Lara replica- which is how most view the mild-mannered number 4- then not having even 10 hundreds against his name isn’t exactly telling of the lofty standards he is expected to achieved.
And maybe this is where we are all getting wrong for the left-hander who only recently returned to the sport after a two-year exile.
From 2017 onward to 2018-end, Darren, chained out by Cameron after a Twitter spat, sat out 18 Tests. That doesn’t hurt as much as realizing the gravity of what he missed out on.
18 Tests are effectively 36 innings.
That’s a lot, right?
Lara, at his maverick best missed out only on a series or two out of injury.
What’s worse in Darren Bravo – the force behind one of Test cricket’s most focused knocks as seen at Antigua, 50 off 216 balls; 342-minutes- was that he still lost his natural spot, number 3, which now solidly rests in Hope’s hands.
What’s more? There’s now the added pressure to score and perhaps more cautiously so having sat out for 2 years. But one would reckon that Darren M. Bravo may not have to worry nonetheless.
Windie fans would want to rewind to the events of 2016’s UAE Test.
Bravo stoked Windies’ fire and nearly took them home in a gutsy exhibition of 116 well-compiled runs; he had accumulated like a soldier out to tame Pakistan.
Guess what, he nearly did. Does that sight of the return catch to Yasir Shah still haunt him?
Eager to pick where he’d left from, it doesn’t appear that the stylish Trinidadian would need to delve too deep to rise again.
He’s a batsman who, after all, has faced many a tough situation has he not?
Have we forgotten the standout double hundred against New Zealand where the famous 218 came with his team having been asked to follow on?
Being asked to follow on is like being head buried in sand. Bravo, still manage to place the crown on Windies’ head in masterful defiance.
Have we not seen the way he tacked Steyn, subdued Morkel, and tamed Imran Tahir at 2011 World’s Cup’s most under-rated fifty, that 73 off 82?
Spurts of sporadic brilliance, infrequent that may have been, presented themselves in dazzling fashion.
How can we forget Bravo’s classy 166 at Wankhede, during his maiden India tour, a knock that was adorned by the charismatic Lara-styled whippish pull with the back-leg suspended in mid-air?
But all that said, the future still awaits this charming batsman to reach his best, to extract more from his reservoir of talent. Until then, can’t he be allowed to function sans the Lara-equation?
Best, to leave Bravo alone.
Signs are that he knows what he’s doing.