After a two-year absence from West Indies’ Test side, Darren Bravo is back and as good as ever.
The Trinidadian batsman starred in West Indies’ victory in the second Test over England, grinding down England’s attack for 342 minutes on the way to his half-century, becoming the third-slowest batsman in Test history to the mark, in terms of minutes batted. His knock was crucial in ensuring his side earned a lead which would prove match-winning.
"My goal was just to be there as long as possible for the team," he told ESPNcricinfo as part of an extensive interview. "I didn't know how long I'd batted. But I felt it physically after the day's play. The captain asked for someone to take responsibility and bat for the team and I decided to do that. I'm one of the most experienced players. I thought if I was there so long, it would give our bowlers some time to rest and get as big a lead as possible."
His innings ensured England’s bowlers grew tired, and Bravo felt, offered the opposition a lesson on how to approach their innings on tough surfaces. “Broady was getting frustrated,” he said. “Stokesy was getting frustrated. But it's all part and parcel of the game. They bowled very well. They don't bowl many bad balls. Anderson doesn't bowl any bad balls. It was tough.
"They were too negative as far as the wicket was concerned. They played the wicket rather than the ball. I tried to stay as positive as possible. I knew it wasn't the best wicket: some balls went up; some went down. But I didn't allow the wicket to get the better of me.
“If I had I probably would have been out or given away my wicket much earlier. I backed my defence. I mentioned in the team room that we have to back our defence as much as possible when times get tough.”
Bravo’s obduracy was all the more impressive considering coming into the series he had only played one first-class match since 2016. He felt the preparation wasn’t ideal, but being once again asked to represent his country in Tests after a protracted absence was too good an opportunity to turn down for someone whose dream has always been to bring up a century of Test matches.
"I thought I wanted a bit more time to play the longer format before coming back," he says, "but the selectors asked me and I was willing. I always wanted to play Test cricket again. My goal as a kid was to play 100 Tests, and it was my goal when I made my debut.
"It's still my goal. I don't think anything can replace that, actually. I'm on 51 now, so I've a few more to go. Hopefully I can play for another five years and achieve that. Test cricket is most definitely the best test of a player.”
From West Indies’ point of view, the series win against England is one of their standout achievements of the last few years. Among the traditional top eight sides, it is the only the second series they have won this decade. Bravo wants to use it as a launchpad to greater success.
"I would say it is just the beginning, yes," he said. "We've been planning well and training hard. As we all know, it's a young team, but most of the guys have played 20-25 Tests. The guys have some experience and we're improving each and every day.
"Points are still up for grabs in the overall rankings" – Jason Holder wants Windies to rise through the ranks and win the #WIvENG Test series 3-0.— ICC (@ICC) February 3, 2019
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"Two wins don't make a summer. We know there's a long way to go. But we have a fantastic bowling line-up. It can trouble any batting line-up in the world. It's just a matter of our batsmen get starts carrying on for a long period. That's the difference between our team and the top teams at the moment.
"But it's good to win a series when we were written off before a ball was bowled. That's what gave us the motivation to go out there and do well. Even before the series started, the goal was to win 3-0. The coach gave us that goal and everyone bought into it. We want to achieve that goal.
"Guys will start believing in themselves more as we win games like this. I'm sure we'll start doing special things in the near future."
He singled out captain Jason Holder for specific praise, recalling an anecdote where their national team-roles were reversed, but when Holder’s quality was still plain to see.
"Whether he's captain or not, if there's one person I'd want on my team, it is Jason," Bravo says. "He's fantastic. Right now, he's the best all-rounder in the world.
"A couple of years ago I had the chance to captain West Indies in a practice game at the University of West Indies and he came just to be part of the game. I asked him to bowl and told him he was going to have to bowl until he dropped. I saw the quality. I saw how special he was.
"Now he's my captain and it's a great feeling. He's doing well and I'm happy for him. Whether we win or lose, Jason is the same person. He always gives the team his full support. He balances the sides as well.
"He's been doing well but, at the end of the day, cricket is a team sport and if the team doesn't do well, he's taken all the lashes. He stood up well and now he's reaping the rewards for his hard work and everything he believed in."
The final Test begins at St. Lucia on Saturday, 9 February.
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