Bravo for Dwayne
Dwayne Bravo is back from a long-term ankle injury and ready to raise the standard of a struggling West Indies.
Last Updated: 27/05/09 8:53am
Dwayne Bravo is a creature born for Twenty20. Possessing swashbuckling strokes, a variety of slower balls and boundless reserves of energy, the Trinidadian raises the standard of any West Indies side.
His pride at wearing the maroon cap, and obvious anguish whenever a chance goes begging or his wicket is thrown away, marks him out among his peers.
Indeed, Bravo may be the only present West Indies player, alongside Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who might merit a place in the great side led by Clive Lloyd in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
So when Bravo, struggling with a long-term ankle injury, was ruled out of the Windies squad for this summer's short Test series in England, only to board a flight bound for South Africa and Indian Premier League riches, he set tongues wagging in the Caribbean.
"This is a situation forced on me," Bravo said before departing for Durban. "It is not a decision I made. It was made by the West Indies team medical staff and the selectors.
"The situation is that I have been advised by doctors to get my ankle stronger before I can play five-day cricket."
Given his success, it comes as little surprise that Bravo was born in Santa Cruz, the same village that spawned Trinidad's two finest batsmen of the Test era - the right-hander of the 1950s, Jeffrey Stollmeyer, and the majestic modern left-hander Brian Lara.
Bravo was aged just 10 when Lara made his iconic, record-breaking 375 at the Antigua Recreation Ground against England, in the days when West Indies still held onto the Wisden Trophy pretty comfortably.
"When Brian broke the world record in 1994, everyone wanted to be Brian Charles Lara," Bravo said years later.
Instead of a top-order batsman, Bravo became a pace-bowling all-rounder, earning his first call-up to the West Indies squad for the tour to England in 2004, aged just 20.
In the third Test at Old Trafford, he confirmed his added value to Lara's ailing team by scoring 77 and putting on 157 with Chanderpaul. He also took 6-55 with his nippy outswingers, but it hardly needs saying that the Windies lost the match by seven wickets and suffered a series whitewash.
West Indies have been mostly reluctant to bat Bravo up the order in limited-overs cricket, despite his sole one-day international century coming from number three against England in the 2006 Champions Trophy.
But with Bravo putting in match-winning displays with the bat for the Mumbai Indians - surely to West Indies' frustration - it is an option the Windies could seek to employ at Lord's, Trent Bridge and the Brit Oval.
Bravo's dalliance in the IPL has been cited by concerned commentators as a development in the continued undermining of Test cricket.
There is no reason to doubt his intentions - a couple of hours' cricket every other day is possibly the best way to restore match fitness.
But wittingly or unwittingly, by opting for IPL over a Test series, Bravo has gone a step further than any other cricketer.
And whether or not Bravo inspires West Indies to World Twenty20 glory at Lord's on June 21, he may have set a real precedent for a game already in flux.