All Out Cricket columnist Rohan Kallicharan says the County Championship fixture between Warwickshire and Nottinghamshire at Edgbaston was the unlikely setting for a reflection of the past and an insight into the future of the game in the Caribbean.
There has been a long line of great left-handers produced by the West Indies over the years, from Sir Garfield Sobers and Clive Lloyd, through Alvin Kallicharran and Roy Fredericks, to the modern day icon, Brian Lara. And it is another southpaw that has provided the backbone to West Indian cricket in recent years, the diminutive Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
Chanderpaul was on display for Warwickshire during their vital County Championship victory over Nottinghamshire – who were fielding another West Indian left-hander in the form of Darren Bravo, one of the leading lights for the future of cricket in the Caribbean.
At the age of 37, Chanderpaul is the venerable old man of West Indian cricket, with a Test career that has spanned 17 years and a reputation as a dogged, committed accumulator who has so often been the last bastion between survival and obliteration for the West Indies. Bravo, 22, is yet to register an international century but is seen as the great hope, albeit in a region starved of success in recent times. He also reminds the West Indian public of the great Lara; batting like him, walking like him, and talking like him. They are even related – Bravo’s mother is the sister of Lara’s late father.
Everything that the young Bravo does, through to the smallest mannerisms, is a reflection of his hero Lara. Watching him score a stylish 70 at Edgbaston last week it was immediately clear he is a talented player; his technique is fairly straightforward – well, it is that of Lara – and he is a stylish strokemaker with nimble footwork against the spinners and the ability to accumulate runs on both sides of the wicket.
Lara’s technique was not perfect, very few are, but he possessed a magnificent eye and an ability to play the ball later than almost anyone to have played the game. This meant that even when caught out of position he was able to recover and infuriate opposition captains by manoeuvring the ball seemingly at will. But Lara was a unique phenomenon and Bravo must ensure he has the correct technique and attitude in place to make his own way in the game.
With six half-centuries in his first eight Tests the early signs are promising but at the risk of appearing a little harsh he needs to start converting those fifties if he is going to come even close to fulfilling the expectations that the West Indian public have of him. They too, however, would do well to remember that his name is Darren Michael Bravo, and not Brian Charles Lara.
Chanderpaul, meanwhile, continues to churn out score after score. There was a time when it was felt that he too was not doing justice to his talent and failing to convert enough of his starts into big scores. However, 23 Test centuries later, that criticism has been well and truly laid to rest.
His stint with Warwickshire has seen him hit three tons in five first-class games at the time of writing, and it has helped propel the Edgbaston side into pole position in the Championship race. Chanderpaul may not be as easy on the eye as Bravo’s idol Lara, but his career is a great example and lesson of the work and dedication required to be successful at the highest level. If Bravo is to create his own mark on the game he will have to demonstrate the substance to match his evident style, and in that category Chanderpaul may well be the greatest example of them all.