Darren Bravo believes "it's about time" he started scoring runs for West Indies again, having endured a lean patch coming into the tour of New Zealand.
Bravo began the tour well, with a century in the first warm-up match against New Zealand A in Queenstown, and is expected to play a key role for West Indies in the two Test matches.
"I'm at a stage where I understand my game much more," Bravo said at a virtual media interaction in Queenstown on Sunday. "Obviously more mature and I think and stuff like that. I think it's about time I get the runs flowing once more."
West Indies have one more three-day warm-up game before the Tests, as well as three T20Is, although Bravo is not part of that squad. His 135 was the highest individual score in the fixture against New Zealand A, which also served as a reminder of the stark difference in Bravo's batting home and away. He has played 29 Tests at home for an average of 26.78, but when he's not playing at home, that average shoots up to 50.39. Only one of his eight Test hundreds have been scored at home, and Bravo is hoping the trip to New Zealand for his first Test outside the Caribbean since 2016 brings about a return to form too.
"I can't really put a finger exactly on what is the reason for it [the difference in the home and away records]," he said. "But if I do have to say, there's probably less distraction. When you're away from home you tend to be a bit easier. Maybe conditions also help particular types of players, it all depends on your style of play. Every time I bat for West Indies I try to my utmost to perform my best, but for some reason it tends to click for me more when I'm away from the Caribbean. Hope the good fortune continues this series."
Bravo batted at No.3 against New Zealand A, the same spot he'll bat in the Test matches too. He has played more innings at three than any other number, having made his debut at that spot too a decade ago in November 2010, but it's not the one he would have chosen for himself.
"Initially when I came into the Test team I batted at No.3. There was no opportunity to bat at No.4 with the likes of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, so I had no choice but to go in at three," he said. "I think I did pretty well there (he averages 40.08 at three, well above his career figure of 37.69), but if I had a choice, I would have chosen No.4. But I'm willing to do whatever it takes for the team to do well, so here it is, I'm back at No.3 again and looking forward to it.
"For any innings to be successful you definitely need a very good foundation. Batting at No.3 it's important I set that foundation for the middle order, I don't want to expose them early to the new ball. But having said that, the likes of Roston Chase and Shamarh Brooks have been playing pretty well, so I am quite confident that the guys will do well. But being a senior player, it's important for me to set the tone and show the right example. I know some of the guys definitely look up to me as a player. Captaining Trinidad and Tobago in the four-day tournament [Bravo captained the team in the early part of 2020] sort of gave me that insight of what it takes to be a leader."
The West Indies tour of New Zealand will be among the first high-profile cricket series to allow spectators in stadiums after the Covid-19 pandemic. While acknowledging that fans in the stands added plenty to the atmosphere, Bravo said he rather preferred empty galleries when batting.
"You definitely like fans out in the stadium but for me, more so when I'm batting, whether there are fans or no fans, it doesn't really make a difference," he said. "Actually it's a bit easier when the fans are not there [laughs]. But it would be nice to have fans at the game, it will be tremendous."
As one of the senior members of the team, Bravo has been imparting batting tips to players, but he's not chary about receiving advice in return, even from the younger set.
"I try my utmost best to give advice as much as possible. I even take advice, even from the youngest player," he said. "I believe when you give advice you open yourself up to the other players, that in itself gives you confidence. There will be a situation where you might need some sort of help, that very same young player or senior player can come to you and say, 'You can probably try this.'
"So all in all, communication is very important. Not just talk the talk, but also walk the walk. As a team, we have been trying to do that each step of the way. It's going to take a little time, but I believe it's about time that we get it right."