Bridgetown, Barbados, April 12 - (www.bcacricket.org) - Silky, sweet, elegant, graceful, easy on the eye.
These are some of the words and expressions used by adoring fans over the years to describe Shamarh Brooks when he is at the crease.
And as Barbados Pride continue to savour their success of convincingly capturing the regional first-class Championship, top order batsman Brooks, like left-arm spin bowler and fellow West Indies Test player Jomel Warrican, must be very proud to be part of the team, having made a name for themselves in six seasons since Cricket West Indies (CWI) introduced the Professional Cricket League (PCL).
In the period under review, the 31-year-old Brooks boasts of the most runs (2478) for Barbados Pride, while Warrican, who turns 28 on May 20, is by far the top wicket-taker (183). (See: Wily Warrican wreaks heavy havoc and Top Barbados Pride team statistics after six seasons of PCL first-class Championship).
Since the PCL started in 2014-15, Warrican has played the most matches (45) for Barbados Pride with Brooks just behind him on 43.
From a Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) perspective, they both have one thing in common as far as their first taste of the top league Championship (the more than century-old First division, which was rebranded as the Elite division from 2012 in the fourth season of the promotion/relegation system) is concerned.
Brooks’ debut was in 2004 for Spartan against Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme (BDFSP) at Queen’s Park (Series 6) while still a 15-year-old schoolboy at The Lodge. After one season, he turned out for Combined Schools (now renamed Barbados Youth) for the next three seasons before returning to Spartan where he has settled ever since.
Warrican, born and raised in neighbouring St. Vincent and schooled at Combermere after arriving here from Tortola at the age of 12, also had his first outing for Spartan in 2007, against YMPC at Queen’s Park in the last round. Two seasons later he paraded for Barbados Youth and then joined Empire in 2011, settling ever since at the Bank Hall club.
While both have stood out for Barbados Pride since the PCL paved the way for a long season featuring return matches, there is some irony in that the 2019-20 four-day Championship, which officially ended March 24 after the last two rounds of matches were cancelled because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, was the least productive for Brooks and Warrican.
As a reminder, especially to those detractors who in whatever form or fashion have stunningly taken issue with the decision by CWI to declare Barbados as champions, after Round 8 the Pride were proudly leading their closest rivals, Trinidad & Tobago, by as many as 40.2 points.
The final Points were: Barbados Pride 134.8, Trinidad & Tobago Red Force 94.6, Guyana Jaguars 91.8, Jamaica Scorpions 91.8, Windward Islands Volcanoes 78 and Leeward Islands Hurricanes 52.8.
Those detractors should be told as well that the CWI Board “unanimously agreed to award the Headley/Weekes Trophy (named in honour of West Indies pioneers and icons George Headley and Sir Everton Weekes) to Barbados, who were captained by Kraigg Brathwaite, the West Indies Test opener and vice-captain.
Furthermore, it must be emphasised that unlike some Competitions, there is no promotion and demotion system in the PCL Championship to “confuse the issue”.
Well done Bim! Keep celebrating what is now a 23rd first-class title for the region’s most decorated territory ever since 1966 when under the captaincy of Garry Sobers (now the Right Excellent Sir Garfield), this 166-square-mile island grabbed the first ever Championship, known as the Shell Shield. And they won the second, too, and so on and so on.
Enough of that.
The focus is now on the buoyant Brooks.
Blessed with elegance at the crease, he made his first-class debut as an 18-year-old against Guyana at Bourda in the 2007 Carib Beer Cup under the captaincy of all-rounder Ryan Hinds, who is now a relatively new Barbados Pride selector.
It was his only match - in the last round - but he would have been happy that not only did Barbados come from behind to pull off a five-wicket victory, but they also captured what was their 20th title.
Of the current Barbados champion side, Brooks and experienced all-rounder Kevin Stoute are the only survivors from 2007 - Barbados having won four of five matches to finish on 54 points - ten more than second-placed Trinidad & Tobago.
Despite his obvious potential, however, Brooks struggled in 20 first-class matches between 2007 and 2012, scoring 549 runs including just one half-century at an average of 18.93 before losing his place in the team for the next two seasons.
After he was belatedly recalled for the last two matches of the 2014-15 season, he responded with two centuries - 124 against Windward Islands at Kensington Oval and 100 off Jamaica at Sabina Park - finishing with an aggregate of 264, for an average of 66.00, which was the best by a Barbadian.
From thereon, he was a regular member of the side, recording his highest ever aggregate in a season - 632 (ave: 48.61) as well as highest score (166) against Jamaica in the final round at Kensington Oval in 2017-18 when he was the captain.
Brooks eventually made his Test debut last August against India at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua. In three Tests, he has 174 runs (ave: 34.80) including one century (111) - with some sweetly-timed strokes - off minnows Afghanistan at Lucknow in India in November.
But he would have been disappointed with his form since then, mustering only 263 runs (18.78) including one century - 116 - in eight matches in the just concluded first-class Championship.
In the last six seasons, his aggregate of 2478 runs including five centuries and 14 half-centuries has come from 74 innings including six not outs, at an average of 36.44.
Kraigg Brathwaite, with 2315 (ave: 45.39) containing seven centuries (the most) in 32 matches, is the only other Barbados Pride batsman with over 2000 runs in the period under review.
As far as Brooks’ Test century is concerned, West Indies captain Jason Holder described it at the time as “full of class”.
Brooks, himself, with a solid history of captaining teams from Primary school through to West Indies ‘A’, recalled then advice on how to play spin bowling, given to him as a 13-year-old, by Sir Everton Weekes.
“When I was 13 years old, the great Sir Everton Weekes told me that when you’re batting against spin, you have to get very close to it, or very far from it.
“On a pitch like this against their quality bowlers, I think it was just about trusting your defence. That was important. Looking to spend as much time as possible and just pick off the bad balls. Be happy with a single, look at some balls from the other end. Get accustomed to the pace and how much bounce and turn they’re getting on the pitch.”
Brooks is revered at Spartan, the current Elite division champions. When he first played for the City club he was better known as an all-rounder, who bowled leg-spin.
But he struggled in eight matches in 2004, scoring only 74 runs (ave: 8.22) while taking 16 wickets at 27.81 runs apiece.
I vividly recall his maiden league century for Barbados Youth – an unbeaten 104 – against Police at Weymouth in 2005 (Round 4) in a total of 339 for seven declared as Barbados Youth triumphed by an innings and 11 runs with 7.3 overs remaining. He also had match figures of six for 75 including four for 48 in the second innings.
Eventually his bowling declined significantly by 2012 but his batting maintained that touch of class.
Yet, as he admitted in an interview following his Test century, he “took a lot of things for granted” even after making his first-class debut for Barbados in 2007. Losing his place in the side for a couple seasons was as he put it: “a wake-up call for me”.
“That is when my career really turned around and I started to be consistent and realised the importance of scoring runs. Since then I’ve never looked back,” Brooks remarked.
Say what you like about the standard of play in BCA Competitions over the past two decades or so, but part of Brooks’ maturity was shown in 2015 when he amassed 721 runs (ave: 86.00) including four centuries in the Elite division.
That was the same year that his first-class career took off with three centuries: 124 v Windward Islands at Kensington Oval; 100 v Jamaica at Sabina Park; and 111 v Trinidad & Tobago at Kensington Oval.
It was my pleasure to interview Brooks a couple days ago on his career and life in general.
HOLDER: What would you attribute to your showing over the last six seasons in the PCL first-class Championship?
BROOKS: I believe that the time I spent overseas when I was dropped from the team played a huge part in the way I have come back and been consistent.
The time away helped because I was able to learn a lot more about myself and my game. Then returning home to put in some solid work with (BCA coaches) Emmerson Trotman and Dexter Toppin before breaking back into the first-class side.
HOLDER: How disappointed are you that this season was your lowest return since 2014-15 (263 runs including one century in 15 innings; ave: 18.78), especially after your maiden Test century against Afghanistan last November?
BROOKS: I was pretty disappointed with the season I had. I gave away my hand on a couple occasions and that proved costly in terms of my tally at the end of the season.
Expectations would’ve definitely been higher since I became a Test player and just coming off of that hundred against Afghanistan, my goal this season was to get three hundreds. I fell short by two, but that is how the game goes sometimes.
HOLDER: As a former Barbados first-class captain, how do you feel about the Pride capturing the title so comprehensively this season?
BROOKS: I feel great for what we have achieved this season as a team. A lot of planning and discussion went into how we wanted to play this season.
Looking at the West Indies schedule we realized that the majority of our senior players would’ve been available and we knew that this had to be our year to win the Competition.
HOLDER: What’s the camaraderie like in the Barbados Pride team?
BROOKS: The camaraderie in the team is always a good one. The guys enjoy playing cricket together especially when it comes to representing our country.
Special mention must go to Kyle Mayers, Chemar Holder and Keon Harding for what they have achieved this season. Despite the senior guys being around I think the part they played was a massive contributing factor to our success this season. (Editor’s note: Mayers amassed the most runs (654) for Barbados Pride and also topped the team’s averages (50.30), Holder was the leading wicket-taker (36; ave: 18.91), while fellow fast bowler Harding picked up 29 (ave: 23.20).
HOLDER: In my opinion, you did a fairly competent job as a stand-in wicket-keeper for Shane Dowrich, who was injured while batting in what turned out to be the last match of the season against Guyana Jaguars at Providence. Many fans were surprised by your ability as a keeper. What was the experience like and have you kept wicket at any level before?
BROOKS: Well, I have kept in touring English teams games at The Lodge School. It is something that I have always admired, watching how neat wicket-keepers are and how they go about their training.
I guess I surprised most when I took the gloves in the last game against Guyana. It was something that at least once I wanted to do for Barbados if something happened to our first choice keeper. The experience was a good one, a bit nerve-wracking because it was a pink-ball game, having to start under the lights. But having the likes of two Test bowlers (Kemar Roach and Jason Holder) who are ranked in the Top Ten in the world made the job very enjoyable and relatively easy in my opinion.
HOLDER: You were also a leg-break bowler, good enough to be regarded as an all-rounder in local club cricket. In fact, when I researched my treasured BCA top division statistics, I found that you took 168 wickets at an average of 19.02 in your first nine seasons. Then you virtually disappeared as a bowler. What do you believe contributed to your decline in bowling and do you miss it?
BROOKS: I think when I looked back on it from when I made the senior Barbados team (in 2007) it was good to be seen as an all-rounder. But I found that I wasn’t getting much opportunity to bowl and I was being judged more on my batting performances.
I then decided to focus more on my batting and I started to see better results. I definitely do miss it a lot but I don’t regret the decision I made.
HOLDER: What are you doing to keep focussed and fit in light of the COVID-19 pandemic?
BROOKS: I have taken some time to reflect on my season. I haven’t done any skill work since I’ve returned from Guyana (in mid-March) but I have been doing some running to condition the mind and I’ve been enjoying the down time with my family.
HOLDER: There is often reference by fans and commentators to your style of batting by way of stroke-play. Silky, they say. Have you patterned yourself off anyone or is it natural?
BROOKS: Well, I have never really patterned myself off of anyone. It just came natural for me.
HOLDER: You come from a well-known cricketing family in local circles - the Sandifords - on your mother’s side - and I dare say you grew up in a district in St. James renowned for producing some outstanding Barbados and West Indies cricketers. Can you educate us on your cricketing blood?
BROOKS: Yes. My uncles are Keith, Lionel, Jeffrey, Colin and Robert Sandiford. Victor Sandiford is my cousin and so, too, is Franklyn Stephenson. My brother, Shavon, was the Barbados Under-19 team captain in 2017. He currently plays for Empire.
HOLDER: Where were you born and which Primary school did you attend before entering The Lodge?
BROOKS: I grew up in Durants Village, Holder’s Hill, St. James. I went to two Primary schools - St. Matthews and St. Cyprians - before sitting the 11-Plus exam at St. Giles Primary.
HOLDER: You have been privileged to captain cricket teams from an early age, then extending to the Barbados and West Indies Under-19s, Barbados senior and West Indies ‘A’. Can you give us a history of your captaincy?
BROOKS: Captaincy started for me at St. Giles Primary. We defeated Wesley Hall in the 1999 Herman Griffith Final at the Empire ground, Bank Hall.
In my first year at The Lodge School, I captained the Under-13 team to victory against Combermere at Banks (The Brewery) in the BCA Tournament.
Two years later I was named the Under-15 captain of the school team. Harrison College defeated us in the Cable & Wireless/BET Final at Wildey.
We returned to the Final again the following year against Combermere and were victorious.
In 2004, I was named the Barbados Under-15 captain but due to injury I didn’t make the Tournament, but the team won the Competition with Simon Steele (grandson of the late BCA and West Indies Board president Peter Short) then being named the captain in my absence.
Then in 2006, I captained the Lodge team in the Schools’ Under-19 Competition. We defeated Combermere in the Final at Weymouth and repeated as champions in 2007 against SJPP, again at Weymouth.
Also in 2006, I was named the Barbados Under-19 team captain to tour Guyana where we were defeated by the hosts in the Final.
I returned as captain the following year in St. Kitts. We placed second in the three-day Competition, and in the one-day we couldn’t go through to the Final because of a technicality although not losing a game.
After that I was named the West Indies Under-19 captain to tour Malaysia for the 2008 ICC Youth World Cup. We won the Plate Championship.
In BCA Competitions, I have also captained Barbados Youth (commonly known for many years as Combined Schools) and Spartan.
In 2016, I was named the West Indies ‘A’ team captain to tour Sri Lanka for three unofficial Tests. We lost the series 2-1. Sri Lanka came to the Caribbean the next year for a return leg and we lost that series 2-1 as well.
Then in 2017 I was named the Barbados captain for the 2017-18 PCL season. We did not qualify for the semi-finals of the NAGICO Super50 Cup at home and came second to Guyana in the four-day Competition.
In 2018, I returned as captain of the West Indies ‘A’ team for a tour of England to play two unofficial Tests against India ‘A’. We drew the first game and lost the second.
I also captained Barbados Pride for the 2018-19 season and we finished second in the four-day Competition.
HOLDER: How long have you been married and what’s family life like?
BROOKS: I have been married for six months to my Secondary school sweetheart, Misha (daughter of the late Barbados Prime Minister David Thompson and Mara Thompson - both of whom were Members of Parliament for the parish of St. John). We have two children, Savannah and Saire and it has been great thus far.
Life is different with the two tiny tots around, as someone who is mostly touring because of work or even when I am at home and being at work I miss a whole day, so the sacrifices definitely had to be made and I guess this is the norm with parents on a whole. But I enjoy every second I get to spend with them as they embark on their journey of life.
SHAMARH BROOKS’ STATISTICS IN THE PCL, 2014-15 TO 2019-20
SEASON M I NO R HS Ave 100 50
2014-15 2 4 0 264 124 66.00 2 0
2015-16 10 16 1 534 111 35.60 1 5
2016-17 8 12 3 434 76* 48.22 0 4
2017-18 8 14 1 632 166 48.61 1 3
2018-19 7 13 0 351 82 27.00 0 2
2019-20 8 15 1 263 116 18.78 1 0
TOTAL 43 74 6 2478 166 36.44 5 14