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Brooks is wrong choice


Ezra Stuart

Brooks is wrong choice

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Why would any cricketer be rewarded for failure?
The elevation of Shamarh Brooks to the position of Barbados captain for the rescheduled final of the Regional Four-Day Championship against Jamaica at Sabina Park, starting this weekend, sends the wrong signal.
Justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done. Far too often in Barbados and West Indies cricket, players who don’t merit selection have been chosen to represent the national and regional side ahead of others who are more deserving.
Since making his first-class debut for the Barbados senior side in 2007 against Guyana, Brooks has flattered to deceive. In that match, he teased spectators with cameos of 25 and 28, batting at No.3 in the second innings, ahead of established batsmen like Floyd Reifer and Ryan Hinds as Barbados won by five wickets.
Like Ian Bradshaw and Shirley Clarke, Brooks has captained the Barbados and West Indies Under-19 teams after performing creditably in the regional youth tournament. The likes of Guyanese Timur Mohammed, Jamaican Marlon Tucker, Antiguan Zoral Barthley and Andre Percival were other cricketers earmarked as youth captains but fell by the wayside through lack of production.
Brooks was also entrusted with the leadership of the Sagicor High Performance Centre team but sadly, he has not been able to lead from the front with either bat or ball.
Now aged 23, Brooks has clearly not lived up to his potential and expectations, but why should he be preferred to other young Barbadian cricketers, who have performed better at the Division One level, in trial matches and in first-class cricket?
I must admit, I’m a big fan of Brooks, having watched him from his Under-13 and Under-15 days at The Lodge School when he captained my son. Brooks looks like a cricketer, an elegant right-hander in the mould of Carl Hooper, but in 50 Division One matches between 2004 and 2011, he has managed just two centuries. He has ten five-wicket innings hauls with 37 wickets in 2009 at 15.19 runs apiece, when he also scored 480 runs at 36.92, his best year.  
After losing his place in the side twice last year when he also captained the side against the Windward Islands, Brooks got another break this year, to showcase his skills.
But in four first-class matches, his scores are 19 and 15 against Guyana; a “duck” versus the Leeward Islands, three and seven against the Windward Islands while he made just five and three versus Trinidad and Tobago in the semi-finals.
All told, he has scored 52 runs in seven innings at an average of 7.42 – extremely poor returns – and deserves to be dropped. Another batsman Kenroy Williams was axed after scoring 74 runs in three matches at 14.80 with a highest score of 33 not out. So it is fair that Brooks is still playing?  
To say, that he is in the side primarily as captain, is unacceptable as either opener Omar Phillips or Dwayne Smith is capable of leading the national team.
Phillips captained the University of the West Indies to three consecutive Division One titles between 2009 and 2011, and also led Combined Campuses & Colleges (CCC) to the top of the points table at the end of the round-robin segment of the first-class championship last year, before losing to Jamaica in the final. He also has the benefit of playing two Tests against Bangladesh in 2009, scoring 94 in his debut innings.  
Smith has been YMPC captain for some time now. He led Barbados in the 2008 Stanford Twenty20 and only last year, captained the West Indies “A” team in two T20 matches against Bangladesh A.
So why persist with Brooks? Is he that good a captain? What does he bring to the table that others in the team or in Barbados cannot provide in terms of leadership?
Overall, in 20 first-class matches, he has made 590 runs at a modest average of 20.34 with a solitary half-century, 61 not out against Trinidad & Tobago last year. His six wickets have come at an average of 83.33.
What is also noteworthy, former chairman of selectors George Linton said last year he was chosen as a front-line leg-spin bowler but a year later, he hasn’t bowl a single ball in four matches.
Whereas Brooks, who has also been included in the West Indies “A” team, continues to find favour with the Barbados selectors, Kevin Stoute, a player with two centuries in 29 first-class matches and an average of 29.63 has not been given a solitary first-class match this year. Stoute is more than a handy fast-medium bowler, having taken 58 wickets at an average of 22.03. He is good enough to take eight for 52 for the West Indies “A” against Lancashire in a List “A” limited-overs matches.
I’ve previously avoided commenting on the inclusion of Combermere all-rounder Justin Greaves in the Barbados senior set-up or the selection of Jomel Warrican ahead of Derick Bishop, who took the most wickets in the three pre-tournament trial matches.
Many readers of this column, have emailed or telephoned me to ask about the many Combermerians now making the Barbados team at the senior and junior levels and my answer to them is that most of them merited selection, but not all.
There was plenty of debate about Bishop, who has consistently been one of the best all-rounders at the club level, not attending practice sessions as one of the reasons for his controversial omission from trials following the 2009 Division One season when he scored 829 runs and took 58 wickets.
But it is really unjustified that he wasn’t even included among the reserves after he was the most successful bowler in the trials following his eighth 50 or more wicket-haul in 12 seasons of Division One cricket.
I hope the West Indies Cricket Board has the foresight to invite the legendary Sir Everton Weekes to Jamaica to meet the teams and present the Trophy to the winning captain since they will be vying for the Headley-Weekes Trophy which bears his name.

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