Shamarh Brooks thinks he is beginning to reap the rewards of his work with West Indies batting coach Floyd Reifer, and expects the time he has spent "thinking and visualising" because of the Covid-19-enforced break to help him in the Test series against England.
Brooks, 31, made his maiden international hundred in West Indies' most recent Test, against Afghanistan in November, but endured a difficult run for Barbados in the regional Four-Day Competition before the pandemic brought the tournament to an early end. An innings of 116 against Leeward Islands was the only time he passed 50, as he ended the season with an average of just 18.78.
But the lockdown brought an opportunity to reflect on his game, and after hitting an unbeaten 66 in the second innings of this week's intra-squad warm-up fixture, Brooks said he feels like he has put things right.
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"It wasn't the best season for me. Thankfully for Covid, I had some time to reflect at home," he said. "Coming here, I was doing a lot of thinking and visualising. We had two weeks in quarantine and doing work, and I had a chat with Floyd and we ironed out a few things. I'm seeing dividends now in this last innings today."
Brooks looks set to bat at No. 3 in this series, having broken into the Test team last year, and admitted that Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo - both of whom opted out of the tour due to concerns about the virus - would be "big misses" in the West Indian batting line-up. But he insisted that the side would be able to cope. "We have the tools to deal with it," he said. "We have guys like Shai [Hope] with a load of experience, [Shane] Dowrich, the captain [Jason Holder], and Kraigg [Brathwaite], our most senior opener.
"When I look around the dressing room, there's no reason to feel shy or to feel like I'm behind the eight ball; these guys are always around. I personally believe the team who bats the best in this series will come up trumps. You look at the bowling and both sides are very strong."
In 2018, Brooks captained the West Indies A side in the first-class leg of their tour of England, where they played India A, in a squad that contained five other members of this year's squad: Jermaine Blackwood, Rahkeem Cornwall, Chemar Holder, Raymon Reifer and John Campbell.
"You know in England that the ball is always doing something. You never feel as though you're set as a batsman" Shamarh Brooks
While West Indies A lost the four-day series to India A 1-0 on that trip, Brooks finished as the leading run-scorer, with his returns in the series including 91 in Beckenham and an unbeaten 122 in Taunton in the match his team lost.
"During this week's game, the weather's been very good - similar to Caribbean conditions," he said. "My time here in 2018 against the India A team, it was a good summer that time as well. Conditions were nice and warm, they were good batting pitches to play cricket on.
"It was a situation where I was coming off a good first-class season in the Caribbean: I was full of confidence, and I guess it just flowed into the A team series in 2018. On this tour, it's a different situation, in terms of being faced with the pandemic: getting time in the middle is key.
"Sometimes the nets can be a bit monotonous and you need to get out to the middle and see where you're hitting the ball, your shape and that kind of stuff, so the last three days have been very good.
"You know in England that the ball is always doing something. You never feel as though you're set as a batsman, so you've got to stick to your game plan. The first 30 runs you might score, you might need to set up your innings to bat that way all the way through. I'm sure that once we get some more time out there, it'll get easier."