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Everton Weekes' advice on centurion Shamarh Brooks' mind

Brooks, in his second coming as a batsman, passed the test posed by Afghanistan spinners on his way to a maiden Test hundred

Shamarh Brooks celebrates his maiden Test century  •  AFP

Shamarh Brooks celebrates his maiden Test century  •  AFP

If a genie ever grants you a wish and you ask to be an international cricketer, there's a secondary wish you must make if you are given Shamarh Brooks' career. You must wish for the ability to not look back.
Don't look back at the ball that has just beaten your bat on a spicy pitch. Don't look back at the way you were run out after keeping the world's No. 1 team at bay for 200 minutes. Don't look back at the decade lost between being captain at the Under-19 World Cup to finally making your Test debut. And don't look back at the 13-year-old boy who was thought of so highly that Everton Weekes gave him advice on playing spin bowling.
Actually, scratch that last one. Because if you're Shamarh Brooks, you'll need to remember Weekes' advice when you get your moment in the sun: on a turning pitch in India, against an array of spinners who might not be consistent but can bowl wicket-taking balls out of nowhere. And you end up making a maiden century in your third Test for West Indies, having come in at 34 for 2 and taken the team to a commanding lead by the time you are the ninth batsman out.
Brooks' 111 against Afghanistan on the second day of their one-off Test was at once a masterclass in patience and eye-catching strokeplay. He was not in control for about one fifth of the 214 balls he faced as per ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball data, but he was able to shrug the mis-hits away and get on with the job of carving boundaries to every area of the outfield. His innings gave West Indies 277 and a lead of 90 runs. By stumps on the second day, Afghanistan had capitulated to 109 for 7, leaving the visitors in sight of victory.
It was a particularly satisfying knock given how Brooks' last Test innings had ended in a run-out after he reached 50, being too casual in getting back to his crease while Virat Kohli swooped in and fired in a direct hit.
"I guess playing in the India series was a rude awakening for me in terms of playing at this level," Brooks said on Thursday. "We were demolished in the series (against India) and our batsmen didn't put up a good show. But I guess to come up with a half-century in my second Test match, for me confidence-wise it did a lot.
"I think it was pretty difficult to bat today," he added. "Yesterday when we batted for 45 minutes or so, it wasn't as difficult. But I guess as the ball got a bit softer, it started to turn a bit more... then it was about being patient and just picking off the bad balls. That proved vital today in our first-innings total."
What held Brooks in good stead on a tricky pitch was remembering the words of 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," he said. "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."
The promise that Brooks held was spotted early. It's easy to see why - he's fluid with his shots, well-balanced at the crease, has shown he can be unflustered, and is able to hit the ball to all parts of the ground. But that promise has taken a while to turn into performance. Brooks led West Indies at the 2008 Under-19 World Cup. Everyone in that squad who would go on to play international cricket did so well before Brooks: Adrian Barath, Darren Bravo, Veerasammy Permaul, Kieron Powell, Devon Thomas, Nkrumah Bonner.
"When I was younger, I can definitely say I took a lot of things for granted," Brooks reflected. "I started first-class cricket very young [barely a few months past his 16th birthday]. It was just the situation, I played with guys who were much older than me and I was just a bit content with that. Then when I was dropped for two or three seasons from the Barbados team it was 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."
The years Brooks spent out of first-class cricket were 2013 and 2014. His overall first-class average is a none-too-flattering 33.43, but since 2015, it's a healthier 38.41. More crucially, each of his six centuries and 23 of his 24 half-centuries have come in this latter period. The tale of a promising youngster who didn't make it is as old as the sport. Making it as a veteran after having been a promising youngster is more rare. But Brooks wouldn't have had it any other way.
"I'm someone who believes in nothing [happening] before it's time," he said. "I guess I was highly touted from when I was a young man and I've been through my trials and tribulations, and I think they've definitely helped me in reaching where I am today, so... I would never say, 'No, I wanted it to happen in 2009' [as opposed to 2019]. I think it's happened at the right time."

Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo