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Brooke Walker: New Zealand leg-spinner who played in Daniel Vettori’s shadow

Brooke Walker © Getty Images
Brooke Walker © Getty Images

Brooke Walker, born on March 25, 1977, is a former New Zealand leg-spinner. Walker did not have a long international career and when he was part of the New Zealand setup, he played second fiddle to Daniel Vettori. He captained Auckland to domestic honours though. Shrikant Shankar looks back at Walker’s career.

Brooke Graeme Keith Walker was born in Auckland, New Zealand. He studied at Macleans College, who’s another notable alumnus is current Kiwi seamer Kyle Mills. Walker was a leg-spinner and a right-handed lower-order batsman. He played his entire First-Class career for Auckland. Both his First-Class and List A career started in the 1997-98 New Zealand domestic season. He had a good season taking 20 wickets at an average of 18.65.

He didn’t have a great following season as he managed only seven wickets at an average of 59.57. The 1999-2000 season was a better one for Walker as he took 27 wickets at an average of 34.77. By this time, Walker was getting nearer the New Zealand national setup. Despite having some good seasons under his belt, Walker had found it difficult to get into the New Zealand national team as Daniel Vettori was the main spinner. New Zealand never have been a side which boasted of many spinners. The pitches in domestic cricket also suit swing and seam bowling.

This did not help Walker as he did not get enough opportunities to showcase his skills. Walker, though, made his debut for New Zealand in a One-Day International (ODI) against South Africa on October 22, 2000 in Benoni. New Zealand were blown away by South Africa’s fast bowlers in Shaun Pollock, Jacques Kallis, Lance Klusener and Allan Donald. Walker came out No 11 and remained unbeaten on five. South Africa easily chased down a 195-run target as Walker went wicket-less. Walker could not pick up a wicket even in his second ODI in Kimberley as South Africa won again.

Walker finally got his first two wickets in ODIs in his third match. New Zealand had posted a competitive 256 for nine in Cape Town on November 4. South Africa were cruising at 171 for four when Walker dismissed Jonty Rhodes stumped. A few overs later, he dismissed captain Pollock and gave the Kiwis hope as South Africa were at 189 for seven. But Klusener struck a belligerent 42-ball 59 as South Africa won on the last ball, and again. New Zealand had lost that six-match ODI series 5-0. Walker made his Test debut in the subsequent series.

The first Test was in Bloemfontein and Walker was selected in the New Zealand XI. Fast bowler Chris Martin also made his debut in the same match. Walker bowled Daryll Cullinan in South Africa’s first innings. He then dismissed Mark Boucher LBW to get two wickets. Walker remained unbeaten on 27 in New Zealand’s first innings. The Proteas won the match easily despite a late Kiwi fight back. In the second Test in Port Elizabeth, Walker only got one wicket as he again bowled Cullinan in South Africa’s first innings. This clearly showed Cullinan’s weakness against leg-spin as he also struggled against Shane Warne when South Africa played Australia. Walker scored 19 in New Zealand’s second innings, but could not prevent South Africa winning the match comfortably.

Walker also played in the third Test in Johannesburg, but the match ended in a draw due to constant rain. Walker scored 17 in New Zealand’s only innings but went wicket-less in South Africa’s solitary innings. It was a highly disappointing tour for New Zealand as they did not win any of their international matches. Walker’s next assignment for the Black Caps was in New Zealand against Zimbabwe. The only Test match in Wellington was drawn. Walker scored his career-high 27 in New Zealand’s first innings. But he could not get any wickets in both of Zimbabwe’s innings. He would not play another Test till after almost one and a half years.

However, he played in the second of the three-match ODI series that followed. New Zealand won the second ODI, but lost the first and third as Zimbabwe won an unlikely series. He was selected in the New Zealand ODI squad for a tri-series involving Pakistan and Sri Lanka at Sharjah in April 2001. Walker played three matches out of four, but New Zealand did not qualify for the final. In fact, they won only one ODI against Sri Lanka and Walker did not play in that match. Walker was then dropped from the New Zealand side.

By this time, Walker was already captain of Auckland and he led them to the State Championship in the 2001-02 season. He had had his most prolific season as he took 28 wickets at an average of 25.57. This prompted the New Zealand selectors to pick him in the national ODI squad for another tri-series at Sharjah involving the same oppositions; Pakistan and Sri Lanka. He only played one match against Pakistan and scored an unbeaten 16 and took two wickets, but could not prevent Pakistan from winning. New Zealand lost all their matches and again did not qualify for the final.

But hope was not lost for Walker as he was selected in New Zealand’s squad for their tour of Pakistan in April-May 2002. He played all the three ODIs, but New Zealand lost all the matches. Walker then played the first Test at Lahore. This was the match famous for Inzamam-ul-Haq scoring a triple-century. Pakistan were at 612 for eight when Walker dismissed Shoaib Akhtar to get his first wicket in the match. He then dismissed Inzamam as Pakistan were bowled out for 643. New Zealand were blown away and were all out for 73 as Akhtar picked up six wickets. New Zealand put up a better fight in the second innings. Walker scored an unbeaten 15, but were bowled out for 246. Pakistan won by an innings and 324 runs.

The second and final Test was scheduled to be played at Karachi, but a bomb explosion near the New Zealand team’s hotel just two hours before the start of play forced the match to be cancelled without a ball being bowled. The New Zealand team left Pakistan for security reasons.

Brooke Walker, although didn’t have a long international run, yet enjoyed persistent success in the domestic circuit © Getty Images
Although Brooke Walker didn’t have a long international career, he enjoyed persistent success in the domestic circuit © Getty Images

Walker never played again for New Zealand. He did captain Auckland to another State Championship in the 2002-03 season, hence successfully defending their title. Walker again captained Auckland to the State Championship in the 2004-05 season. As a comeback into the New Zealand team did not seem possible, Walker announced his retirement from all forms of cricket in June 2005 at the age of 28. Walker played five Tests for New Zealand and took five wickets with a best of two for 92. He also played 11 ODIs and took eight wickets with a best of two for 43.

At First-Class level, Walker played 84 matches and took 164 wickets at an average of 32.46. he took four five-wicket hauls with an eight for 107 being his best figures. He also scored one century and four half-centuries with a highest of 107 not out. Walker also played 86 List A matches and took 80 wickets at an average of 33.28. His highest score was an unbeaten 33. Brooke Walker could have had a longer career at international level, if the potential of his leg-spin was recognised even at the domestic level.

(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)

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