Weekend interview: Harry Brook getting his timing right for Yorkshire
HARRY BROOK could not have picked a better time – or a worse day – to score his first County Championship hundred of the season.
On the one hand, the time was perfect as Brook seized the opportunity to make a big score after being dropped.
On the other, his 101 against Somerset at Emerald Headingley came on the day that England were playing New Zealand in the World Cup final at Lord’s.
In sporting terms, it was a bit like a baseball player scoring a home run in America on the day that Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon, the gaze of the public naturally elsewhere.
The newspapers of July 14, 2019, were understandably full of other things following the remarkable game at the home of cricket.
Brook’s innings was a footnote in most media outlets other than The Yorkshire Post, which has always had space to spare for Yorkshire cricket regardless of any World Cup finals/lunar landings.
In time, Brook, 20, will learn to save his best displays for those days when England are not winning global one-day competitions/performing the exceptional.
Joking aside, it was a proud moment after he feared that it might be a long road back for him after he lost his place at the end of May following a run of low scores.
“After getting dropped, I never felt like I was going to get back in, but after a few weeks I did and then I go and get a hundred,” he reflects.
“When you’re not playing, you’re a bit down in the dumps, and there was no second team cricket either at the time, so I wasn’t even playing cricket at a high enough standard to try and get myself back in the team, which was very annoying.
“I don’t even know how I got my spot back, but it was good to go out there and get some runs and try to cement my place.
“Obviously, I’m a young player, trying to make my way into county cricket properly, so it was nice to be able to go and score that hundred.”
Brook admits that he actually suggested to the coaching staff that he should be dropped.
He had managed only 105 runs in his first seven Championship innings of the season, and it was all starting to look like a bit of a struggle for him, but he was recalled to face Essex at Chelmsford at the start of the month, scoring 46 and 12 before his hundred against Somerset the following week.
“I even said to PG (batting coach Paul Grayson) after we’d played against Hampshire (at the end of May) that I should be dropped,” says Brook. “Obviously I didn’t want to be dropped, and it’s not a nice thing to happen, but it’s part and parcel of professional sport.
“I think it was for the best, and as soon as I did get dropped I was in the nets and working hard.
“To come back into the team and score some runs was a nice feeling and, hopefully, now I can kick on from this point.”
Despite the lack of second-team cricket to advance his claims for a return to the side, Brook was recalled after Yorkshire jettisoned Jack Leaning after he made a pair against Surrey at Scarborough.
With Will Fraine, the 23-year-old Huddersfield-born right-hander, having seized his chance after replacing Brook as Adam Lyth’s opening partner, Brook slotted in at No 5 against Essex, which seems a more natural position for him, and then came in one place lower against Somerset because Josh Shaw served as nightwatchman on the first evening.
At the time Brook was dropped, Yorkshire said that the player did not want to open the batting, but he says now: “I’ll bat anywhere. I’ve opened my whole life, and I went through a stage where I wasn’t as confident as I was before. That’s why they dropped me. I wasn’t scoring any runs and I deserved to be dropped.
“I think they wanted me to bat middle-order anyway at the start of the year, but there wasn’t really a slot for me to slot in there at the time.
“I feel like I can go out and play my natural game at No 5 and be aggressive. I could still do that opening, but it’s riskier.
“I’m quite an aggressive player, I like to play my shots. It’s just choosing the right ball.
“In the past, I’ve probably gone after balls that aren’t quite there and I’ve nicked them or got out lbw or bowled or whatever.
“Against Somerset, I think I chose the correct ball to hit and did it for a long period of time.”
Brook will have to wait until later next month to back up his Championship form, with the tournament in abeyance due to the T20 Blast.
Yorkshire return to Championship action against Nottinghamshire at Scarborough from August 18 before rounding off their four-day campaign with September fixtures against Somerset at Taunton, Kent at Headingley and Warwickshire at Edgbaston.
Brook is hoping to put his natural aggression to good use in the 20-over competition as Yorkshire try to win the trophy for the first time.
The White Rose have not even qualified for the knockout stages in five of the last six seasons, a record that the players are striving to put right.
Of his own white-ball game, Brook says: “I had a few good starts in T20 last year but didn’t really go on, which was frustrating.
“It’s just about trying to choose the right option. You need to take risks in T20, but you need to make sure you’re going to get a reward from taking that risk instead of losing your wicket.
“To be honest, I like all three formats of the game.
“I’d probably count myself more as a white-ball player than a red-ball player, but I just want to do as well as I possibly can for Yorkshire in all three formats.
“I want to help us to win some silverware.”