Weekend Interview: '˜Headband warrior' Jack Brooks bids fond farewell to Yorkshire
If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere. It's up to you New York, New York ...
Jack Brooks is reflecting on his six years at Yorkshire. He is remembering how, when the chance came to sign for the club in 2012, he was warned against swapping ‘little town’ Northampton for the bright lights of Leeds.
“A lot of people warned me,” he says. “‘Are you sure you want to go to Yorkshire? It’s difficult to please the people. There’s a lot of in-fighting. Why would you do that?’
“Well, because it’s the biggest challenge on the circuit, and because I’m not here to mess around with my career. I wanted to challenge myself and to put myself in that position. If I could conquer Yorkshire, as it were, I could pretty much do anything. I just thought that if I could achieve and do things there, it would mean more to me than to do them anywhere else.”
Like Frank Sinatra in the famous song, Brooks wanted to test himself in the biggest environment of all – in the cricketing county that never sleeps.
He wanted to be “king of the hill”, “top of the heap”.
He saw it as the perfect chance to make “a brand new start of it”.
Now, as he prepares to depart for pastures new, after signing a three-year deal with Somerset that will take him up to the age of 37, the pace bowler admits that he was initially concerned only with not looking silly.
“First off, the only thing I wanted to do when I came here was not to make a prat of myself,” he says. “I knew that Yorkshire was the hardest team to come to and be successful at, particularly as an outsider, as it were, but I considered it to be a fantastic challenge.
“I just wanted to come here, have a good time and compete for trophies, and potentially play for England. I’ve had a good time, we’ve won trophies, and although I’ve put myself at times in the frame for England, I haven’t been quite good enough, unfortunately.”
Brooks, in fact, was pretty much the ideal signing. Having fallen just short of international recognition, he was perhaps the closest thing to that level – as evidenced by an outstanding record of 301 wickets in 76 County Championship appearances for Yorkshire at an average of 26.71.
Indeed, the Oxford-born player has a powerful claim to be considered the finest domestic signing in the club’s history, having played an integral role in Yorkshire’s most successful era since the 1960s.
Brooks finished leading wicket-taker when Yorkshire won the Championship in 2014 and 2015 and then again when they finished third in 2016, although he modestly makes light of his own achievements.
“That was a lot down to the team and the lads around me,” he says. “If I could take Patto (Steve Patterson) to Somerset with me, for example, I would because he’s the perfect foil for what I need. To be able to fit into a perfect bowling unit like that was a dream come true for me, and to have confidence that everyone was doing their job.
“I could quite easily have tied up an end and gone for less runs, but I wouldn’t have been the same bowler, I wouldn’t have been as effective, so it was a genuine team effort from everyone concerned.”
Nicknamed ‘The Headband Warrior’ on account of his distinctive headband and warrior-like style, Brooks has brought colour and class to the Yorkshire side. He is living proof that there are still characters around and he always loves to entertain the crowd.
When Brooks takes a wicket (often in thrilling bursts a la England’s Stuart Broad), his joy is clear in celebrations that threaten to send him leaping into the nearest stand.
The Yorkshire supporters warmed to him because he wore his heart on his sleeve and because he was clearly proud to have sported the White Rose; they have appreciated a great trier as well as a great wicket-taker.
“The amount of times that people have said you’re an adopted Yorkie now is amazing,” he says. “Even after only being here for half-a-season they were saying that to me.
“To get capped in my first season was incredible, and I remember doing a club dinner in Yorkshire once and some old Yorkshireman asking me during a Q&A what it meant to ‘be Yorkshire’, as he put it.
“It completely stumped me. I only had about three seconds to think of an answer, and I looked down and saw that I was wearing my club tie, which has my capped number 173 on it, and I sort of said: ‘Look, this is my club number for Yorkshire, my capped number. I’m 173 out of God knows how many people who’ve played for Yorkshire who’ve been capped, and the club’s been around for 150-odd years.
“‘As an outsider, so to speak, to come here and be accepted as a capped player, that’s enough for me. That’s what being Yorkshire is all about, regardless of wickets or anything else. It’s about coming here and being accepted and wanted by the people.’”
Brooks was wanted by the club going forward – but not to the extent that they were prepared to offer a three-year deal.
The offer on the table, regardless of any financial considerations, was for two years with the possibility of a one-year extension next summer subject to factors such as form and fitness.
Brooks opted for the extra security and, by all accounts, an extremely tempting offer from Taunton.
“I still didn’t really want to leave,” he says, “but when you get a really good offer come in from a team that’s going places at the minute, and one which allows me to move closer to home at the end of my career, then it’s something that you have to consider very seriously.
“Also, after being here (at Yorkshire) for six years, it will be quite nice to have a fresh start and have a new focus at the end of my career rather than falling away a little bit.
“It’s also nice to leave while you’re still liked rather than getting kicked out the door, getting forgotten about and kicked off and leaving with a bitter taste.
“I’m happy, in a way, to be leaving because I’m excited for the future, but I’m obviously sad to be leaving a lot of good friends behind here, because I’ve loved playing for the club and we’ve had some incredible times over the last six years.”
Brooks can reflect proudly on his part in a golden period.
He leaves with “memories that will last forever – unbelievable memories” – and the best wishes of those he has royally entertained.
Regrets? He has no time for those, not even in terms of his international ambitions.
If anything, he feels that he has done more than he could ever have imagined when he first came to the club.
“To be honest, I think I’ve over-achieved in my career,” he says. “I spoke to my parents after we won the league for the second time, I think it was, and I never really open up to them too much but I sat there and said, ‘I’m probably not going to play for England now’, but they were like, ‘What does it matter when you look at where you’ve come from’.”
Where Brooks came from was ‘little town’ Northampton to prove that he could make it in the bright lights of Leeds.
For six glorious years, he was indeed the “king of the hill”, “top of the heap”, as he prepares once more to make “a brand new start of it”.
Signing off with a final burst...
TO say that Jack Brooks signed off in style as a Yorkshire player is an understatement of significant proportions.
After his move to Somerset was announced in late August, Brooks took 25 wickets in his last five matches, finishing as Yorkshire’s leading Championship wicket-taker for the fourth time in his six-year spell.
Brooks ended the season with 51 Championship wickets from 13 games at an average of 28.03, including five five-wicket hauls.
In his final match, against Worcestershire at New Road last week, he achieved his second-best figures for Yorkshire (6-94 from 22 overs) and also his second-highest score (82 from the No 10 position) to help the side to a seven-wicket win.
He leaves with the best wishes of everyone at Emerald Headingley.