Harry Brook is one of English cricket’s most promising young talents and he has a serious dedication to reaching the top, reports Alex Mason for The Cricketer magazine.
It’s 6.15am. Pitch black and a bitterly cold morning, Harry Brook is lugging his cricket bag down the driveway of his boarding house to the sports hall.
Martin Speight, a former Sussex and Durham cricketer, and Brook’s mentor at school, is waiting with a coffee, a bag of old balls and a sidearm – an advancement of a device used by dog owners to throw tennis balls – hopeful to get the session finished before assembly starts. He knows that if practice overruns, he will get chided by teachers for his protégé’s late arrival.
“Most days teachers would ask me why I had missed the morning assembly or arrived late for lessons,” Brook says. “It was because I was in the nets playing cricket. Cricket was my education. It was the highlight of my day and all I could ever think about.”
Brook, who captained England at the Under-19 World Cup during the winter, is one of English cricket’s most promising young talents. The Yorkshireman scored a gritty before, maiden first-class hundred in the County Championship earlier this summer, posting crucial stands with Cheteshwar Pujara and Joe Root, to pull off a remarkable win against champions Essex at Chelmsford. “Yorkshire being bowled out for 50 in the first innings and then coming back to win the game is just ridiculous, it’s never been seen” Brook recalls. “Batting with Joe Root was the best moment I’ve had on a cricket field. Having time out in the middle and learning from him was a special experience.”
A product of Burley-in-Wharfedale Cricket Club, Brook moved at the age of 14, to one of England’s oldest and most remote public schools. Founded in 1525, Sedbergh, nestled between the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Lake District, has a reputation for notoriously tough 10-mile cross-country runs across the fells, cold showers, riveting hymn practices, and
rugby, lots of rugby. The school has produced four England captains, including Will Carling, and World Cup winners like Will Greenwood.
Brook says: “It’s been all about cricket ever since I popped out, so it was a no-brainer moving to Sedbergh to try and improve. Sedbergh really helped me a lot. “Speighty was a very big influence. He would always be there for me. Having him as a coach for four years of my career, and netting with him most days was invaluable.” The 19-year-old added that there have been other mentors throughout his career, too. He praised his father, David, and his grandfather, Tony – who passed away in 2012 following a long battle with cancer. “As soon as I arrived back from school [Ilkley Grammar School, West Yorkshire], I would be begging my granddad to take me to the nets at Burley. He would get the bowling machine out and we would be there for hours.
“Both my granddad and dad used to coach one of the teams I was in. They did a lot of work with me when I was younger so I was always playing.” Brook jokingly added: “I was also the captain of the team which meant I used to get what I wanted.”
Brook admitted that he used to be “quite a chubby lad” in his early teens. His Yorkshire Academy coach at the time advised him that fitness was an issue and something that required work going forward if he was to fulfil his potential. I asked Brook if there were any wacky exercises he did to lose weight: “Yes [laughs]. Somebody gave me a bizarre tip. I would get a bin bag, and strap it to my waist while I sprinted around the school’s rugby fields, sweating into this bin bag. I’m sure it didn’t actually work that well.”
Brook is a driven, single-minded young man with the drive to one day achieve his ultimate goal of batting with Root in a Test match. It is sometimes easy to forget that he is straight out of school – it was only last year that he was obliterating schoolboy batting records. Rather than finding the leap from schoolboy games to senior county cricket too great, as many others have in the past, Brook has flourished. Aside from his undoubted skill, another of Brook’s strengths is his voracious appetite to continue learning.
“I’m just going one game at a time. At the moment Yorkshire just needs to play their best brand of cricket. It’s all about winning and trying to get them in a good position. “You never see yourself growing up and sitting alongside Root, Bairstow and all those other big players in the changing room. “Of course, everyone wants to play cricket for England. Batting with Root in a Test as well in county games is definitely a goal I’ve set myself and something I’m aiming for.”