If Harry Brook makes his England Test debut in the forthcoming series against New Zealand, he may well be able to lead the Barmy Army in their rendition of Jerusalem if past experiences at Sedbergh School are anything to go by.
Brook has been called up to the squad for the opening Test at Lord’s on June 2, with the second Test at Trent Bridge eight days later, where the Army will be in full voice.
The 23-year-old has enjoyed a sensational start to the new season with three LV= Insurance County Championship centuries in five games, including a career best 194.
He has had county bowlers dancing to his tune and is the leading run-scorer in Division One with 758 at a staggering average of 151.60.
“We’re all very proud, massively so,” said Sedbergh director of cricket Martin Speight.
“For everybody who has been involved in his development at our school, his housemaster Chris Mahon, the headmaster Dan Harrison, all the sports and teaching staff, myself, it’s fantastic news. I’m so chuffed for the lad.”
Talking of tunes, when Brook was a pupil at Sedbergh a few years back, he had to belt a few out on stage as part of education alongside cricket, as Speight explains.
Brook captained the Sedbergh first team which won the national schools’ title in 2017, the same summer in which he made his county debut for Yorkshire.
The Burley-in-Wharfedale star debuted at Lord’s in a Championship match against Middlesex when he was a wet behind the ears right-hander who got his chance on the back of a stunning string of scores in Yorkshire’s second team.
He made his first of seven Championship centuries to date the following summer at Essex and has progressed in “every way”, he believes, since.
Speight has been an influential figure in Brook’s development and still speaks to and coaches him now.
“We actually won the national final without Brooky playing because, from half-term onwards, he was playing in the Yorkshire first-team,” he said.
“I’ve never known anyone work harder at his game than him.
“If you go back all the way to when he first came here as a 14 or 15-year-old, at the start of Year 10, he was a little tubby lad who literally couldn’t run and never spoke a word.
“It was a big change to what he was used to, and it probably took him two years to work out what Sedbergh was all about.
“It’s not just cricket, it’s a lifestyle. You work hard at this, you’re challenged at that.
“For him to get up on stage, for example, at 15 and sing with the rest of his boarding house (Winder House), to go running up the fells – all the things you do here – and fit his cricket and gym work in around that in the winter, that was something he would have never experienced.
“Then, when he was 16-and-a-half in the lower sixth form, I’ll never forget a moment with George Hill’s parents.
“They hadn’t ever really spoken to Harry even though George was going up through the Yorkshire age-groups as well and had often met at awards dinners and the like.
“But I remember George’s mum, Gayle, ringing me up and saying that they’d been to a Yorkshire presentation evening where both had done well.
“She suddenly realised Harry had worked it out because he went over to them and said hello, confidently, and said, ‘George is going to be a fantastic player’.
“It was almost as if he’d realised there was a much bigger picture than him and just his cricket.
“He spent two hours a week – one on a Monday morning and another in the afternoon – learning how to run with the Athletics coach.
“He suddenly realised what he had to do if he wanted to get where he wanted to. It was almost like the penny had dropped.
“Every single morning – Monday to Friday – he would be in the indoor hall at 6.30am training. It was training, training, training.
“In sixth form, he also worked harder at his Academic studies. Though he would never admit that!
“He started playing golf on days off. I’d play with him on a Thursday afternoon. Myself and the Hockey coach would play him and a lad called Alex Simpson, who played a bit for Durham on the Academy there.”
Only recently Brook, who has scored three Championship centuries so far this year, revealed how his love for golf had helped him find a more relaxed approach to his cricket having been very intense around bat and ball earlier in life.
“He’s got three or four very good friends from the team he played in at Sedbergh,” said Speight.
“They all play golf regularly and are all very good cricketers. Some have played MCCU first-class. They’ve helped him realise that there’s more to life than just cricket.
“He’s a very good golfer, off four or five I think.
“He keeps asking me to play again, and I say, ‘I’m not playing you again, no way Jose!’.
“He’s got his girlfriend, his parents are lovely. There’s a bit of everything that’s helped him out.”
Speight helped Brook revamp his technique following a disappointing 2019 with Yorkshire.
Speight said: “Harry is one of these people who knows that if everything is perfect in his technique, he makes good decisions because he’s happy. If not, he makes bad ones.
“Even now, he will still send me videos and say, ‘What do you think?’ I still coach him regularly. It’s the same with George and Matty Revis.
“He has really blossomed.
“I remember watching the game he got the hundred in in Pakistan over the winter. He was immediately interviewed after getting 100 off 49 balls with his side 10-3.
“And he was just a happy lad, so comfortable with it all.
“You talk to him now, and he’s a funny guy. He’s got a dry sense of humour, he’s comfortable, and he comes across so down to earth.
“I was in touch with him a bit over the winter following Australia, where he’d not played as well as he would have liked, and the West Indies, and he was pretty down.
“But I said, ‘Look Harry, what you have to realise is that you’ve now played for England. All your dreams you’ve ever had, you’ve just fulfilled. You have to realise that however badly or well you do, you’ve played for England. No one can ever take that away from you’.
“Go and enjoy Pakistan. And he did.”
Speight spoke to Brook on Tuesday night, after his former pupil had been informed of his Test call.
“Harry’s said he’ll get me some tickets for Lord’s if he’s named in the eleven,” he said. “I’d love to be there. You have to go, don’t you.
“He’s in great form at the minute, he’s confident, and that’s when you need to be picked. You hope they go, ‘You’re the form batter in the country at the minute’ and they play him.”
And, of the singing, Speight laughed: “He was probably miming knowing Brooky!”