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BROOK REFLECTS ON WONDERFUL WINTER

— 22 January 2023

Harry Brook has had a dream winter, with highlights aplenty, including a title win with England, his first three Test centuries and earning a bumper contract to play in the forthcoming Indian Premier League. But he had no hesitation when naming the one which gave him the most pleasure.

“I don’t know if I could have said that in the first ever T20 World Cup that I’d play, I would end up winning it,” said the 23-year-old.

“That’s got to be the highlight of my career so far, and hopefully I can get another one or two World Cup medals to go alongside it.

“That month, especially, was unbelievable. I’m so glad I came away with that medal and nobody can ever take it away from me.”

Brook’s stock has sky-rocketed since he last pulled on a Yorkshire shirt, in the Championship draw against Somerset at Taunton in late July when he scored a first-innings 41.

“That seems like ages ago,” he said as he sat down to chat ahead of his next assignment, England’s three-match ODI series in South Africa, starting on Friday.

He was player of the series twice for England against Pakistan – firstly in late September and early October when he contributed 238 runs in seven T20 matches to a 4-3 success, averaging 79.33. Secondly, through December, he scored 468 runs in three Tests, including scores of 153, 87, 108 and 111, as England won 3-0.

Brook’s form in the T20 World Cup in Australia through October and November wasn’t to those high standards, with him only adding 56 runs in six games and not passing 20. It mattered not.

“It was probably the worst part of my winter so far, maybe even my last 18 months,” he continued. “I was hitting it well, but I just kept finding the fielders out on the boundary.

“The grounds are so big out there, and I’ve been to Australia twice now and have struggled. But I came away with a winner’s medal. That’s the main thing.

“Our top order were outstanding. There were a few games where I got a low score, but it didn’t really matter in the context of the game because of how well the other lads played. They won us the competition really.”

It was far from a straightforwards route to glory for England, with a group loss to Ireland at Melbourne added to a No Result against Australia at the same venue forcing them into a corner. They had to win their final two group games against New Zealand and Sri Lanka to qualify for the semi-finals.

In the semi-finals, they hammered India by 10 wickets at Adelaide, chasing down 169. It was an outstanding performance to set up the chance of beating Shan Masood’s Pakistan in the final.

“That semi-final against India was awesome,” said Brook. “The way Halesy and Jos struck it was ridiculous. It was a good pitch, but to do it against that bowling attack was very special.”

Then onto Pakistan for the Test series before Christmas.

“I was very lucky to have gone to Pakistan having had success there already, both in the PSL and the T20 series before the World Cup,” Brook said.

“I knew all the bowlers and what the pitches were like, and I just went out there trying to express myself and enjoy it. Thankfully it worked.

“They were good wickets, so you could probably score that bit quicker than you could if you were in England or somewhere else for example.

“Like I said, I also knew the bowlers and what they were trying to do.”

Immediately upon returning home from Pakistan, Brook was rewarded for his rapid rise with a £1.3m deal to play in this year’s IPL for Sunrisers Hyderabad.

His life changed in an instant – all while he was sat having a bit of brekkie.

He recalled: “I was actually out for breakfast with my family and girlfriend when the auction was on. I asked my agent, and neither us of could find the link to watch on.

“Thankfully, Matty Fisher FaceTimed me. He had it on his TV, so he propped me up on the sofa and I was able to watch it.

“I had to settle the breakfast bill afterwards. I couldn’t get away with that one!”

Brook describes the feelings that come with success at an IPL auction; his final figure going at almost nine times more than his initial base price.

“Obviously pretty nice,” he chuckled.

“We were in a group FaceTime with myself, Fish, Jordan Thompson and Josh Poysden, who works for the agency I’m with.

“I thought I’d get picked up, but not at that price – not even a quarter of that. So when it got to £1m and beyond, it was crazy.

“The thing is, I still want to play for the love of the game. The money’s nice, of course, but it’s just a bonus. I’m more interested in playing cricket because I love it.

“To be able to go out there and learn, to have some more experiences whether they’re good or bad, will be really good for me.

“I’ve got so much more to learn in this game, and I’m nowhere near the finished article.

“If I can come away from India a better player, I’ve done my job.”

Before heading to India, Brook will hope to make his ODI debut in South Africa.

“Hopefully I play a couple of games. I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I haven’t played a one-day game for nearly five years, so I’ve been working hard on that in the nets and trying to find my feet.”
Then it is a two-Test series in New Zealand late next month.

“I didn’t play in the summer series, but England had the better of them then. We can take a lot of confidence from that,” he went on.

“I’m sure we’ll still be playing the same brand of cricket as we have been doing. Why would we change, we’ve been doing so well for the last year?

There is a possible ODI tour to Bangladesh afterwards, or maybe some rest at home before heading to India for his Sunrisers stint.

Brook has spent the last month at home with his family and friends, while he has enjoyed training with his Yorkshire team-mates indoors at Headingley and also with his mentor and former school teacher Martin Speight at Sedbergh.

He said: “It’s been nice to be back home and spending time with the family because it doesn’t feel like I’ve spent much time at home in the last two years.

“Being at Yorkshire and training with all my mates who I’ve grown up playing with has been awesome.

“I’ve also had some school mates down from different parts of the country.

“Even though the weather’s been horrendous, we’ve still had time to get out and play some golf. It’s been good.”

The only downside to Brook’s brilliance, which included a stunning 1,403 runs at 69.68 in Championship and T20 cricket for Yorkshire last summer, is that the county are unlikely to see much of him in 2023.

Rest assured, though, if the opportunity comes, Brook will be there.

“If I’m not playing, it probably means I’ll be in the Ashes squad, which would be another dream come true,” he added. “But I definitely want to play for Yorkshire. If the opportunity arises, then I’d jump at it.

“Hopefully, fingers crossed, everyone can stay fit and we can get ourselves back into Division One.

“I was watching very closely at the back end of last year when I was in Pakistan, and it was devastating when Warwickshire got that win over Hampshire.

“We have a very strong squad with a lot of depth and good young players coming through.

“With Shan Masood and Neil Wagner coming in as well, we’re going to be pushing for promotion and the Division Two title. We just need to be ruthless.”

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