Aakash Sivasubramaniam
28 Sep 2022 | 01:27 PM

Harry Brook, not just another hyped English cricketer

Brook is an all-format superstar that England have in the making

Harry Brook is an all-format superstar,” the words that are currently echoing the echelons of English cricket. While English media have always been guilty of being a little extra with their criticism or appreciation, the 23-year-old’s case might just be a little different.

Generational talents usually are not guaranteed to turn into household names. Some wane away sooner than they arrive at the international scene. But ever since Brook has levelled up, he has made international cricket look like a natural progression.

The Yorkshire batter is an all-format superstar in the making, a gem that England have not quite possessed in some time. Ten years ago, Brook was just 13, still trying to stomp his personnel on English cricketing circles. He was never considered less talented but issues around him could have easily derailed his progress.

It is a well-known secret that former Durham cricketer, Martin Speight had taken the youngster under his wing, with an eye on improving his fitness level and better his technique. And ever since that meeting between the two, Brook has only transcended the cricketing boundaries proficiently.

Once you enter the field, there never is a doubt about the youngster. In fact, the appreciation for Brook was evident in the widefield comparisons. And people who have seen him in close quarters could attest with their eyes closed, that his game is well suited across formats.

"He is the future, in my opinion. He's got all the shots and can play in so many different circumstances,” might be something that pundits could have said about AB de Villiers but this is what former England star Kevin Pietersen had to say on the 23-year-old English batter

Yorkshire, Northern Superchargers, Hobart Hurricanes, Lahore Qalanders, Joburg Super Kings and now England, Brook has arrived on the biggest scene: international cricket. 

But what makes him stand-out amidst such a talented crop of English cricketers?

Cut from the best T20 cloth

On Friday (September 23), in Karachi, miles away from Yorkshire, the 23-year-old was put in a situation that he had practised mentally and, in the shadows, for some time now. At 82/3, it wasn’t really a situation that cried pressure but it was definitely a situation that he grasped to the fullest with the bat.

England were eyeing 200, but had to rebuild after some lull in the middle overs. That is when Brook walked the talk, literally. The right-hander shimmied down the ground, in the most artistic fashion and smacked the ball over long-on boundary for a huge six. Usman Qadir stood there, wondering where he went wrong. Except he didn’t.

Three deliveries later, Brook once again took on Qadir, over the extra cover for a bigger six. Those quick dancing feet had certainly made the flight with Brook and over the next one and half hours, the Pakistan bowling attack was on the receiving end of some carnage. 

Some shots were brute force, some deft touches and others pure class in terms of anticipation and peripheral vision. 

His first T20 hundred came in the PSL and his first T20I near hundred also came in Pakistan as he finished on 81 off just 35 balls, peppering eight fours and five sixes in 59-minute masterclass in Karachi.

“Harry Brook. I tell him all the time,” Luke Wood told The Telegraph, when asked to name the batsman he would least like to bowl at. “Red-ball cricket, white-ball cricket, he's one of the most talented people I've come across. Keeps it very simple, but just the way he bats makes it hard.”

By now, all those who were keenly following T20 cricket knew the Yorkshire batter and those who didn’t, now are left with no choice. Brook is a 360-degree player, so the comparisons are going to be more profound and pronounced. In T20s since 2020, only two batters who have batted in the middle-order (4-6), have averaged above 40 and a strike-rate of above 150.

While Suryakumar Yadav is the obvious one, Brook is the other (which is now obvious). Ian Chappell on his ESPNCricinfo column, had an interesting question: when is the right time to blood a player? In Brooks’ case, it is now. Brook’s ability to access all parts of the ground puts him pretty much in a rare category, with a bunch of crazy batters.

In his short T20I career (eight matches) thus far, the right-hander has scored 253 runs, averaging 42.16 while striking those runs at 156.17, showing his calibre with the bat, away from home and at home, against India.

A generational talent already made

Roll the year back to 2018, Brook captained a young, fierce and attacking English U-19 team. Even if England were eliminated, the right-hander’s attacking brand of cricket stood out. 

And so were the disciplinary issues. England dropped their own captain for the final game of the tournament, a seventh-placed play-off against New Zealand. But over the years, Brook has worked pretty hard on that, so much so, he is perhaps the most-improved player on and off the field.

“Harry Brook has got the potential to be a generational talent. I’ve spoken a lot of times about players who have found it difficult to transfer their ability to three different formats. But I think amongst the English pool, he has the potential to do that. Now, we have seen him take to T20I as if it was a step down for him. He has been really impressive,” said Dan Weston, a notable analyst in the T20 circuit, who has worked intensively in England.  

“It is not so much of a surprise that he (Brook) is doing well. I had someone compare him to AB de Villiers and such a comparison might be premature but he definitely has the ability to average over 20% boundaries, with over 22 balls/dismissal, which will rank him in the de Villiers bracket. He has the unique ability to combine attacking intent with stability.”

Weston obviously has had to plan multiple times against him. Very often, a compliment from the opposing dugout is the highest hallmark of a player’s worth. Weston minced no words, calling the youngster a “generational talent”.

Brook and the red-ball mockery

Very often, generational talents have leaned to one format or the other. But someone like Virat Kohli, who captured the essence of all the three formats over several years, is an example that stands out. And so is de Villiers. Brook is definitely no stranger to these two names but in the future, even his name would be no stranger to this elite group.

Mark Ramprakash, one of the stalwarts of English cricket, narrated an incident when Brook was just 18. The right-hander always had a great game against spin but to elevate it, Ramprakash made him bat with a half-bat, a thinner-edged one. And as the former opener recollects it, Brook never missed a chance to score aggressively.

With the Baz-ball approach, even skipper Ben Stokes was batting for the youngster to get a longer look in. It is imperative that the Yorkshire lad plays more Tests for the Three Lions but his numbers are screaming for his inclusion already. 

In the last season of the County Championship, the right-hander, playing for Yorkshire scored 967 runs, at an average of 107.4 and a strike-rate of 75.6. England know a thing or two about talents coming in from Yorkshire, especially batters - Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow. Brook is on path to joining them in the legacy route. 

"When I was younger I wouldn't have paid to watch a draw in Test cricket. I'd have definitely preferred to watch a result so it probably fits my cricket a bit more. It's exciting isn't it?,” Brook told ESPNCricinfo prior to his Test debut.

And it is only fitting that the right-hander is ready to spread his wings under the revamped England approach to Test cricket: Baz-ball. He is just taking off, having scored 12 runs on his Test debut. 

Whichever format you choose, there is a high possibility that Brook has already excelled it, taken it up to the next notch or is on the verge of charting ground-breaking achievements. Brook’s ceiling perhaps is unrivalled currently in English cricket, ask Stokes, Moeen Ali or even Buttler. 

He is not the future, he is the present.

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