The story of Harry Brook who has broken Ranjisinhji’s 125-year old record
Three hundred in three tests in Pakistan. Harry Brook has broken a 125-year-old English record set by KS Ranjitsinhji for most runs in the first 6 innings of the Test for England. Ranjit ji had 418, Brook threatened to go over 500 in the third test in Karachi. Incidentally, Vinod Kambli holds the record with 669 runs.
When he impressed with aerial cameos in the T20 World Championship, his childhood trainer David Cooper told this newspaper to watch him at the tests. He turned out to be right.
It was a sight in the rain when Harry was about 14 that convinced Cooper that his boy was something special. Harry was talented but word got around that he wasn’t fit and word would come to him that if he didn’t do something about it and improve his fielding, county cricket could prove elusive.
“On a dark, wet October day, I peeked over the fence into the club and what did I see? Young Harry ran across the floor, finishing his laps with push-ups and such, and then kept running. For a month, that wet month, he was out there doing his stuff. Tell me how many 14 year olds would do that? asks Cooper rhetorically.
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If you need a plot of land to capture Harry Brooks’ story, we can choose from two locations: his back garden overlooking his club and a small bench on his club grounds, Burley-in-Wharfedale Cricket Club.
A Brook T-shirt is often hung out to dry in the garden. Jersey number 88 hanging upside down from Yorkshire, Lahore Qalandars, Northern Superchargers, Hobart Hurricanes.
The bench was built by his late grandfather Tony, a club player, a woodworker who had his sons David, Richard and Nick, all of whom played for the club. David is Harry’s father and it was Tony, says Cooper, who brought young Harry to the club and laid him down for hours. Took, took, took…
“When he comes to the club to watch cricket these days, Harry sits on this bench. It feels kind of wholesome and sweet, if you know what I mean,” says Cooper.
The first time Cooper saw Harry with a cricket bat was when the boy was two or three years old. “He was holding it on the hilt with his bottom hand! But he would hook it up properly; had wonderful hand-eye coordination. But he was pretty stubborn and won’t change it until his grandfather talks him into it gently,” laughs Cooper.
Around the time he was losing his chubby weight and trudging in the rain, he secured a scholarship to the prestigious Sedhburg private school, which produced rugby internationals and developed a solid reputation for cricketers. “It was a big moment in his life. Maybe if he hadn’t gone there, like other kids, he would have practiced on the weekends and played a bit in the evenings. But the school encouraged talented athletes and he played a lot of cricket,” says Cooper.
Cooper says Harry would meet former Durham and Sussex wicketkeeper Martin Speight at school and improve his batting. “Speight started his cricket nets pretty early at 6am but Harry was always there every morning.” Speight would move to tell hockey coach Mark Shopland if he ever bet on a kid to play for England, bet it on Harry. Shopland apparently put 100 pounds on Harry at 100-1. On Speight’s advice, Brook added a trigger move after an underperforming 2019-20 County season that caused his averages to rise above 50.
In the series in Pakistan, just before the World Cup, Brook shone with a couple of good shots, with a 35-ball 81 being the highlight. Mark Wood compared him to AB de Villiers to the press and later told Brook not to let him down after that comparison. “I used to love watching him bat, but I still want to be the best Harry Brook. I don’t want to be anyone else,” he told The Telegraph. “I want to do my best and play the way I want to.”
It’s ironic that the batsman, who made his name in T20 cricket, loves the ‘perfect forward defensive shot’.
Cooper said he laughed when he heard Harry say that in a recent interview. “I remember telling him once that to grow as a cricketer and make a name for himself against heavier bowling attacks, he needed a good, solid forward defense. And we would stand by the club nets for hours, buffing his defense forward. I was taught that when I was young,” says Cooper, who once slammed an 11 fours and 4 sixes led by India’s Madan Lal attack for a hundred shots for the club. “That was a week after Madan Lal bowled England for about 120!”
In his Betway column this September, Kevin Pietersen would write: “In my opinion he is the future. He has all the possibilities and can play in so many different circumstances. Keeps it very easy but the way he hits makes it difficult. People who can pull you up from the top of the stumps is hard work because that’s where you’re obviously trying to roll it. And he knows his game, and because he’s in the middle order, he makes sure he’s in there at the end, and then he goes, and because he’s doing ramps, you have to have a good back of your legs to be effective with four fielders plays because then he won’t play it and he hits it far so he’s very hard work and I’ll keep telling him that until he stops.
Nasser Hussain was also a vocal supporter. “Harry Brook is just going to be a superstar in all formats, he really is. He’s been very successful in Yorkshire in recent years and I think that will continue.”
Of course, Cooper doesn’t need convincing. For a man who saw Harry bat for the first time when he was 2 and has followed his career for years, he is already over the moon with Harry’s performance at the World Cup.
“So good…a lot of people wouldn’t expect to win the world championship at 23,” Brook said at the end of the world championship. “There’s a lot more. As KP and Nasser have said, the cricket world will see him as a star in Tests.” He certainly started out like a runaway train.