SPORTSMEN rarely admit to setting themselves targets.
“I’m not setting myself any targets,” they drone, as though parroting from the book of drab sporting cliches.
Jack Brooks, however, is not your average sportsman.
The Yorkshire pace bowler is never afraid to tell it as it is, and as Championship leaders Yorkshire prepared to return to four-day action against Sussex at Scarborough, five points clear with four games to play, Brooks outlined his personal objectives.
“If I end up with, say, 70 wickets, I think we’ll win the league,” said Brooks, who has 49 from 12 matches at 28.08.
“That’s what I’m looking at from a personal point of view.
“If I can take 21 in the last four games, that would put us some way towards winning those games, you would think.
“I’m desperate to play my part for the side.”
Seventy wickets would represent a great achievement by Brooks, whose previous best in a Championship campaign is 43 in just nine outings, for Northamptonshire in 2011.
No Yorkshire bowler has taken 70 Championship wickets or more since Peter Hartley captured 71 from 15 fixtures in 1995.
The highest since then was Steve Kirby’s 67 in 2003.
Last year, Graham Onions took 70 wickets exactly to help Durham prise the Championship from Yorkshire’s grasp.
This week’s game at North Marine Road, which is followed by matches at Lancashire and Nottinghamshire and a home game with Somerset, also sees Brooks go head-to-head with Steve Magoffin, the Sussex pace bowler, in the race to finish leading wicket-taker in Division One.
The Australian is narrowly ahead with 51 wickets from 11 games at 18.80, and he represents the greatest threat to the home team on paper.
Although Brooks would love to finish leading wicket-taker, it is clearly of secondary importance to him than winning the league.
He says the players are confident going into the run-in.
“It’s a very confident changing room,” said Brooks.
“There’s no reason for it not to be the way we’re playing, and we haven’t really been behind the eight-ball in any Championship game.
“We’ve had sessions where we’ve had to fight and probably been slightly behind, but we’ve bossed pretty much every four-day game we’ve played.
“We’ve driven games forward, and there have just been a couple of games where we’ve fallen short in terms of trying to win, but we’ve played well overall.”
A strong finish to the season by Brooks could not only see Yorkshire win the title, it could see him become part of England Lions’ winter plans.
Brooks represented the Lions in 2012 and still harbours hopes of full England honours.
“A Lions tour would be a realistic ambition but my thoughts are with Yorkshire at the minute and then the full England side,” he said.
“The Lions stuff, I’ve done it and performed quite well in it, and maybe I’ll have to get back in it and do it again, but further ahead playing for the full England team is still my main goal.
“If someone breaks down, you never know what could happen.
“I really don’t know what their (England’s) thoughts are, and I’ve tried not to think about it, but I’d love to get into the full England side.”
With such as Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes having still to cement their places, Brooks’s performances must surely warrant notice.
He turned 30 last month so is neither Spring-chicken nor over-the-hill – just a very fine bowler who is learning all the time.
“I’d like to think that playing for England is a realistic ambition,” he added.
“You’ve only got to have maybe one good season and then back it up with another one, and I’ve got a little bit more experience on my side.
“I couldn’t be in a better place at the minute in terms of my cricket, and it’s just about whether they (England) think I’m good enough, or mentally strong enough, or whatever it is they’re looking for.
“It probably helps that I’m playing for Yorkshire.
“There always seems to be a lot of people watching and taking note of our scores, and a successful Yorkshire side tends to breed good England players too.”
All Brooks can do is keep working hard.
He has played a key part up to now in Yorkshire’s success to date.
“The main thing for me is that I’ve managed to be more consistent,” he said.
“I’m more than happy with my wickets haul, and with the team being top of the league as well, I couldn’t ask for more in red-ball cricket.”