ONE of the reasons Jack Brooks left Northamptonshire for Yorkshire in 2012 was because he thought Yorkshire had more chance of winning silverware.
Northamptonshire, one of the least fashionable first-class counties, had not won a trophy since 1992. Yorkshire, one of the most fashionable, had not won one since 2002 themselves but there was no doubting which club had greater potential.
Then, last year, Northamptonshire won the Twenty20 Cup and gained County Championship promotion, which left Yorkshire in the unenviable position of having gone the longest of the 18 first-class counties without having won a league or a cup competition, an irony not lost on pace bowler Brooks.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he laughed. “When I was at Northants, I didn’t think we were going to win anything. I thought I’d come to Yorkshire because there’s probably more chance of winning a trophy. Anyway, as soon as Northants get rid of a clown like me, they win the Twenty20 and get promoted.”
It was tongue-in-cheek stuff from Brooks, of course, a man who also left Wantage Road to improve his chances of playing for England. At 29, and with English cricket in a state of turmoil following a wretched winter, that door need not necessarily be slammed shut on someone who has already represented England Lions.
Strong performances in county cricket cannot fail to be noticed by the selectors as English cricket starts a new era. But as Yorkshire prepare to begin their County Championship season at Somerset tomorrow, Brooks’s priorities are fully focused on helping Yorkshire end their silverware drought.
“I’m desperate to win a trophy with this club,” said the man affectionately nicknamed ‘The Headband Warrior’. “I don’t think we’re far off, and I honestly think we’re capable of challenging this year on all three fronts. One would be lovely, but we want to aim as high as we can. When you look at our squad and what it’s capable of, it’s really exciting, and you get the sense we’re on the verge of something special.”
Brooks’s claim has strong foundations. Led by captain Andrew Gale, Yorkshire played some outstanding cricket in last year’s Championship.
One-day fortunes were contrastingly poor, with the club making no impact in the one-day league or Twenty20 Cup. But with the addition of such as Australian batsman Aaron Finch, Yorkshire have the ability to hit the trophy trail in all formats, albeit with the Championship still their No 1 goal.
“We had a great year last year in the Championship but we’ve got to be even better this time to win it,” said Brooks. “I think we can find that little bit more because I personally feel there’s more to come from us.
“When you think of the points total we had last year and the number of wins, that might have been enough to win it in another year, but we can’t afford to look at it that way. I know it’s the old cliche but it really is about taking each game as it comes.”
As well as insisting Yorkshire can improve, Brooks believes he himself has more to offer. His first season at Headingley was an undoubted success; in 11 Championship games, he took 34 wickets at 25.26 and he topped the county’s Twenty20 averages with 13 wickets at 14.53. Brooks would have been more potent had it not been for a broken thumb suffered against Somerset at Headingley in May, which ruled him out for six weeks just when he seemed in rampant form.
“That six weeks I had injured was the most frustrating of my career, especially as I’d hit form and was feeling quite strong,” he said. “I felt that something special was happening with my cricket – I was running up to bowl and thinking I was going to get a wicket every ball – but, after that injury, I didn’t quite get back that earlier form.
“What’s really exciting for me is that I’m still learning and I still feel I can improve, particularly with the people around me at the club. I’d like to think that if I can stay fit throughout the season, I can get 50 Championship wickets or perhaps even more.”
Arguably Brooks’s greatest achievement last summer was that of settling into life at England’s biggest club. It is not easy for an “outsider”, so to speak, to come to Yorkshire from another county, but just like his team-mate Liam Plunkett, who joined from Durham, he took it in his stride.
“I remember thinking last year that I needed to start the season strongly to justify myself to the supporters,” said Brooks. “It really helped that, building up to the season, the guys all backed me and made me feel at home straight away. I love playing for this club and I feel like an adopted Yorkie now. I’ve been here 18 months and I couldn’t be happier.”