IT is difficult to think of a better domestic signing that Yorkshire have made than Jack Brooks, the pace bowler who is leaving for Somerset at the end of the season after six highly successful summers at Headingley.
That is partly because the club were historically reluctant to sign players from other counties; indeed, The Yorkshire Post once ran an April Fool saying that the late, great Fred Trueman should never have played for the club because he was, in fact, born in Lancashire, while it was not until 1992 that Yorkshire finally admitted overseas players, the greatest of whom was undoubtedly Darren Lehmann, who averaged 68 for them in first-class cricket.
But it is primarily because Brooks, who was leading wicket-taker when Yorkshire won the County Championship in both 2014 and 2015, and then again when they nearly pulled off the hat-trick in 2016, played a vital role in one of the most successful periods in the county’s history after joining from Northants in 2012. So much so, it made me smile when he described himself in the official press release confirming his departure as “a small cog” in a “well-oiled Yorkshire cricket machine” during those title-winning years.
If Brooks was “a small cog”, then one might similarly understate that Trueman was a “fairly useful” bowler or Lehmann a “reasonably competent” batsman.
For the record, that same “small cog” took 68 wickets at an average of 28.02 in 2014 (20 more than the next-best Ryan Sidebottom); 65 at 22.76 in 2015 (20 more than Tim Bresnan and Steve Patterson); and 60 at 25.01 in 2016 (21 more than Patterson).
That four-prongued attack had the out-and-out attacking skills of Brooks himself, the craftsmanship of Sidebottom, and the combined threat and accuracy of Bresnan and Patterson, all of whom complemented – and created wickets for – each other.
The reasons for Brooks’s departure have been well advertised: Somerset offered a three-year contract, taking him up to the grand old age of 37, whereas Yorkshire were prepared to offer a two-year deal, albeit with the proviso that they would consider an extension at some point next summer.
Whatever one’s assessment of Brooks’s value at this stage of his career, or his decision to head south-west, he goes with the thanks and good wishes of everyone at Headingley, where he played so much of his finest cricket. At his best, there have been few grander sights in recent times than Brooks steaming in with his trademark headband, while his wicket-taking celebrations have been eruptions of sheer joy, infectious outpourings of passion and emotion. Not only has he consistently dismissed some of the best batsmen around, but he has worn his heart on his sleeve and entertained the crowds as much as anyone on the circuit; he is a wonderful showman as well as a wonderful sportsman.
Although he likes to style himself as “a bit of a village idiot” from Oxfordshire, Brooks is an intelligent man and can consider himself unfortunate not to have won full international honours.
A comparatively late starter, he has made up for lost time by taking over 400 first-class wickets. Brooks was not “a small cog” in Yorkshire’s recent success, but a massive part of it. He deserves to be ranked among the best and most influential bowlers the club have had.
At his best, there have been few grander sights in recent times than Brooks steaming in with his trademark headband, while his wicket-taking celebrations have been eruptions of sheer joy, infectious outpourings of passion and emotion.Chris Waters