ANDREW GALE is not a man given to making exaggerated comments.
So when the Yorkshire first-team coach described teenage batsman Harry Brook as “the real deal” on the eve of the season, you can bet that the player in question is the genuine article.
If you’re not first, then you haven’t achieved what you wanted to achieve.Harry Brook
“It felt good, obviously,” said Brook as he reflected on Gale’s vote of confidence, “but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“Nothing’s ever perfect, and, hopefully, if I get my chance in the first team I can take it and make it my spot for the season and into the future.
“In South Africa, he (Andrew Gale) said that ‘if you score runs out here, there’s no reason why you can’t be starting in the (Championship) team.’
“So I put my foot down and scored a few runs, and, hopefully, I can carry that on.”
Brook had an excellent tour, including a hundred against Notts in Potchefstroom.
Today he is poised to play against the same opponents in the Championship game at Emerald Headingley, slotting into a middle-order role.
The 19-year-old is a splendid prospect, having led England to the Under-19 World Cup quarter-finals in the winter and finished as the team’s leading run-scorer.
Brook played four Championship games last summer, scoring a composed 38 on debut against Middlesex at Lord’s, an experience that did not faze him as he stepped on to the hallowed turf.
“I didn’t think about it too much and just went in and thought, ‘this is my opportunity, I’ll try and take it as best I can’,” he said.
“Obviously, I didn’t score as many runs as I wanted to, but that happens.
“I’m a pretty confident person in general, and if you’re confident, then you don’t really fear anything.
“I’d like to think that I’m pretty fearless.”
That air of self-assurance is actually one of the most striking things about Brook, a classy right-hander, who was born in Keighley.
Indeed, if confidence and self-belief are half the battle (and they are not always fully-formed qualities in developing sportsmen), then he is well on the way to winning the war. He has also settled quickly into the first-team dressing room.
“I’m quite a loud character and talk about all sorts of stuff to be fair,” he jokes.
“It’s really easy to settle in at Yorkshire because they’re all so caring and really nice.
“I was away quite a lot in the winter (with the England Under-19s) but, whenever I came back, there was banter flying around and everyone gets on really well.”
Brook believes that he improved as a batsman during the winter.
“I do feel like I’ve improved in the last few months,” he said.
“I’m hitting the ball harder, I’m hitting it where I want to be hitting it as well, which always helps, and I know my game a lot more now.
“It sounds stupid, but I know how to score runs a lot more than I did before, and I know what my best scoring options are.
“That comes with a bit more maturity, obviously, but, as I say, there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Like coach Gale, one thing that Brook clearly has no time for is second-best.
Although he relished the World Cup in New Zealand, describing it as “probably the nicest place I’ve ever been to”, he was disappointed with the team’s eventual seventh-placed finish after they lost to Australia at the quarter-final stage.
“We came seventh, but that’s not where we wanted to be,” he said.
“If you’re not first, then you haven’t achieved what you wanted to achieve.
“It was disappointing, but it’s happened now and we have to move on.
“It was a great tour overall – the lads were top-quality – and I’d like to think that my leadership skills grew as well as my batting.”
One thing Gale has been keen to stress is that Yorkshire should not expect too much too soon from the blossoming Brook.
They do not want to pile pressure on to the shoulders of a man who is learning the game.
At the same time, Brook is determined to seize his chance in a squad top-heavy with talented players.
He is presently keeping no less a batsman than Tom Kohler-Cadmore out of the picture, a man he describes as “an extremely good player” and respects highly.
“There’s a lot of competition for places and a lot of selection headaches,” said Brook.
“That’s good, because you want to have a lot of players to pick from.
“Ideally, I want to play all three formats going forward, and I feel like one-day cricket is probably my best format.
“But there’s a lot of red-ball cricket to go first, so I’m totally focused on that and, hopefully, doing well for the team.”