October 29, 1915, Kippax, Leeds, Yorkshire
March 09, 2006, Northampton, (aged 90y 131d)
Right hand bat
Right arm medium
Future generations, accustomed to players pocketing a gold watch and parchment scroll after three years' loyal service to the same county cricket company, may not know what to make of Dennis Brookes. The quietly spoken, unostentatious Yorkshireman joined Northamptonshire as a teenager in 1933 and remained closely associated with the club for the rest of his long life. A special dinner to mark the 70th anniversary of his first trial match packed out Northampton's new Indoor School in July 2002, the guests passing through the Abington Avenue gates that bear his name.
Between 1934 - when Hedley Verity trapped him for a single "playing back when I should have been forward" on his Championship debut at Bradford - and 1959 Brookes scored 28,980 first-class runs and 67 centuries in 492 matches for Northamptonshire, reaching 1,000 runs in a season 17 times and 2,000 on six occasions, all county records. The consummate batting craftsman, he gained high marks for artistic impression as well as technical merit; his former opening partner Peter Arnold reckons Brookes "the most graceful player you could find anywhere" while Frank Tyson relished his old skipper's "silky drives and subtle deflections". After that initial setback against Verity he attained grandmaster status when it came to handling spin and always rated an innings of 102 out of 185 against Kent's Doug Wright on a turning Northampton pitch in 1952 as his best ever.
He was understandably irked that only one Test appearance came his way. Though he never went on about it - not at all the Brookes style - immediately after the war RC Robertson-Glasgow had picked him out as one who had `the look of an England batsman, not merely of a man who happens ... to play for a team called England.' Twelfth man in the first two Tests against India in 1946, Brookes was measured (at Wally Hammond's insistence) for a MCC tour blazer but was not chosen for Australia. He went to West Indies with Gubby Allen in 1947-48 and made 108 against Barbados to secure his place in the opening Test at Bridgetown, only to break a finger in the field. His tour and his England career were over. Interviewed on his 80th birthday, Brookes revealed that Freddie Brown had sounded him out about going to India as senior professional in 1951-52 but again nothing came of it. It was a clear injustice, according to Arnold: "Admittedly it was the era of Hutton and Washbrook but other openers played for England who were not as good as Dennis, not by a long way."
Born at Kippax near Leeds, Brookes claimed his first 35- shillings-a-week contract with Northamptonshire owed much to the fact that he could type a bit and so help out in the office in winter. A first-team regular by 1936, he secured his place in the county's folklore in 1939 by hitting 187 against Leicestershire to set up their first Championship victory since May 1935.
Northamptonshire feared they might lose him in 1945, when Yorkshire sniffed around briefly, but he stayed put and by 1954 was the club's first professional captain. Although the old distinctions between gentleman and player were never less clearly defined than in the person of Dennis Brookes, some in the committee room still regretted the absence of an amateur in charge. After achieving second place in the Championship in 1957 he was eased out in favour of Raman Subba Row, who had been promised the captaincy for 1958 before going into the RAF a couple of years earlier.
accepted the situation and
played on for two more seasons.
He then coached and captained
the 2nd XI, moved back into
the office as assistant-secretary
to Northamptonshire's cynical
visionary Ken Turner and gave
valuable service as a member of
the cricket committee. In 1982 he
was honoured with the presidency
of the club and, having completed
his three-year term, continued to
watch cricket avidly and put in
his daily laps (or, latterly, lap) of
the County Ground, summer and
winter, until the final short illness.
Brookes personified loyalty,
dignity and continuity in all
aspects of his life. Married to
Freda since 1940 - the couple
would have celebrated their 66th
wedding anniversary on March
25 - he sat as a magistrate from
1959 to 1985 and lived in the same
terraced house in Wantage Road
for 60 years. If the local council
has any blue plaques to spare, they
need look no further.
Andrew Radd, The Wisden Cricketer
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