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Feature

Harry Brook: 'I think I've watched my hundred back about 25 times'

After his hundred, the Sunrisers Hyderabad batter has struggled to make an impact in the IPL this year, but he's hoping to turn the second half of his season around

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
02-May-2023
Harry Brook made a 55-ball 100, Kolkata Knight Riders vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, IPL, Kolkata, April 14, 2023

On his 55-ball hundred: "I just thought, 'I'm going to try and hit the ball hard'"  •  Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images

When Harry Brook arrived in India five weeks ago, he wasn't sure what to expect. Halfway through his maiden IPL season, he has one word to describe the experience to date: chaos.
"I've enjoyed every minute of it," he said. "Hyderabad is a really nice part of the world, but obviously it's a different culture. It's chaos, to be honest: there are tuk-tuks everywhere, so trying to cross the road takes half an hour if you don't just force your way through.
"One thing which has really caught my eye is the amount of cameras around. People are videoing you and taking photos, non-stop. At training especially, you go into the nets and there's a camera somewhere. I didn't come here with any expectations but I noticed that very quickly"
He has enjoyed sampling the local cuisine, including Hyderabad's famous biryanis. "It's like the main dish," he said, "but I can't have that every meal.
"I'm not too bad with spice - I reckon I'm a bit better than a few lads here - but it baffles me how people can have curry for breakfast. I'm happy with my avocado on toast and some eggs."
Brook is being paid Rs 13.25 crore (US$1.6 million approximately) by Sunrisers Hyderabad, a life-changing sum of money for a player without an England central contract. It is a sum that brings obvious challenges on the field, and a level of scrutiny that has been hard on a 24-year-old making his debut in this competition.
But putting performance to one side, Brook has found himself grappling with the contrasts that the IPL throws up: cricket's most lucrative league operates in a country that is home to millions who live below the poverty line. "You walk around and there's so many homeless people," Brook said, unprompted.
"I feel like I just want to help everybody out. If you walk out of our hotel, 50 yards down the road there's someone who's obviously not fortunate enough to have any shelter; they've just got a bed on the side of the road. It's so sad to see, to be honest. It's definitely been an eye-opener."
On the pitch, Brook has had an unusual season. He has played one of the best innings of IPL 2023, hitting an unbeaten, 55-ball hundred against Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens; in his other seven innings he has not reached 20.
"I'd have liked to have done a little bit better," he admitted. "Obviously I had that one good innings, but I haven't really done anything else. That has been frustrating, but hopefully I can turn that around in the second half of the competition."
He started the season in the middle order, where he has batted for the overwhelming majority of his T20 career. But when Abhishek Sharma missed out with a niggle, Sunrisers coach Brian Lara proposed that Brook could move up the order.
"He told me, 'You're a Test player,'" Brook said. "He knew that I could face the swinging ball and adapt to it. So he sent me up top. I've never really done it before, and in my second game I got a hundred."
It was a stunning innings. Brook raced to 31 after 11 balls, slashing Umesh Yadav over the off side for back-to-back sixes, then exploded at the death after ticking over against spin through the middle overs. He reached his hundred in the final over, underpinning a total of 228.
"I just thought, 'Sod it, I'm going to try and hit the ball hard,'" he recalled. "That came off to start with. Their spinners [Sunil Narine, Varun Chakravarthy and Suyash Sharma] are potentially the best in the competition, so I tried to get off strike to them and thankfully, we had a couple of good partnerships through the middle.
"We had a chat at one of the timeouts, where I was like, 'I'll try to bat through so that anybody else coming in can be positive, and then I'll look to try to take the seamers down.' [Aiden] Markram and Abhishek really helped me by playing positively, and it all kind of fell into place."
As he picked up the match award, Brook made a passing comment about the wave of criticism he had faced from social media trolls after his first three games of the season: "I'm glad I could shut them up," he said with a smile. Inevitably the abuse has returned after a run of low scores.
"It's one of the hardest bits," he said. "When you've got nothing to do, you're in the hotel, and you don't really get out and about as much as at home, you do find yourself on your phone a lot. Things pop up, but it's keyboard warriors at their finest - it's pointless. I've gone off it [social media] for now. Hopefully that makes a difference."
Much of that criticism has focused on a theory that he struggles against spin - even though he has only faced 45 balls of it this season. "I haven't faced as much as usual, when I'm in the middle order," he said. "But obviously India is renowned for creating good spinners, and that produces a different challenge."
When we spoke, Brook was in Delhi, about to train ahead of Sunrisers' win at Arun Jaitley Stadium on Saturday night. He shuffled back down into the middle order, a return that he must have welcomed. "When you're coming in at four or five, there's gaps everywhere after the powerplay," he explained.
"Whilst I've been opening, I feel like I've hit every single fielder that has ever been on the pitch - in the games that I haven't scored runs in at least. It's been frustrating at times, but it's a good experience and it's nice to show that I can actually bat up there as well."
After five games opening, Brook walked out at No. 5 against Delhi Capitals - then pulled his second ball, a slower-ball bouncer from Mitchell Marsh, straight to short midwicket, where Axar Patel held a sharp chance at the second attempt. Barely two weeks after a century, he might now find his place under threat.
Brook has spoken "quite a bit" with Lara at training, and the pair have become golf partners. They recently lost a proud unbeaten streak to Marco Jansen and the resident professional at Hyderabad Golf Club. "He was heavily carried by the pro, who shot three under," Brook said, laughing. "We got dealt with."
And while Brook appreciates his coach's status as "one of the best to have ever played the game", he doesn't remember Lara's playing days - he was eight years old during Lara's final World Cup in 2007. "I was a bit too young," he said. "Obviously I've watched him play - I've seen YouTube videos - but I have no memories of it."
Yet his main confidant since his arrival in India has been Martin Speight, the school coach on whom he still relies. "I feel like I can trust him the most," Brook explained. "He knows my game better than anybody in the world."
Speight's main advice? "Just keep backing yourself, really. That's it. I've got a few little bullet points as to how I want to play, but he tells me to keep going back to when I play well, and to keep enjoying it. I think I've watched my hundred back about 25 times…"
Brook has thrived in the early stages of his international career, dominating bowling attacks across formats to the extent that it would be foolhardy to bet against him doing so in the IPL in good time. For now, he is just trying to block out the noise.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98