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Analysis

Believe the hype: Harry Brook is heading where few have gone before

By almost any measure, England's new star batter is in the process of breaking the mould

Harry Brook launches another drive down the ground, New Zealand v England, 1st Test,  Mount Maunganui, 3rd day, February 18, 2023

Harry Brook launches another drive down the ground during his Player-of-the-Match display in Mount Maunganui  •  Getty Images

Ben Stokes had only just taken the Test sixes record when he suggested to previous holder Brendon McCullum that Harry Brook would take it off him soon enough. There was a whiff of jealousy in Joe Root's admiration of the "extraordinary" way Brook was "almost bullying Test attacks". In the space of 24 hours in Mount Maunganui, two modern-day Test greats were fawning over a youngling destined for their stock and status.
Earlier this winter, seemingly a lifetime ago in the Pakistan T20I series in September and October, Mark Wood said he saw a bit of AB de Villiers in Brook. Go back further, to a transformational 2022 Test summer, and somehow Stokes was managing to big Brook up when actively choosing not to select him. He netted so well that he almost broke the captain's vow to trust a batting line up that had won five out of six Tests.
English cricket has never been comfortable with hype. And we're not talking about the kind that Stokes and Root encountered at the beginning of their careers, micro-doses of praise as they found their feet among vaunted team-mates. This has been real, high-grade, NBA hype, like you get when a newbie becomes the fulcrum for a franchise in their rookie year. Other nations would trade their mothers to draft him.
The "this kid, geez" sigh that comes with every shot Brook makes. The quiet disbelief that comes through watching someone so early in their journey look so comfortable. The reaction he evokes in the stands and on the grass banks: keeping their attention, sending them wild while remaining calm, like a DJ transitioning to a banger, and then the palpable dismay when he eventually goes. Even the similarities to Kevin Pietersen have been so prominent that you wonder what the man himself thinks of this. Pietersen was a unique brilliance. And yet this kid struts, picks lengths and hits bombs with ease that no-one one has any qualms making that comparison. No-one has dared make it before, but it seems fair game right now because Brook is worthy.
He is already the kind of player that makes a Test match better with his presence. Even just typing that sentence about someone five matches into their career, who only turned 24 on Wednesday feels reckless. Which is exactly the kind of hype we're talking about.
Except this hype has undergone metamorphosis in the last couple of months. It's well beyond the stage of being this nebulous concept, and now feels as though we're contravening some duty-of-care protocol to promise so much on his behalf. Brook is already delivering more than anticipated.
"I think he will go on to be a global superstar," Stokes said after the victory at Mount Maunganui, in which Brook's 89 and 54 were instrumental to England's batting tempo, and earned him a third consecutive player-of-the-match award. The England captain is usually the one asking the media to keep the pressure off. Evidently, he is of a mind that this is all simply fact at this point.
"You generally see if a player has got what it takes, but you never know if they're going to be successful," Root said. "It's then when you throw them into the unknown - can they handle the pressure and all the external stuff? It's been such a joy to see him come in and play how he plays."
That's now six scores of fifty or more in Brook's first eight innings: a grand total of 623 runs at an average of 77.87. Only five players have more runs from as many knocks, which is remarkable in its own right, and all the more so considering the nature of Brook's play ultimately comes with a compromise: that he may leave runs out in the middle by taking more risks for the good of the team.
That he already has three centuries, brought up in six innings with only one man (Mohammad Azharuddin) reaching that tally in fewer, shows he is striking an incredible balance. But it's worth noting it is a balance never been seen before.