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Harry Brook unleashes full potential to win praise from England 'big dogs'

PCA Young Player of the Year sets sights on higher recognition after breakthrough summer

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Harry Brook stood out while batting in the middle order in white-ball cricket  •  Getty Images

Harry Brook stood out while batting in the middle order in white-ball cricket  •  Getty Images

"I think Harry Brook likes the big time. I think he can be big time!" Kevin Pietersen tweeted. "He's not scared of any situation, he's not frightened of any bowler and he just sticks to what works for him," Ben Stokes said. "I don't think it will be too long before we see him wearing the Three Lions."
Endorsements don't get much better within English cricket and Harry Brook knows it. "They're pretty big dogs, aren't they?" he laughs. "For them to be saying stuff like that and rating me as a cricketer is really good. I'm quite a level-headed person, so I don't let stuff get to me but… yeah, it's nice for people to say nice things."
Brook's breakout summer across formats has invited that praise and ends with him adding his name to the distinguished list of winners of the men's Young Player of the Year prize at the cinch PCA awards.
He made more runs across the T20 Blast and the Hundred than any other English player, averaging 61.36 and striking at 150.33 from the middle order; he came into the season with a first-class average a shade under 25 but finished it as Yorkshire's second-highest run-scorer in the County Championship.
"I wrote a few things down at the start of the season - a few aims for the year, what runs I wanted to get in different formats," Brook recalls. "I got all them targets so I was very happy with it. I do it every season really, but I think this is the first year I've actually hit them goals. It's just trying to know what a good season is before actually starting it. I think it's nice to set goals and if you smash them, it's a really good feeling."
If the numbers alone are impressive, Brook's style adds to the feeling he is a player with a bright international future ahead of him. Pietersen was particularly impressed by the power he generates from his strong wrists during the Hundred, and while he has shown glimpses of his innovative game - a dinked reverse-paddle off Saqib Mahmood in his 91 not out against Lancashire in the Blast stands out - his power hitting through and over cover sets him apart from his peers.
Brook picks out two innings as his favourites of the summer; surprisingly, neither is from the Hundred, where he starred for Northern Superchargers before being ruled out of their final group games after contracting Covid-19. "The Championship hundred against Northants, which was a must-win game for us to get through on a difficult pitch - that was definitely one of them," he says. "And then I got 83 against Worcester in the T20 when we were right in the dumps - me and Jordan Thompson put on a big partnership. Them two games were probably the highlights of my season."
Brook's T20 breakthrough was all the more impressive for the fact it came from the middle order. Most young batters in the English game have burst through with the cushion of the Powerplay boosting their strike rates but the vast majority of Brook's runs came from No. 4 or 5, rotating against spin before cashing in against pace at the death.
"This year Galey [Andrew Gale, Yorkshire's coach] came up to me and said 'you're going to bat four or five' so I went straight into that role and started off quite well. I like coming in after the Powerplay and just knocking it about for a bit - I've always been fairly good at rotating the strike.
"I used to want to open the batting but I think that's gone out the window now - I've really enjoyed batting in the middle order. Usually you're still there at the end of the game and if you're knocking the runs off, you end up getting a not out. It's a good feeling being able to knock them off for your team.
"Test cricket is the pinnacle of cricket still, for me," he insists. "I definitely want to play Test cricket, [but also] in as many competitions as possible. The IPL is on at the minute and it's just so good. The standard is ridiculous and when they get crowds back to full, it just looks unbelievable, so I'd really like to play in that - and obviously white-ball for England as well."
As for the winter, Brook has his eye on warmer climes. "I don't really want to be at Headingley in the rain and the cold, so hopefully I'll be away somewhere," he smiles. He has his eye on England Lions' tour to Australia, Covid restrictions permitting, and has attracted some interest from BBL teams, with Hobart Hurricanes believed to be frontrunners to sign him.
If Brook feels like he has the world at his feet, the recent struggles of Tom Banton, his former England Under-19 team-mate who won the PCA award two years ago, provide a note of caution and a reminder to soak in everything that comes his way. "You play a lot better when you're enjoying it and you've got a smile on your face," he says, "so you do all the hard yards behind the scenes and then enjoy it when you're on the field."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98