Rhythm crucial for Yorkshire's Jack Brooks to find right strike rate again
Yorkshire strike bowler Jack Brooks is confident he can return to the sort of form that saw him take 60-plus wickets a year and helped the team win successive county championships.
But he added a caveat that he is not the man to replace retired club legend Ryan Sidebottom, and that it is incumbent on the entire bowling attack to make up the shortfall in wickets.
Brooks and Yorkshire endured a sobering campaign last summer with the county sucked into a relegation battle and their regular opening bowler sidelined for a large part of the season through injury.
For both parties it was alien territory after a sustained period of success in the three years prior when they won the title twice before taking their 2016 challenge down to the last day of cricket.
Brooks took 60 wickets that year, on the back of remarkable efforts in the championship-winning years of 2014 and 2015, when he snared 71 wickets at an average of 27.33 and 69 wickets at 22.24, respectively.
His stop-start summer last term resulted in just 23 first-class wickets at a more expensive 37.60 as the period of change following the hugely successful Jason Gillespie era bit harder than expected.
But Brooks, who returned to fitness training last month ahead of stepping up his cricketing schedule in the new year, is adament that his own return to prominence – and that of the county’s – will go hand in hand.
“I see no reason why, if I’m playing regularly, I can’t get 50 to 60 wickets again,” said Brooks, 33.
“I had three 60-wicket seasons in a row with a team that finished first, first, and third.
“It goes to show that if I’m having a good season, I’d like to think we’d be up there.
“But it’s all about the team playing well for each other and me being consistent through the year, which I know I can do if I’m on the park.
“Last season was disappointing. I started injured, which didn’t help, so I was always playing catch-up.
“For a bowler you need overs under your belt, which I wasn’t able to get because I missed pre-season, and then I missed a big chunk of first-team games.
“When I was fit there wasn’t as much Championship cricket and I wasn’t getting in the white-ball teams so I found myself playing a lot of seconds cricket and village cricket, so it was hard to get any consistency.
“It was difficult to get any rhythm, which is important for any sportsman. But I knew coming into that last month of the season there’d be four or five Championship games back-to-back and if I was playing cricket I’d get some wickets, and I proved that, I got my rhythm back and I got some wickets.
“I know if I’m on the park I’ll get wickets. I’m confident enough I can still do the job if picked.”
If he does reclaim that opening bowler role, he will do so alongside a new partner with the retirement of Sidebottom adding to the feeling that times are changing at Emerald Headingley Stadium.
Brooks refers to it as a transitional period and acknowledges that he may have to take on an increased role when it comes to the leadership of the side.
But he admits he is not the man to replace Sidebottom – because he feels nobody can replace one of the club’s most successful players and also one of its greatest ambassadors.
“You can’t replace Ryan Sidebottom as such; other people have to step up and fill as many holes as possible,” continued Brooks.
“You’ve got to find different ways.
“Whoever opens the bowling with me would have to find different ways of doing it, not trying to follow his way, you’ve got to find your own way in the game.
“What I did was a bit different to what Ryan did, but we complemented each other really well.
“As long as we have a nice balanced attack and everyone knows their roles, I don’t see any reason why, going forward, we should miss Ryan too much.”
Sidebottom also struggled for consistency in his final season, taking just two more wickets than Brooks, but at a more economical rate of 20.72.
However, it is not just the numbers that Yorkshire will miss going forward, it is the force of personality that Sidebottom brought, not only to his team-mates, but to those he was facing.
“Siddy was obviously so good, he was one of those class players in your team that you don’t really get too often that can get good players out at any point,” said Brooks, who is entering his sixth season with Yorkshire having joined from Northamptonshire.
“He was always the guy you could turn to when you needed something to change.
“He had the aura about him, someone the opposition would fear knowing if he had the ball in his hand, because anything could happen.
“It made my job easier playing alongside him. It makes my job easier when you’ve got Sidebottom, (Steve) Patterson, (Tim) Bresnan at the other end keeping the runs down.
“Now we’re missing Sidebottom, perhaps I’ve got to take a bit more responsibility myself as a senior opening bowler and a player the team turns to to take wickets when I’ve got the ball in my hand.”