The Yorkshire County Cricket Club media day is taking part in the nets below the East Stand because it’s chucking it down. Initial observations centre around the excitable buzz in the sports hall; the Yorkshire squad and staff are chuntering away happily to each other; after all, these press commitments signal that the season proper is around the corner and we’ve all been waiting for that for way too long.
Faces old and new crowd into the space; Anthony McGrath in his role as a coach/mentor comes over and say hello; he looks at home here back at Headingley.
The team photographs feel like they take an age; probably because they are doing but that’s a foible with being a cricket journalist, loitering hopefully goes with the territory.
You can’t rush these things, getting everyone sitting correctly, dressed in the right kit and vaguely behaving is no mean feat and credit to Yorkshire’s Head of Marketing Danny Reuben for orchestrating this media dance; there are endless permutations and group shots and even a nod to that craze; the selfie; with Andrew Gale asked to pose with the squad goofing around in the background.
I walk past the county’s overseas player, the New Zealander Kane Williamson, who is casually chatting away before it dawns on him as he glances across at the Yorkshire squad photo with everyone in dapper grey suits that perhaps he ought to scoot over there.
Dickie Bird is present and correct in his navy blue Puma puffer jacket and looks every inch the proud new President he is. You suspect that he’ll take his duties as seriously as his umpiring and the county was very smart in nominating him in the first place.
Jonnie Bairstow is joking and goofing around; if his England winter didn’t go to plan then he looks completely at ease here amongst friends at Yorkshire. It was just days before he would break his finger in an innocuous legside catch in the Northants friendly.
A cruel twist of fate, particularly with Prior scoring the first hundred of the county season for Sussex and it made me pause to contemplate how the swirling fates might be kind or equally conspire against you at any time.
When the photographic procession of luminaries, sponsors and those from the cricket and business community draws to a close, it’s time to grab players for a chat and Jack Brooks just happens to wander over.
It’s a chance to quiz him about fast bowling given Cricket Yorkshire is media partner for the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation’s Top Gun competition to find the county’s fastest bowler.
We want to find out how the #HeadbandWarrior shaped into a fast bowler and it seems that with an elder brother and dad who were playing cricket then the attraction into the game was naturally there.
A young Brooks would just try and bowl as fast as possible and when batting, whack it out of the ground.
He wasn’t naturally the Shoaib Akhtar of the Home Counties, however. With the keeper stood up, he’d bowl gentle, medium-pace outswingers off a short runup. It wasn’t until Brooks was in his early twenties and he bulked up that the prospect of pinging it down at speed became more tantalising and realistic.
Our talk moves on to his bowling inspirations growing up and West Indian giant Curtly Ambrose then Allan Donald are the first names to trip off the tongue: “I always liked the guys who had a bit of character and personality; it’s probably why I’m like that now…”
Darren Gough with his cheeky grin, barrel-chested bowling and antics with the bat is another one that Brooks could relate to; it was at that period when Gough and Caddick were wheeling merrily away for England with the ball although Brooks freely admits he didn’t much warm to Caddick.
We touch upon what can help bowlers achieve their maximum speed and a few things come to mind from Brooks: “I think it helps if you’ve got a good action technically; what we call a professional action so something that you can drill daily. As you do it more often, you just get better naturally, you get to a certain pace.”
He goes on: “It’s only really something that you can naturally do because you’ve got the right technique for it or you’ve got the right build and strength to actually wang it down.”
So, who’s the quickest on the Yorkshire County Cricket Club staff? Liam Plunkett gets a mention as the pace-setter:
“Liam’s probably the quickest on the staff in terms of recorded deliveries…I know Siddy (Ryan Sidebottom) has got over ninety miles an hour in the past. I think my quickest I’ve seen on TV is probably eighty-seven or eighty-eight miles an hour but that was a couple of years ago. I probably regularly clock in around 86mph.”
Ok, so there’s naturally a range of speeds in the Yorkshire squad but how much competition?
“I think everyone always wants to be quicker. Patto (Steve Patterson) never really gets over eighty miles an hour and he gets a bit of stick but he’s got the skills perfectly suited to be an English seam bowler. I’d love to be a ninety-mile-an-hour fast bowler.”
Next for a dastardly question. Who would Jack Brooks like to bowl against from any era? It momentarily throws him but a crack at WG Grace or Don Bradman appeals:
“Whether Grace was any good, what sort of technique he had, he didn’t wear a helmet so you could test him out. To see if Bradman was as good as everyone says he was. Give him a modern bat and one-day kit and see how he looked…”
As for other challenging opponents, the bat-leaning, cool-as-a-cucumber Viv Richards is another legend plucked from a past era that Brooks conceded would be a stern challenge: “I don’t really like bowling to guys who can whack it out of the ground!”
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