Brooks turns to experience
Jack Brooks has picked the brains of experienced duo Chaminda Vaas and Andrew Hall in an attempt to improve as a frontline seamer.
The 27-year-old, who is in South Africa with the England Performance Programme, will again spearhead Northamptonshire’s bowling attack in 2012 alongside former international performers Hall and Vaas, as the club strive to win LV= County Championship promotion.
Brooks claimed 43 first-class wickets before a back injury ended his 2011 campaign prematurely and is determined to keep learning from the former South Africa and Sri Lanka seamers, who collectively snared 98 scalps in four-day cricket this term.
Brooks told ecb.co.uk: “Vaasy’s been a great help to me, just by watching him bowl more than anything.
“He’s such a great professional, he obviously lacks pace at the grand old age of 37 but he has the ball on a bit of string and can bowl it where he wants. He gets so many people out just by keeping the pressure on them.
“It’s great to learn from him at the other end and I think we compliment each other quite well. When he does say advice, he tends to be a quiet guy, he doesn’t sit there and bark orders at people.
“Every now and then he seems to know when he should step in and say something and you pay attention. He’s a great person to bowl with and a great person to learn from. I try to tap into his one-day skills because he’s got such a phenomenal record in one-day cricket, same with Andrew Hall.
“He’s had a good career with South Africa and now he’s captain he wants to give something special to Northampton. It’s good to have two experienced heads, leading the way for the team.”
Brooks’ rise through the ranks at Northants will encourage the club’s youngsters looking to follow suit.
The likes of Rob Newton, Ben Howgego, Alex Wakely and David Murphy will all be vying for a first-team place next season and Brooks, who signed a two-year contract extension at Wantage Road in July, is confident the fresh talent can make an impression when their opportunities arise.
“We have got Alex Wakely, who is also involved with the England set-up (in the form of the Potential England Performance Programme) at the moment,” he said.
“Rob Newton’s been a breath of fresh air in the batting line-up with his laid-back batting and cavalier approach at the top of the order. We have also got Ben Howgego, the classical opening batsman who will be a good player in the future and David Murphy will compete with Niall O’Brien for the wicketkeeping slot.
“We have got some talented youngsters and there are guys on the fringes that will be looking to make a name for themselves. David Willey did that a couple of years ago and he is going to get more of a chance in four-day cricket next year with David Lucas leaving and I think he is going to do something special.”
Northants agonisingly missed out on championship promotion this year after Surrey timed their rise up the table to perfection. But with Hall’s side boasting an intriguing mix of experience and youth, Brooks is confident they can learn from their mistakes and go one better in 2012.
“We have just got to look at ourselves and try to find that extra win or two from somewhere and try to be more consistent for the whole season, rather than three-quarters of it,” he added.
“It’s a bit more difficult for the smaller clubs to keep all their players fit.”
With Yorkshire and Hampshire joining Division Two next season following relegation, Brooks appreciates Northants’ task of reaching the top-flight is harder than ever.
“It’s tough every year because the two teams that come down tend to be the strongest teams in the division anyway,” he said.
“It just so happens this year, Essex and Kent both struggled early on and Kent didn’t have a great finish either. Hampshire and Yorkshire are both strong sides coming down, playing on Test grounds and having big squads, so you think they should be up there.
“But they will be playing on new grounds and guys they haven’t come up against in recent years. It’s not an easy division to get out of and you certainly need to get some rhythm going, especially towards the end of the season.
“I expect them both to be up there but you can never say who is going to get promoted really.”