For me it always felt like Jack Brooks was destined to one day play for Somerset. In his younger days as a highly-promising fast bowler plying his trade for Northants there was talk of interest from the cider county but nothing materialised. Then, when he did opt to move on and develop his career, he went north not south and joined Yorkshire, enjoying a highly successful time at Headingley. So when it was confirmed during last season that Jack would be coming to Taunton for 2019 on a three-year contract it felt like a good move for all parties.
“You take a look at other clubs and wonder if you could ever play there. I think the one thing that off put me a little bit about Somerset was that I never took any wickets here as they are always good batting wickets, but this has always been a good team challenging for trophies. My mum’s from Bath and it’s closer to Oxford so in that respect you think it would be a realistic move but it never happened.
“It was last summer when Somerset starting talking to me, and I hadn’t signed anything at Yorkshire, that I thought this would be a really good place to come and play my cricket.”
With the move signed and sealed Jack decided that there’s no time like the present and opted to move south at the first opportunity to become fully acquainted with his new surroundings.
“I moved here (at the) beginning of November when we started training as I thought I’d have a full winter here to get used to the area and squad…and get used to the new culture.
“I’ve always known it’s a nice area, and a nice quiet part of the country; you’ve got the countryside and beaches not far away. It’s a different way of life to what I have been used to living in Leeds for six years and city life. But I’ve really enjoyed it.”
“As long as I am playing sport for a living I will give it my all and will always try to win things.”
Jack’s time at Yorkshire was successful and he was a fan’s favourite. In his first season the Tykes finished runners-up to Durham in the County Championship but followed that up with consecutive titles in 2014 – where Jack finished with 68 wickets – and 2015 when he took 65. In 2016 Jack was the most successful fast-bowler in the country with 60 wickets with only Jeetan Patel (69) and new team-mate Jack Leach (65) taking more. And he wants to help bring that winning mentality to Somerset.
“I haven’t brought my medals in just yet – that might be a step to far? – but I have experience of being in a successful side for a number of years and seeing what it takes to win games. But it’s more about winning the big moments in matches and being consistent over a season with that. Obviously Somerset are good at beating teams and consistently getting into positions to compete for trophies but never quite taking that extra step. Whether that’s a mind-set or guys suddenly being put in real pressure situations and (they) tense up a little bit, I don’t know. But I personally enjoy those moments as that’s what I play cricket for.
“So playing for Yorkshire, there was always a lot of pressure on you and that got the best out of me.”
Jack joins a club with a large, passionate fan base hoping to see success in the next season or two. And that is a different culture to the one he leaves behind up north where success was expected and the fans exacting. But he thrived on such pressure.
“They are a tough crowd – they’re demanding – a bit like playing for Man United in football as you are expected to win all the time and this can drain you mentally, but it was that little spark that kept me going. But they could get on top of you when things weren’t going too well.
“But we were successful – and it’s a great place to be when things are successful – and we were successful most of the time.
“So to be successful down here – knowing how passionate the people are down here – well that would be special. Especially if we won the Championship which has never happened before. I’ve no idea what would happen if we did, whether everything would blow up or people would walk around in stunned silence. But it’s a very big pull for me to come down here and try to be part of that.”
Jack hopes his efforts will make him as popular at Taunton as he has been elsewhere in his career having been a crowd favourite.
“At Northampton I had a really good relationship with the supporters and people know I was well liked by the Yorkshire crowd and it’s not easy there.
“But coming down here, it’s obviously such a passionate crowd and a lot of people come to watch cricket here. It’s a smaller ground but it feels like there’s more people because of the atmosphere. I know, I’ve been on the away team here a few times and copped it a few times from the crowd so I am looking forward to engaging with Somerset fans and getting them onside.
“I think it comes down to your attitude and your performances. If the supporters see that then I hope to be accepted.”
Jack joins a squad good enough to finish second in the County Championship in 2018 and made finals day for the first time since 2013. He has had time to meet and work with his new team-mates and has been impressed.
“They’re all really good. The boys here have a strong work ethic. The age balance is unbelievable as you’ve got your first year pro’s like Lammonby and Gilchrist up to Tres who’s been around for 27 years. Tres to me is a legend and someone I watched on TV growing up and the 2005 series (was) a big part of my inspiration to becoming a professional. So it’s a little surreal being in a dressing room with him.”
Jack will be a key part of an impressive pace bowling unit that includes Jamie and Craig Overton, Lewis Gregory, Josh Davey, Tim Groenewald and Paul van Meekeren. And there are international spinners in the squad too. What does Jack think of his bowling comrades and what does he feel will be his role in the attack?
“We have a really good balanced attack. We have six or seven ready-made first team bowlers and another reason for coming here was that I wanted to be part of a tight bowling attack that could compete and win games. I didn’t want to go to a club where I would be the focal point in a side with only one or two key bowlers that got bowled into the ground. That would be too much on your shoulders.
“My role has always been as a strike bowler with freedom to attack a little bit. I’m not 100% sure if that would be my role here as out-and-out attacking on this pitch may not be the right thing. I may not open, I may not always get the new ball, you never know. And you’ve got to earn the right, and that gives me a little spark too as I’m not in a comfort zone anymore.
“But it will develop me here as I think I can still develop as a bowler and grow as a cricketer which, even at my age, is quite exciting. I feel fit, strong and ready for a new challenge in my career.”
Despite Jack joining Somerset as very much a veteran he still retains strong ambitions to be successful and he has most certainly not moved south to take things easy.
“As long as I am playing sport for a living I will give it my all and will always try to win things. And I look at the squad here and it should always be competing to win things and I find that exciting.”