Harry Brook opens up on ‘very tough period’ following death of his grandmother

Harry Brook – Harry Brook opens up on 'very tough period' following death of his grandmother
Harry Brook's ninth century for Yorkshire was dedicated to his grandmother - Getty Images/Allan McKenzie/

Harry Brook has opened up about a “very tough period” following the death of his grandmother which led him to make the “big decision” to miss England’s tour to India.

Brook left England’s five-Test tour to India at the end of a pre-series training camp in Abu Dhabi when he learned of the seriousness of his grandmother’s Pauline’s cancer diagnosis in January. He had hoped he could return for the last two Tests in India but in the end stayed at home to spend time with her in her final weeks and also pulled out of the current IPL season when she died.

He has returned to playing with Yorkshire, and scored his second championship hundred of the season on Saturday. He has dedicated both hundreds and all his runs this season to his grandmother who died in March.

“When I came home from Abu Dhabi, it was a very tough time, and I’m glad I did come home. Obviously it was a big decision to make. I hadn’t played hundreds of games for England, so to just turn down a big Test tour like that (India) was a big decision to make,” he said, speaking publicly about Pauline’s death for the first time. But she comes before all of that. She would have come out there a couple of years ago, so I had to come back and support her as much as I could.

“Like I say, it was a very tough period, but I’m glad I came back and I was with my family and was with her. I managed to take her out for a coffee and what not in that first week I was back. I was still training with a mindset of trying to get back out for the last couple of Tests all being well. Obviously it all disintegrated fairly quickly, so that didn’t happen. I just tried to support her as best as I could and everyone around us. Both of those hundreds (for Yorkshire this season) and all of the runs I’ve scored so far this year are all dedicated to her.”

Harry Brook with his grandmother, Pauline – Harry Brook opens up on 'very tough period' following death of his grandmother
Harry Brook's grandmother Pauline had a huge impact on the England's batsman upbringing

Pauline was a huge influence on young Harry’s cricket. The garden of her house backed onto the ground of Burley-in-Wharfedale cricket club where Brook first picked up a cricket bat and learned the game. His late grandfather, Tony, played for Burley and the family’s link with the club goes back almost 50 years.

Pauline picked up several awards on behalf of her grandson when he could not make it in person due to cricket commitments and would travel widely to watch him play for England and Yorkshire – attending games in Barbados, at the IPL in India and New Zealand.

Last year she told Telegraph Sport that cricket is “the centre of family life,” and that she still washed her grandson’s kit. The walls of the Burley club house are covered in clippings of Harry’s rise from club cricket to the England team. Brook is still registered with Burley and occasionally uses the club’s net facilities. “It just shows you can stay at a club and be successful. You don’t have to keep moving to different clubs and different leagues. Stay here and you can do it from a village club,” Pauline said last year.

Brook targets England return

England missed Brook in India and his return will necessitate a change in the top order. It will force a decision between Jonny Bairstow and Ben Foakes. Baristow deputised for Brook at no 5 in India but did not make a 50 in ten innings.

Foakes kept immaculately but England are still unconvinced he has the ability to put pressure back on bowlers with the bat, especially as they build towards the next Ashes tour where an ability to counter pace will count more. Phil Salt, who is enjoying a good IPL season, and Durham’s Ollie Robinson are alternatives as keepers or Bairstow could regain the gloves if England believe he offers more than Foakes.

Brook will be named in England’s Twenty20 World Cup squad on Monday, with the tournament starting in Barbados at the beginning of June, and will play his last championship match of the opening rounds of the season against Glamorgan next week.

Brook played in every match of England’s Twenty20 World Cup winning campaign in Australia in 2022 and will be an integral part of the team with powerhitters crucial on small West Indian grounds “I’m looking forward to it, if selected,” he said. “We join up at the end of next month, so yeah I’m looking forward to being back with the lads and hopefully producing the goods for England again.”

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