England captain Ben Stokes believes Harry Brook is a “huge talent” but was less complimentary about the Test newcomer’s intellect, describing him as “a bit dumb”.
Yorkshire batter Brook is poised to make his red-ball debut in his country’s series decider against South Africa at the Kia Oval after being selected in place of the injured Jonny Bairstow.
The 23-year-old has been patiently awaiting an opportunity all summer and underlined his capabilities last month with a superb knock of 140 for England Lions in a tour game against the Proteas.
Stokes is a big admirer of his Northern Superchargers team-mate’s on-field talents, albeit his overall appraisal was not entirely glowing.
“There’s just things that stand out about certain players, like the time they have at the crease, the shots they play,” he said of Brook on the eve of the third Test.
“There’s just something that stands out that puts them above other people you see playing. He’s shown this summer when he’s been playing for Yorkshire and the Superchargers the skill he has.
“The way he operates, the way he wants to go out and dominate is very rare. He’s a huge talent and he has to go out there and show everybody what he can do.”
He’s a bit dumb, if I can say. But he’s such a good player. I’ve been called dumb a lot so it’s fine
Asked what Brook is like in the dressing room, Stokes continued: “He’s very chilled, relaxed, doesn’t say much, keeps himself to himself and just does what he does. He trains hard. He’s a bit dumb, if I can say. But he’s such a good player. I’ve been called dumb a lot so it’s fine.
“At the start of the summer when we picked the squads we wanted to have the top six sorted and then it was ‘who are the next guys in?’. And we all thought Harry was definitely going to be the next batter in and to go down and score that century (for the Lions) kept him where he was.”
Brook has been back and forth between clubs and country as he waited for his England chance.
The Keighley-born player acknowledged his intelligence is better suited to the cricket pitch than the classroom as he responded to Stokes’ slightly unkind comment.
He feels his style fits well with ‘Baz Ball’ – England’s aggressive attacking approach under new head coach Brendon McCullum – and is determined not to be overawed by the occasion.
“Everybody’s just said soak it up and enjoy the day,” he said. It’s just another game isn’t it? I’m just hitting a ball. I’m already living the dream – I’m looking forward to it.
“I am going to try to be positive and put the bowler under pressure. I’m not just out there to survive. I’m there to score.”
Asked about Stokes’ assessment, he replied: “I wasn’t very good at school; cricket brain’s all right – we’ll find out tomorrow. I think he was just lost for words by the sounds of it!”