This profile was written the night David passed away.
There are many players who are said to have wasted the natural talent that was bestowed upon them. Usually it is the highly attacking batsmen who wear this tag; their desire to dominate and destroy the bowlers leading to their earlier than desired exit from the crease. Wayne Prior, the former Australian opening bowler, once refuted this argument, commenting that the expectation and sheer sense of excitement that flows through the fellow players, umpires and spectators when such a batsman arrives in the middle is sufficient justification for the use of their talent. The man that Prior was specifically referring to was David Hookes; a man whose test batting record does not reflect the anticipation of the crowd, and the anxiety of the bowlers, whenever he strode out to commence the battle.
David Hookes was born on the 3rd of May, 1955 in Mile End, South Australia to Russell and Pat Hookes. He was born with severely bowed legs, and the orthopaedic specialist who examined him recommended either wearing leg irons, or not wearing shoes. Hookes therefore wore his first pair of shoes at the age of five, when he went to school and he was required to wear them. Luckily, this decision to forgo shoes proved correct, and Hookes was not restricted in his sporting career in spite of this difficult beginning.
Sport was an important part of his upbringing, and he had an elder step-brother, Terry Cranage to look up to in his regard. Cranage was an exceptional tennis player, captaining the South Australian tennis side and once giving Rod Laver a close match in a final at Adelaide’s famous Memorial Drive. When he was young, Hookes’ first sporting love was tennis, but the comparisons with his older brother proved difficult and he instead concentrated his talents upon cricket. This proved to be a wise decision, and by the age of twelve his prodigious batting talents had been recognised, with selection in the South Australian Under Fourteen team. An interesting part of Hookes development related to the fact that his father Russell wanted him to be a right hander. Hookes wrote with his right hand, however he insisted on bowling, throwing and batting left handed. After his selection in this South Australian under age team, Russell took him along for coaching with John Causby, who was then the opening batsmen for South Australia in the Sheffield Shield. Russell insisted that Hookes bat both left and right handed for Causby. Causby assessed his form with either hand, and passed his judgement that Hookes was more proficient left handed and thus he stayed. It is interesting to consider what may have happened if Causby had recommended that Hookes play right handed instead!
Hookes started playing for the West Torrens club in South Australian grade cricket, and by the age of fifteen was selected to make his first grade debut against Woodville. He made a duck, bowled by the state all-rounder Mick Clingly in this game, however he redeemed himself in his second game with 41 not out.
Over the next few years, Hookes cemented his place in the West Torrens first grade team. He continued to reveal his obvious but inconsistent talents with the bat, however he also showed some potential as an all-rounder, taking regular wickets with his left arm leg spin. At the age of nineteen, Hookes won the District Cricketer of the Year, a prestigious award for the best first grade player of the season. He had left school by this stage, taking up a job as a junior clerk with the Lands Department, and his success in Adelaide grade cricket encouraged him to try his chances in England. Hookes, with the support of West Torrens team-mate Kevin Lewis, went to play with Dulwich in the London League. It was a dry, hot English summer and Hookes had a great deal of fun playing. He described the highlight of his summer being six sixes in one over in a game against Bexted Heath. Upon his return to Australia at the end of his stint with Dulwich, Hookes was soon selected to make his first class debut against the touring West Indies team.
Hookes played his first game for South Australia at the Adelaide Oval in a game starting on the 31st of October, 1975. Hookes batted at no. 7, and, coming in just prior to drinks in the final session of the second day, battled his way through to stumps 22 not out. Facing Holding and Roberts was undoubtedly a daunting prospect, however in a sign of problems to come, Hookes had more difficulty in coming to terms with the wiles of Lance Gibbs. He pushed on the next day to record a very meritorious half century, before falling to Roberts for 55. Hookes made remained in the South Australian side for the remainder of the Sheffield Shield season and put solid if unremarkable figures on the board. He finished with 395 runs at an average of 32.92, however these statistics are a little misleading. The Sheffield Shield competition was run at that time with a bonus points system, and Hookes was often in the position of hitting out at the end of an innings prior to a declaration. Nonetheless, Hookes was seen as an integral part of the successful South Australian team that won the Shield that season.
The following 1976/77 season started badly for Hookes, with a series of failures and a few games missed through exams. Hookes scored 1 and 3 against Western Australia in Perth and he felt that the selectors were going to drop him from the team. He made a timely 79 not out in club cricket and the state selectors gave him one more chance. Hookes rewarded them by going on one of the most memorably run sprees in Australian first class cricket history. He scored five centuries in his next six innings, including 163 and 9 against Victoria, 185 and 105 against Queensland and 135 and 156 against New South Wales. This rich vein of form saw his first class figures for the season jump to be 788 runs at an average of 78.8. The Australian selectors obviously liked what they had seen, and Hookes was selected to make his test debut in the Centenary Test against England at the MCG.
Hookes was just short of two months shy of his twenty second birthday when he walked onto the field in his first test. The Centenary Test is remember as one of the most fascinating of all time, and it is certainly interesting that Hookes appeared less intimidated by the occasion than many other more experienced players. Australia were sent in to bat by Tony Grieg on a wet track, and they were quickly bundled out for just over 100. Hookes scored a polished 17 until surprised by a ball from Old that climbed on him and he edged it to second slip. Greg Chappell top scored with 40, but Hookes effort was also noteworthy. In reply, England were knocked over even quicker, scoring only 95. Hookes was certainly not required to bowl, however he did take his first test catch, snaring Brearley off Lillee at third slip.
Hookes second innings was only 56, however it become contained an over that become widely recognised as Hookes most memorable cricket performance. Hookes had moved very comfortably onto 36 and, after blocking the first two balls of an over from Tony Greig, decided to up the tempo. He proceed to hit the third ball over long off, the fourth ball was helped around the corner to fine leg, the fifth ball was hammered through the covers, the sixth ball disappeared through mid-wicket and the seventh ball went through the covers again. All five balls went to the fence for four, and the crowd was immensely disappointed when the eighth and final ball of the over was fielded magnificently by Derek Randall which prevented six straight boundaries. Hookes was out soon afterwards off Derek Underwood, however this one over has remained one of the highlights of the Centenary Test and of David Hookes career.
Hookes appeared to be set for a stellar career in the baggy green cap, but it sadly never quite eventuated. He, along with most other Australian test players of the time, signed up with Kerrie Packer’s World Series Cricket. The non-stop bombardment of pace bowling spoiled more than a few players careers, and Hookes was one that seemed affected by the barrage of short pitched bowling. The turning point was a game at the Sydney Showground, on a pitch that Greg Chappell described as the fastest and bounciest that he ever saw. World Series cricket was only a month old, and Hookes was on 81 in a game against the West Indies when Andy Roberts broke his jaw. Roberts had developed the knack of bowling two bouncers, one of normal speed and another one much faster. Hookes coped with the first one well, however the second one hit him flush on the jaw. Hookes never seemed to quite recovery his confidence from this point. He reflected afterwards that he started trying to pre-empt what fast bowlers were going to do, rather than simply playing each ball on its merits.
Hookes returned to the Australia team after his injury, however he never really cemented his place in the side. He only played twenty three test matches in a first class career that lasted from 1975 to 1992. He finished as the leading scorer in Australian first class domestic cricket, and it is here that one of Hookes other great moments occurred. On October 25, 1982 at the Adelaide Oval, Hookes produced what is possibly the most amazing first class century of all time. He reach triple figures off only 34 balls in 43 minutes against an attack that included Australian quick Rod McCurdy. Hookes opened the batting, following the Victorian captain Graham Yallop’s decision to delay a declaration until the game was well and truly dead. Hookes was furious with Yallop, and took it out on the Victorian bowlers. Hookes hit the first ball he faced over midwicket for six, with another three fours in this same first over. He reached his fifty with forty eight runs in boundaries off only 17 balls. Ninety four runs came from the first six overs of the innings, with Hookes scoring eighty three of them. Quite what Rick Darling, the other opening batsman, made of this is unknown. Hookes was finally dismissed for 107 off only 40 balls, an innings that only a very few players in the history of the game could have even contemplated, let alone carried out.
Since his retirement, David Hookes has worked extensively in the media and had recently taken over as the coach of the Victorian cricket team. Whilst his appointment to this coaching role was met with some scepticism, he had led them to the top of the Pura Cup table this year. David Hookes sadly passed away today following an senseless incident that leaves all of Australian cricket in shock. You will be missed David. Thanks for the memories.
David Hookes played in 23 test matches, scoring a total of 1306 runs at an average of 34.36. He had a highest score of 143 not out against Sri Lanka.
First Class Cricket
In one hundred and seventy eight first class matches, Hookes scored 12 671 runs at an average of 43. 39 with 32 centuries and 65 half centuries. He had a highest score of 306 not out against Tasmania. In Sheffield Shield cricket, Hookes scored 9364 runs at an average of 47.77, a record at the time of his retirement.