News by Peter Argent 21/01/04
The shocking news of David Hookes recent loss of life, after being viciously assaulted by a ‘bouncer’ outside a suburban Melbourne hotel, has rocked the foundation of Australian and world cricket. A personality of the game, who enlightened a nation of cricketers and fans as a 21 year old in his test debut during the Centenary Test in 1977, he was known as a man with strong opinions, a love of the game and an entertainer on the field, due to his aggresive batting style.
Although ultimately, his 23 game test career would suggest that he underachieved at the top level, Hookes was the backbone of the South Australian team during an extended career that started under Ian Chappell’s reign in the 1975/76 season and finished in 1991/92 after leading his state team for an extended period.
At the time of his retirement, Hookes had a national record 12671 first class runs, which included 32 centuries and a highest score of 306 not out in a record 4th wicket partnership with Wayne Phillips of 462, undefeated, in a match against Tasmania in the 1986/87 season. He still holds the Australian domestic record of a century in 43 minutes off 34 balls during a match against Victoria, a record brought about by the contributing factor he was upset that the opposition captain Graham Yallop didn’t give the match any chance of gaining a result.
He exploded onto the test scene after a superb run of five hundreds in six innings at the state level. Before that, he was regarded in his initial period at first-class cricket as a player that wouldn’t go on after showing some talent in cameo roles. His career took a sharp turn, in a district game at Adelaide number 2 Oval where he decided to be aggressive and started to capitalise on sound starts during his time at the crease.
This decision, ultimately lead to his inclusion in the National side for the celebrated Centenary Test and it is now a part of local folklore, the five fours off consecutive balls that saw Hookes to his first test half-century from the bowling of expatriate South African Tony Greig playing for his adopted team England.
On Australia’s next tour of the motherland in 1977, Hookes further enhanced his creditability with consistent performances in a frustrating and divided tour, where a number of players would move across to the Kerry Packer run World Series Cricket (WSC) circus. Hookes would also change camps himself and play some inspired innings for a young man against the myriad of pace bowlers in the WSC competition, until West Indian quick Andy Roberts felled him with a bouncer. Hookes, later became the first player to wear a helmet while batting when he donned a motorbike helmet when facing the West Indian quicks. Although, laughed at for doing so, Hookes obviously set an example in player safety that is still with us today....the wearing of helmets by most players when batting
He returned to the Australian team from his stint with WSC for the English tour of Australia in 1982/83, he again performed reliably, making four half centuries and averaging 49.14, batting in the number six position.
On the short tour of Sri Lanka at the end of that summer, which would include the inaugural test against that country, Hookes would achieve the batsman’s holy grail, a test century. In Australia’s massive total of 4/514, Hookes made an unconquered 143 off 152 balls, including 17 boundaries and two sixes.
Unfortunately, in the test series against the West Indies at the height of its powers during 1984, he got to double figures on eight of the ten occasions he went to the batting crease, but only passed fifty once, with at top score of 51.
After four more tests over the next couple of years and being given test vice captaincy, Hookes’ test career finished, with a total 1306 runs at a modest average of 34.36.
Whilst finishing his first-class career, Hookes started an extensive post playing life in the media, firstly with 5AA radio in Adelaide alongside another first-class cricketer Ken K.G. Cunningham, before moving across to Victoria joining the 3AW sports team. Known for his strong opinions he wasn’t afraid to deliver his verdict with a strong direct style and wasn’t afraid of confrontation. A trait that we should point out, was not a mitigating factor in his death, according to witness reports.
Hookes was also the host of the ‘Fox Cricket’ television program for a considerable time and over the past two seasons, was appointed the non-playing coach of the improving Victorian Bushrangers in Australia’s state competition.