No. 8 February 8, 2009

Hookes hits out

With five resounding strokes in the Centenary Test, a new poster boy for Australian cricket is born


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Melbourne, 14 March 1977

A lofted off-drive, a hoick round the corner, a cover-drive, a whip off the pads, and a flick through the covers - off a looping straight-break, a half-tracker, a half-volley, a shortish one, and another over-pitched straight one; of such commonsense strokeplay is legend born. And what of the fact that Adam Gilchrist's five fours off one Mushtaq Ahmed over, also on debut, remain virtually unremembered? Well, that's cricket. Or, more particularly, that's showbiz.

For if not for those five gun-barrel blows off Tony Greig's five speculative offbreaks, David Hookes might never have become World Series Cricket's mop-haired centrefold. He might not have been dead-ended by a Kerry Packer lawsuit ("David will spend the rest of his life paying me back what I sue him for") when he considered bailing out. He might not have had his jaw realigned by an Andy Roberts bouncer.

Instead, he might have gone to finishing school against Bishan Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, Dilip Doshi, and company in 1977-78 and 1979. He might have discovered his dancing shoes. He might have beaten Kim Hughes to the Australian captaincy. He might have played more than 23 Tests.

To perform one of Australian cricket's seven or so wonders at the age of 21, in a packed MCG, in your lucky Adidas squash shoes, on the game's 100th anniversary, with 218 of your Test predecessors looking on, is hardly cause for regret. And yet… expectations had been raised, perilously so. "I suspect history will judge me harshly," Hookes confided to his friend Alan Shiell in 1993. "But I tried to be aggressive and entertaining, and succeeded occasionally."

Christian Ryan is a writer based in Melbourne. This article was first published in the print version of Cricinfo Magazine