David William Hookes
May 03, 1955, Mile End, Adelaide, South Australia
January 19, 2004, The Alfred Hospital, Prahran, Melbourne, Victoria, (aged 48y 261d)
Left hand bat
Natural, aggressive and irrepressible, David Hookes was an Australian cricketer of the 1970s who remained one into the 21st century. Not that he was a reactionary or relic; on the contrary, he was a savvy media performer and an innovative coach. But he had throughout his career a breezy confidence that recalled days when cricket was a more spontaneous and flamboyant affair.
It was while indulging in the oldest of Australia rites, the post-match drink, that Hookes was killed in circumstances still shocking in their senselessness, by a bouncer's gratuitous punch, on January 19, aged 48. Typically, he had been in the company of players both from his current state, Victoria, and his former state, South Australia, after an ING Cup game - a habit ingrained when he made his debut at Adelaide 28 years ago.
It was in his second season that Hookes, barely 21, first grabbed attention, harvesting five Sheffield Shield centuries from six innings, including centuries in both innings in consecutive games - a feat accomplished only once before, 70 years earlier, by Surrey's Tom Hayward. "Heck!" trumpeted Australia's Cricketer magazine. "It's Hookes!" Today, he might have had to prove his consistency over a longer course; then, he was at once slotted into Australia's middle-order for March 1977's Centenary Test with Greg Chappell and Doug Walters, where his five consecutive fours from Tony Greig's off-spin is among the most treasured cameos. "I made Tony Greig famous," he once said drolly.
In that moment, too, Hookes became the face of Australia's cricket future. A blond, broad-shouldered, loose-limbed left-hander, Hookes was chased by the agents of Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket not merely for his cricketing gifts but his marketing potential. Despite having played but a single Test, he was advanced two-thirds of his fee rather than the half that others received: the new matinee needed a heart-throb.
Hookes's WSC years were contented ones: his 770 runs at 38.50 from a dozen SuperTests made him Australia's third-highest scorer after the Chappell brothers. He was also part of the enterprise's most dramatic moments when, after a testosterone-soaked assault on the bowling of Joel Garner and Michael Holding at the Sydney Showground, he had his jaw shattered by a bouncer from Andy Roberts in December 1977. Until that moment, WSC had looked suspiciously like a thrown-together entertainment package; Hookes' injury impressed the contest's intensity on all observers.
Hookes was in a prime position to secure a berth in Australia's middle-order when the WSC players were re-assimilated into official cricket in May 1979, but a knee injury and a calamitous tour of Pakistan where he scored 10 runs in six first-class innings queered his pitch. By December 1980, he was not even playing for South Australia. But, awarded the captaincy 10 months later, he led the state to a Sheffield Shield. "I had to grow up," he explained, "and I did."
In one free-swinging summer, 1982-83, Hookes scored 1,424 runs at 64.72, which he followed with his only Test century, an unbeaten 143 in Australia's inaugural Test against Sri Lanka at Kandy. It was as good as the going got for Hookes at international level. He was back in state ranks by next summer following a miserable Australian performance at the World Cup, and after a last recall three years later was considered spent as an international force.
In truth, Hookes had always been a first-class destroyer of second-rate bowling - something about which he had few delusions. "I have much to be modest about," he said at the start of his autobiography Hookesy. "I suspect history will judge me harshly as a batsman because of my modest record in 23 Tests and I can't complain about that." It was in Sheffield Shield cricket, and especially at the Adelaide Oval with its short square boundaries, that he was most destructive. He set records there for speed, as in his century from 34 balls against Victoria in October 1982, and scale, with an unbeaten 306 in an undefeated fourth-wicket stand of 462 with Wayne Phillips against Tasmania four years later.
Like his first skipper Ian Chappell, Hookes never courted officialdom, and was sacked as South Australia's skipper in August 1990 after eight seasons. Playing three more, he built his domestic run pile to a record 9,364. But by then he could see his future. He shrank from an administrative career - explaining "I don't have a blue blazer and I haven't got dandruff" - and gravitated towards radio which he tackled with both a sense of fun and spirit of commitment.
In September 1995, Hookes relocated to Melbourne, where his Sports Today on station 3AW with former Aussie Rules footballer Gerard Healy became required listening for aficionados. It was Hookes, for example, who in December 1998 foreshadowed the revelation that Shane Warne and Mark Waugh had accepted money from a bookmaker in Sri Lanka. Yet because Hookes was always impressively himself, the reckless abandon with which he sometimes expressed his views was often endearing: Warne, indeed, was among those who pressed for Hookes' appointment as Victoria's coach in May 2002.
Hookes tackled the task with impressive zeal, pensioning off experienced players like Damien Fleming and Colin Miller, and investing in youth and vitality. Victoria, last a domestic first-class title winner in 1990-91, led the Pura Cup and were second in the ING Cup at the time of Hookes' death. One or both trophies would be a fitting memorial, although Hookes' legacy is already considerable.
Gideon Haigh, The Wisden Cricketer, March 2004
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