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David was a Goliath of generosity

ADELAIDE, JAN. 25. Tomorrow is going to be an emotional day at the Adelaide Oval. The international and national cricket community is going to join with the local public to say farewell to one of South Australia's favourite cricketing sons, David William Hookes.

`Hookesy', as friends and public alike knew him, was a gregarious personality who was cut down in his prime by a stupid and heartless act that has devastated his family and friends and has outraged the public at large. At 48 years of age David was in his prime and was balancing a successful media career on radio and television with a burgeoning cricket coaching career with the Victorian Bushrangers. His simple, evangelical approach to coaching was proving very popular with his charges.

David burst onto the Australian cricket scene as a brash teenager and quickly established a reputation as a swashbuckling batsman who could make big scores when he reeled off a string of five centuries for South Australia in his second season. The local media latched onto him immediately because he was young, blonde and made good copy. It wasn't long before the national media took notice as well, along with the Australian selectors.

Having made his national debut as 12th man against Pakistan early in the season, Hookes was chosen to play his first Test against England in the Centenary Test in early 1977. In a game where the bowlers dominated on the first two days Hookes made a huge impression in his second Test innings when he strode to the wicket with the contest in the balance and promptly turned the game on its head.

Tony Greig, the England captain, moved into the short leg position when Hookes came to the wicket and inquired of David what it was like to be playing with the big boys now. David said he didn't know but at least he was an Australian playing for his own country, which was more than Greig could say. That was typical Hookes, never stuck for a word and generally striking at the heart of the matter.

No doubt this exchange was firmly in Hookes' mind when Greig introduced himself into the attack. When Greig changed from his medium pace deliveries to his off-spinners Hookes cut loose hitting five 4s from one over. I remember a lofted off drive, a sweep, a whip through mid-wicket and a couple of cover drives, all crashing into the boundary fence. No rope in those days.

In the dressing room the atmosphere was electric. Seasoned veterans, myself included, jumped from their seats with each blow to urge the youngster on. The fact that it was the England player we loved to hate more than any other that he was belting made it that much sweeter. All of a sudden the trend of the game was changed. What had been a bowler's wicket was now seen in its true light as a beautiful batting wicket.

Hookes' innings, like his life, ended just as it seemed set to reach new heights as Derek Underwood deceived him in flight. The crowd, who had quickly warmed to the brash youngster, was stunned before giving him a standing ovation as he left the field. The dressing room became silent before welcoming the new hero back from the trenches.

Rod Marsh went on to finish the job that David had started that day and we eventually won a nail-biting match by 45 runs but the result may have been different had it not been for the infusion of youthful exuberance that was provided by David. Unfortunately, his first Test was probably the highlight of an international career that never reached the heights that this innings promised.

David made a successful tour of England a few months later in a team that was overwhelmed, first by the World Series Cricket announcement, then by a more experienced opposition. It was a young and inexperienced squad and David was forced to take on more responsibility in the batting line-up than should have been the case on his first tour but with scores of 42, 50 and an 85 in the series he came home with his reputation enhanced.

World Series Cricket probably came a season or so too soon for some of the younger Australian players, especially Hookes. Had he had another season or two of experience he might have coped better against the might of the West Indian and Rest of the World bowling. A broken jaw from an Andy Roberts bouncer on the lightning fast Sydney Show Ground hotbed wicket may have had a bigger impact than was first realised. It seemed that David was much more subdued from that point in time.

David dominated first class attacks for the remainder of his career but never seemed as capable of playing through the more difficult periods that were more prevalent in Test cricket. The crash or breakthrough tactic that served him so well in State matches often let him down at the higher level. His only Test match century was in the first ever Test match between Australia and Sri Lanka at the pretty ground in the highlands at Kandy.

David's natural cheekiness and sense of humour were always evident as was his natural competitive instinct. He hated to lose for he didn't want to give up the bragging rights that went with winning. His captaincy was creative and instinctive and a shrewd cricket brain was often in evidence whether when opening the bowling with one of his spinners if the situation warranted or when taking deliberate short runs to keep the strike when batting with the tail in a tight run chase.

David was a tough opponent and a tough taskmaster as captain but never demanded more of his players than he was prepared to give himself. His aggressive attitude sometimes had an edge of cynicism that detracted from his general good humour and cheekiness but even if he had over stepped the mark on the field you could be sure he would be the first one through the dressing room door at the end of the day with his trademark cheeky grin and a beer in his hand to settle any differences.

David was a complex character in many ways and yet he had a simple approach to his cricket that carried over into his life. If he upset you it was hard to stay mad at him for long for his genuine warmth was hard to deny. He attracted people to him with the power of his personality and he kept them with his generous spirit. David collected friends like others collect antiques and each one was precious to him so he kept in touch with them regularly.

The world would be a better place if more of us exhibited the warmth and generosity that was so evident in David. The world was richer for his presence. It will be a poorer place without him. Vale David.

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