On January 19, 2004, David Hookes, the man well-known for starting his Test career by scoring five consecutive boundaries off Tony Greig, breathed his last at the age of 48. Karthik Parimal looks back at that fateful day, when a post-match drinks party, involving Victoria and South Australia, took a dreadful turn.
Since retirement from all forms of cricket in 1992, David Hookes became involved in the media and was the host of a radio programme. Nevertheless, he was back in the mix, albeit not as a player this time around. In 2002, he donned the role of a coach for Victoria, and no sooner did he take charge that the side’s dwindling fortunes began to reverse.
Two years later, on January 18, 2004, Victoria and South Australia faced each other in a 50-over match during the league stages of the ING Cup at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). The contest was closely-fought, and the former scraped past the latter by a narrow margin of six runs. As is customary in Australian sporting culture, both squads headed for post-match drinks, but little did they expect a tragic turn of events. The Beaconsfield Hotel in St. Kilda, Melbourne, was the chosen location, and it was there that former Australian Test cricketer and Victorian coach Hookes breathed his last.
The fateful incident
Shortly after midnight, Hookes and the rest of the group were asked to leave by the bouncers for apparently being too loud and argumentative. The concrete theory behind the brawl never surfaced.
Victorian cricketer Mick Lewis’ then-girlfriend Sue-Anne Hunter stated in her evidence that the bouncers had asked her and Hookes to finish their drinks and later became abusive when asking them to leave. One of the bouncers had apparently told Hookes to ‘tell the bitch to skoll her drink’, to which the latter responded by saying “That is no way to speak to a lady.” Another woman, who was with Hookes that night, testified that she saw the bouncers fling Hookes out of the front door and down the stairs.
In a statement a few months later, Darren Lehmann, member of the South Australian squad during that game, said that he didn’t believe Hookes had drunk too much on the night. “He’d drunk only three beers and a vodka during the two-and-a-half hours he was at the pub. He’d also had two beers in the dressing rooms after the match and another at his team’s hotel before leaving for the Beaconsfield,” Lehmann stated.
The other accusation that was made against Hookes was that he had been argumentative with the hotel staff. Also, few women who accompanied the group were said to be noisy, and apparently, one female had jumped onto a bouncer’s back. Lehmann, however, maintained that he couldn’t recall such incidents taking place.
It is also said that the security staff continued to follow the group outside the pub and there were no altercations. However, one of the local residents in his evidence mentioned that ‘a group of up to 14 men was involved in a loud argument’ outside his house. There was another witness who saw ‘a group of men arguing and throwing punches’ outside the pub. Although the exact location of the brawl remains unknown, it was clear that Hookes fell to the ground after he was punched by Zdravko Mi evi – who was one of the bouncers during that fateful night -, hitting his head in the process and immediately going into cardiac arrest.
Aftermath the death
Mi evi was charged with manslaughter but was acquitted a few months later. Throughout the trial, he was firm on his stance that Hookes had punched him first without any provocation, and that the drastic step was taken by him purely as a defence. Also, the fact that there were conflicting statements given by witnesses worked in Mi evi ’s favour. He expressed regret over the incident and also his condolences to Hooke’s family after the trial.
Sunil Gavaskar’s untowardly comment
During the 2007 World Cup, former India captain Sunil Gavaskar expressed his displeasure over Australia’s on-field behaviour, terming it as ‘awful’. Ricky Ponting retorted by stating that it was “high and mighty” of Gavaskar to complain, considering “the way India have played their cricket over the last few years”. This reference didn’t go down well with Gavaskar, who crossed the line by saying “Some day, some other hot-head guy might actually get down and you know whack somebody who abuses him. There’s the example of the late David Hookes. Would the Australians who use that kind of language on the field, and not all of them do, in a bar and would they get away with it? Would they have a fist coming at their face or not?”
This comment, understandably, didn’t go down well with the Australian cricketers, public and media. Gavaskar, who drew flak from all quarters, apologised the following week and said, “I realise and I accept that what I said was uncalled for and inappropriate. Having said that, I hope they [Hookes' family and friends] have the bigness of heart to forgive me for what I said about David Hookes.”
Hookes played 23 Tests and 39 One-Day Internationals for Australia. He averaged 34 and 24 respectively, with just one international century that was collected during Australia’s inaugural Test against Sri Lanka in 1982-83. He is, however, well-known for starting his Test career by bludgeoning five consecutive boundaries off Tony Greig’s off-breaks, a knock that propelled him towards the centre stage of World Series Cricket founded by Kerry Packer.
Although he wasn’t a force to reckon with in international cricket, he was a respected figure on the domestic front, and 12671 first-class runs provide ample evidence of that.
Hookes was the first to admit that he thrived against domestic bowlers than against a first-rate attack. “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,” he stated in his autobiography Hookesy.
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of thegame. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)