Ian Botham (L) and Gordon Greenidge…Two of the few players who executed the hook shot with great perfection © Getty Images
Ian Botham (L) and Gordon Greenidge…Two of the few players who executed the hook shot with great perfection © Getty Images

 

By Navneet Mundhra

 

The hook shot is one of the most exciting shots in cricket – far different from any other shot – which reflects the batsman’s attitude and approach. It’s a shot that requires guts as it requires a greater degree of perfection. The margin of error is very low and the risk high compared to the reward. But when executed with perfection, it’s a joy to behold as the ball often sails high over long-leg or square-leg and into the stands.

 

Even the most accomplished players in the world either duck or weave under a bouncer than unleash an angry response by venturing into a hook and risking their wicket. However, the game has seen a few batsmen who were not only unafraid to hook but hooked with phenomenal consistency. Listed below are some of the best-known in the rare breed:

 

1. Vivian Richards “King Viv” is regarded would easily rank among most savage batsman of all-time who demoralised the bowlers and broke their spirit. The hook was a natural response of his aggressive approach. It was the reflection and extension of his persona.


 

2. Roy Fredericks– He exhibited his flair for the hook in the most spectacular manner on the viciously-lively WACA pitch at Perth in 1975. He clobbered the duo of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, who were at the peak of their prowess. He raced to his hundred in 71 balls while Lillee and Thomson collectively conceded 251 runs in their 37 overs. The innings ranks among the most audacious innings of all-time. He was famously out hit-wicket hooking Lillee in the World Cup 1975 final.

 

 

3. Gordon Greenidge- Few could pound the ball with the brute force of Gordon Greenidge. He once said, “As an opener I am on the receiving end of a hard, red missile bowled at me at speeds of 90-100 miles an hour. I hit the ball, therefore, as a form of revenge.” Greenidge had a distinct style of uncorking the hook – his left leg would rise to the level of his hips as he pivoted to play the shot.

 

4. Stan McCabe The Australian played some of the finest innings in the history of Test cricket. Eminent cricket analysts opine that in terms of sheer talent and ability to play the rising ball on bouncy pitches, McCabe even surpassed Don Bradman. He countered the Bodyline bowling of Harold Larwood and Bill Voce with exceptional pluck during his unbeaten innings of 187, hooking the short-pitched balls with stunning enterprise and finesse, at Sydney Cricket Ground – the only hundred in the whole series by an Australian batsman other than Bradman.

 

5. Ian Chappell At the start of his career, he had trouble handling the disconcerting bouncers of John Snow. Being a man of steely determination, he put in hours of diligence practising the hook shot on the concrete wickets and mastered the shot. He once asserted, “At the crease, my attitude towards bowlers has been that if I’m playing well enough, three bouncers an over should be worth twelve runs to me.”

 

He often got out playing hook and was advised against playing the shot, but he stuck to his beliefs and kept unleashing a torrent of thrilling hooks.

 

6. Andrew Hilditch He earned the moniker ‘Happy Hooker’ after he was dismissed umpteen times playing the shot. He made a farce of himself in 1985 Ashes series when Ian Botham assailed him with barrage of bouncers and he kept holing out to the deep square- leg. Richard Hadlee employed the same tactics against him and Hilditch obliged, never to play again for Australia.

 

7. Ian Botham He got the taste of the bouncer at the onset of his career when he was hit by Andy Roberts in his debut first-class match, but that did not deter him from emerging as as one of the most adventurous exponents of the hook shot. During his mystical innings at Headingley in 1981, he wreaked havoc on Dennis Lillee & Co. by hooking them out of the ground and the series.

 

8. Rohan Kanhai– The West Indian great was noted for his signature ‘falling hook’, in which he finished his follow through lying on his back! The only other player who was known to play this Kanhai special was India’s Ramnath Parkar. This specie of hook is now confined to the archives.

 

9. Mohinder Amarnath– It may come as a surprise for the present generation of cricket fans to see an Indian feature in this list as they are historically not been very comfortable against the rising ball. But Mohinder Amarnath stood tall in an era replete with high-quality fast bowlers. He took many blows on his body – fractured skull, courtesy Richard Hadlee, teeth knocked out by Malcolm Marshall and hit on the jaw by Jeff Thomson – and was a laughing stock playing the hook and and perishing to it. But Amarnath didn’t flinch and had the last laugh. Sunil Gavaskar hailed him as the finest Indian batsman against the genuine pace bowlers, a sentiment echoed, in unison, by many of Amarnath’s contemporaries. During the West Indies tour of 1982-83, he suffered a nasty blow on the head by Marshall, he came back after the treatment and was welcomed by Michael Holding who darted vicious bouncers at him and Amarnath hooked them pugnaciously with the equal pace. He scored 91 and 80 runs in the Test match

 

10. Ricky Ponting A modern great who has kept the legacy of ‘hook’ alive and has lent it his innate flourish. Ponting’s biggest strength is his ability to pick the length of the ball early which gives him ample time to go to the back foot and smite the ball with phenomenal panache. He’s, arguably, the most stylish batsman to play hook who blends bravado and majesty in equal measure and has an unerring instinct to pick the right ball. Almost all his famed innings are studded with magnificent demonstration of hook shot.

 

(Navneet Mundhra is a dreamer who has no delusion of grandeur about himself. He is an eternal learner brimming with passion and compassion, a maverick who swears by perfection and integrity and an avid reader, devout philharmonic, die hard movie buff and a passionate writer)