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Ultimate embodiment of batting skill, adept in performing in all types of conditions

By Harsh Thakor 

To me in the pure all round sense Sir Jack Hobbs was the ultimate embodiment of batting skill. Statistically Bradman was a street ahead Viv Richards,Sobers or Lara more punishing, Gavaskar or Hutton more durable or Denis Compton and Rohan Kanhai more elegant or innovative. However no batsmen was more adept in performing outstandingly in all types of conditions as Hobbs.
Hobbs rose like an American president Abraham Lincoln, from a Log cabin to a white house.It was almost inconceivable that a person could scale such heights being christened in the squalor and poverty of Victorian Cambridge, of narrow streets and cramped houses. He was the son of a roof slater.It would take he work of a historian to adjudge what shaped Hobbs rising like a phoenix from the Ashes.
Above all few more invoked the spirit of cricket being a gentleman's game, or more illustrated or was as much a manifestation of the grace of the game of cricket. It is in dire contrast to the crass professionalism o the modern age. Jack was an embodiment of courtesy on the field in contrast to the ruthlessness of Bradman or even Viv or Tendulkar later.
Hobbs was amongst the most charitable cricketers of is age, giving away all his souvenirs or mementoes to fans, and donating part of his earnings to orphanages.

Skill

On the worst tracks Hobbs could desecrate the best of bowling attacks in the manner of a bulldozer, but also be as rock solid in defines like a boulder .The majority of his big scores were constructed on sticklers or stodgy tracks. Hard to conceive any batsmen being such an epitome of skill on a wet pitch, resembling a surgeon successfully performing an operation on a patient considered incurable. The manner Jack would dance down the pitch to negotiate unplayable deliveries or formulate strokes in no man’s land made every spectator guessing or bewildered. Unlike some of the very greatest, Hobbs never cared for records, and on may an occasions forfeited his wicket in the team's interests. The descriptions of many of his best knocks were similar to essays scripted, with Hobbs conquering the widest variety of bowlers and tracks.
Hobbs took batting skill to a new plane from the foundation WG Grace established .He was more effective of both the front or back foot than any batsmen in the Edwardian age, when front foot play was the predominant feature. In first class cricket no cricketer constructed the equivalent of monuments sculpted or masterpieces. Hobbs was the manifestation of the meteoric rsie of he amateur into a professional. Jack tackled some of the finest bowlers in the pace and spin departments like paceman Jack Gregory and spinners Faulkner and Volger. The sheer speed of his footwork resembled a hare running while his range of strokes manifested versatility personified. The sheer aesthecism in his batting was monumental, not exhibiting a touch of violence or merciless destruction.. He was capable of composing strokes of is very own, possessing hardly any mechanical element to his batting and never seeming hurried. Noone was more of an abject contrast to a brutal run machine.
Jack tackled some of the finest bowlers in the pace and spin departments like paceman Jack Gregory and spinners Faulkner and Volger. The sheer speed of his footwork resembled a hare running while his range of strokes manifested versatility personified.

Record

Hobbs scored a staggering 197 centuries and amassed 61237 runs centuries, which is unequalled to this day in first class cricket. Hobbs also participated in 1666 century partnerships, which is a record. For pure endurance or longevity he had no equal.
What was remarkable is that Hobbs scored 117of his 197 centuries after the First World War. Hobbs was completely different batsmen in the post-war years, making the transformation of a chameleon. No batsmen ever read the googly better as Hobbs displayed on the 1911-12 tour of South Africa when he averaged 67.
In 1926 at The Oval and 1929-30 at Melbourne Hobbs batting with partner Herbert Sutcliffe, Hobbs transcended batting skill to scales not conquered in partnerships of 172 and 105.Those knocks deserve the respect of monuments been preserved in a museum. It is almost unimaginable the consummate ease with which Hobbs tackled the pace of Australian Jack Gregory.
In test cricket Hobbs scored 5410 runs at an average of 56.94 in 61 tests, with 15 centuries. .However figures hardly reveal his true impact in dictating circumstances or moulding the course of games. In pure test cricket adjusting the time period, Hobbs may well rank 2nd to Bradman. The sheer weight of his runs could not be gauged by his figures, but by taking into account the situations in which he turned a games complexion. Significant that Hobbs averaged a colossal 68 batting average, in tests won and scored and 55% of his total runs.

Evaluation

I would choose Hobbs in my all-time Test XI with Barry Richards or Sunil Gavaskar.Wisden placed Hobbs in the 5 best cricketers of all at 5th place, while Christopher Martin Jenkins, and John Woodcock ranked Hobbs at 5th place, Geoff Armstrong at 6th place, all ahead of Viv and Tendulkar.David Gower however ranks him at 7th place, behind Tendulkar,Viv and Lara. Almost all judges overall rank Shane Warne higher than Hobbs, I am not assured that Hobbs would come out trumps facing lethal pace attack of West Indies of the 1980’s like Gavaskar or Gooch, or equalled the strike rate of Barry or Viv Richards. Still I have no doubt that on bad wickets he would come on top. I doubt Tendulkar,Sobers ,Viv or even Bradman would have equalled the first class landmarks of Hobbs. Overall as a cricketer, I rank only WG Grace and Gary Sobers ahead of Hobbs. As a pure batsman, I place him overall at no 1.
Warwickshire Bowler Bob Wyatt who even bowled to Bradman in the 1930’s ,with conviction stated that “Taking into account batsmanship in every department, I rate Hobbs a better batsmen. Even English opener Geoff Boycott endorses this evaluation as well as late Raymond Gladstone Glasgow.
I recommend very fan to read Leo Mckinstry’s book on Jack Hobbs, which is a masterpiece. and the chapter on Centurions by Patrick Murphy. There is also a most heart touching description of Jack’s scintillating batting exhibitions by Robertson Glasgow when he roistered his 127th century to eclipse record of WG Grace. and his duel with Hobbs at Taunton,playing against Surrey, having classic overtones.

Flaws

Jack Hobbs was not without flaws. He benefited from the lbw rule of his time when a batsman was declared not out even when the ball was pitching from outside the line of the offstump. This could make batsmen remorseless recourse to use his pads.
Regretfully at times he did not walk, even when he knew he was out. That was testified when facing Gubbey Allen in 1925 when clearly knicking a ball to the keeper’s gloves, in game of Gentleman v Players. There was another instance of failing to walk when being caught at short leg in the Headingley test of 1930, by Ted Becket. Even after being declared out, he was reluctant to walk. Hobbs also farmed the strike considerably, perhaps denying his partners ample opportunity in scoring runs.
He also like modern cricketers did not hesitate to multiply his wealth through endorsing commercials, like smoking advertisements. This trend paved the way towards commercialism in game of cricket. Hobbs also remained silent on the English tactics of bodyline blowing inducted on the tour of 1932-1933.This confirms that the very greatest sportsman are ultimately mortals and not infallible.

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