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On all kinds of pitches, hard and dry, in this country or in Australia, on sticky pitches here and anywhere else, even on the "gluepot" of Melbourne, on the matting of South Africa, against pace, spin, swing and every conceivable device of bowlers Hobbs reigned supreme.

Obituary of Hobbs by Neville Cardus[1]

For much of Hobbs career, critics judged him to be the best batsman in the world.[2] E. W. Swanton described him as "a supreme master of his craft, and the undisputed head of his profession".[3] The cricket writer Neville Cardus suggested that Hobbs was the first batsman to adopt a technique to consistently succeed against googly bowlers, and that he mastered all types of bowling, all over the world and in a variety of conditions.[1] The cricket writer Patrick Murphy writes that Hobbs "brought batting to a level of perfection that has never been matched", and took technique to a new level,[4] while other critics have suggested that Hobbs moved the focus of batting from aesthetic off side shots to leg side play more suited to swing and googly bowling. Swanton wrote that Hobbs combined classical play with effective defence—including protecting the wickets using his pads—against the ball unexpectedly moving towards the stumps.[5] His pad-play was controversial: it removed any possibility of dismissal but was regarded by cricket authorities as negative and unsporting.[6]

Many of his English contemporaries rated Hobbs superior to Bradman, often regarded as the greatest batsman in the history of cricket, on difficult pitches.[7] In difficult batting conditions, Hobbs batted with great success, and several of his most highly regarded innings came in such circumstances.[2] Murphy suggests: "Before Bradman, he was the most consistent run-getter of all time, yet no one worried less about the sheer slog of carving out big scores."[8] He frequently was out deliberately soon after reaching a century—roughly a quarter of his centuries were scores less than 110—and was not particularly interested in most statistics.[4] An article in Wisden in 2000 stated: "He was never as dominant as Bradman; he never wanted to be. But his contemporaries were in awe of his ability to play supremely and at whim, whatever the conditions."[9]

A cricketer has just hit a ball away, watched by the wicket-keeper
Hobbs batting at the Oval in 1922

Hobbs' technique was based on strong forearms and good foot movement. The cricket writer R. C. Robertson-Glasgow suggests that "his footwork was, as near as is humanly possibly, perfect. In every stroke, he moved into line with the ball with so little effort that he could bat for hours without over-taxing energy of mind or body."[10] He played every type of shot so effectively that he did not have a "signature" shot like other batsmen, and he selected his strokes very effectively;[11] it seemed that he could predict what the bowler would do.[12] In contrast to many leading batsmen from his time, Hobbs preferred to play off the back foot as he believed it gave him more time to see the ball and adapt his shot.[13] Capable of playing all the strokes, he hit the ball precisely between fielders and sometimes delayed his shot to make the ball travel more slowly and allow more time to run;[8] he also ran well between the wickets.[8] He liked to score his first run quickly when he came into bat, and he often looked to score quickly at the start of an innings, before the bowlers had settled; on occasion, Hobbs targeted the main bowling threats from the opposition.[14]

  1. ^ a b "Sir Jack Hobbs—Cricket's Supreme Artist". The Guardian (London). 23 December 1963. p. 8. 
  2. ^ a b "Sir Jack Hobbs: The Greatest Batsman of his Day". The Times (London). 23 December 1963. p. 13. Retrieved 28 October 2012. (subscription required)
  3. ^ Swanton, p. 117.
  4. ^ a b Murphy, p. 38.
  5. ^ Swanton, p. 119.
  6. ^ McKinstry, pp. 286–97.
  7. ^ McKinstry, pp. 43–44.
  8. ^ Cite error: The named reference M42 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  9. ^ "Five cricketers of the century: Sir Jack Hobbs". Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. London: John Wisden & Co. 2000. ISBN 0-947766-57-X. Retrieved 28 October 2012. 
  10. ^ Robertson-Glasgow, p. 10.
  11. ^ Robertson-Glasgow, pp. 10–11.
  12. ^ Arlott, p. 87.
  13. ^ McKinstry, p. 116.
  14. ^ Murphy, pp. 42–43.