Jack Hobbs – First Professional Cricketer to be Knighted
Jack Hobbs was born on 16 December 1882 in Cambridge. Jack Hobbs was also known as Sir John Berry Hobbs. His first-class cricket career spanned 30 years and brought him fame everywhere as a player second to none. He was a great England professional cricketer who also played for Surry from 1905 to 1934. Hobbs played 61 Tests for England between 1908 to 1930.
He was known as “The Master”, and regarded as one of the greatest batsmen in the history of cricket. A prolific batsman leading run scorer and most centuries in first-class cricket with 61,760 run with 199 centuries. Jack Hobbs, a self-taught without coaching remembered a piece of advice from his father “Don’t Draw Away”. Watching Hobbs batting is literally a mesmerizing view leaping gallantly bat on high, punching the straight balls, driving, and hooking.
He could have scored more runs if the Great War had not intervened. Hobbs scored consistently throughout his long career that ends once he crosses the fifties. His half of the century came after 40.
Jack Hobbs grew up in poverty and wanted to have a career in cricket. He was the eldest of 12 children, six boys, and six girls. During his school days, he used to play his own version of cricket, a tennis ball, a cricket stump for a bat, and a tennis post for a wicket on a gravel pitch.
Hobbs played cricket in the streets like other boys. He regularly played cricket for his school team and took a job working before school hours in the domestic service of a private house. He also worked as a college servant, then as an apprentice gas fitter. His cricketing talent improved in the early 19th century when he scored 102 for Ainsworth against Cambridge. His early success delighted his family which made him a local celebrity.
But a tragedy came when his father died from pneumonia leaving them in great financial hardship. Upon contact with Essex County who later rejected to take the trial of Hobbs, which was another sad moment for him? But he didn’t let his heart down and made work hard to put his maiden first-class century. However, he still struggled financially to cope with his hardship and offered a contract with the ground staff at the Oval just for 30 shillings a week.
In 1928-29, he registered his name in record books, as the oldest man to score a Test hundred. In 1953, he became the first professional cricketer to be knighted. Jack Hobbs was a charming man who had the most prolific opening pair with Yorkshire’s Herbert Sutcliffe. An occasional right-arm medium-pace bowler and right-handed batsman who also excelled as a fielder, predominantly in the position of the cover point.
Jack Hobbs often watched Ranjitsinhji practice with wrist play. But his all-time favorite player was Tom Hayward. From this point of view, Jack Hobbs was, without argument, the most accomplished batsman after WG Grace. He was an ordinary batsman in his early career, but abruptly improvement in 1901 got the attention of Surrey. Tom Hayward support Hobbs, to introduce Surrey in 1903.
He didn’t let him down by scoring 88 runs on his first-class debut and a hundred in the subsequent match. Hobbs scored a plethora of runs in county cricket after making his Test debut for England in 1908. He established himself on his Test debut by scoring 83 runs. After that, his performance was mixed and not up to his standard which he achieved after that.
In the series against Australia in 1911-12, he proved a successful cricketer by scoring three hundred. The cricket pundits guessing a great batsman has been born. The critics were so impressed with his attacking and dynamic style of play. His cricketing career stops a while due to the First World War. But after cricket resumed in 1919, he maintained his reputation. In 1921, his cricket career was seriously threatened by appendicitis which caused him to miss a major portion of that season.
His cricketing skills, style, and tempo were different and divided into two periods. Hobbs was quick on feet to attack, strokes all over the ground, wrist killing but never brutal. After appendicitis, he was more cautious and played a safer style of cricket. Subsequently, Jack Hobbs became more consistent and scored frequently in both Test Cricket and domestic cricket until his retirement.
He scored hundreds effortlessly, scoring 85 hundred after the world war. From their 43rd to his 46th birthday, he amassed more than 11,000 runs averaging nearly sixties. In 1925, a wonderful year, when he beat WG Grace’s World record of 126 hundred.
His success was mostly based on his ability to play different shots, magnificent placement of the ball, and adapted technique. As an opening batsman, he established many effective partnerships with Andy Sandham, Tom Hayward, Wilfred Rhodes, and Herbert Sutcliffe.
After In the 1903 English seasons, he performed satisfactorily scoring 480 runs at 34.29 and taking 19 wickets. In the 1905 season, Hobbs was promoted to open the innings with Tom Hayward. He scored 18 in the first inning and later he took the charge and made a rapid 88 before rain ensured to draw in the match. His talent impressed everyone in Surrey before he smashed 155 runs in three hours against Essex.
He also played an excellent inning of 94 against the Australian Cricket Team. In this season, he managed to score 1,317 runs at 25.82 with two hundred and four fifties. In the 1906 season, Hobbs displayed much better consistency scoring 1,913 runs at 40.70 with four hundred. He made an excellent pair with Hayward and shared 40 hundred-plus partnerships till 1914.
He made a further advances in 1907 when rain was a frequent part of that season. The wettest condition put most batsmen in trouble; however, he adjusted brilliantly on wet pitches and scored consistently. So, at the end of the season, he had scored 2,135 at 37.45 and was one of three players who crossed more than 2,000 runs in the season. Hobbs was selected to tour Australia in the 1907–08 season and selected for the second Test.
Jack Hobbs made his Test debut on 1 January 1908 at MCG. While opening the inning for England, he scored 83 runs in 182 minutes and 28 in the second inning. In the 4th Test match, he made 57 runs on a pitch badly affected by rain with some attacking batting to hit 10 fours. Hobbs concluded his series with an innings of 72 in the last game.
His performance was very satisfactory scoring 302 runs in the Tests at an average of 43.14. Hobbs scored fewer runs in 1908, despite better conditions for batting; he scored 1,904 runs with six hundred for Surrey at 37.33. For his consistency and achievements that season, Hobbs was chosen as one of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year.
In the 1909 season, he started with a bang, including a brilliant double century and two centuries in another match. Such form placed him in England squad to play the Aussies that year. Unfortunately, he was dismissed for knot for the very ball he received in First Test at Edgbaston. But he made a match-winning 62 not out in a low-scoring chase of 105. In the next two matches, he was unsuccessful with the highest score of 30 in four innings. Then he had a finger injury that missed the remainder of the Test series. Thus, he just managed to score 132 runs at 26.40 in this series.
On the challenging tour of South Africa where matting pitches were unfamiliar to England players. This time Hobbs’s opening partner was Wilfred Rhodes. Both added 159 runs in the first test and 35 in the second inning. However, Hobbs scored 89 in the first inning. In the second Test match, Hobbs scored 53 and 70 with two substantial opening partnerships with Rhodes.
In the third Test, he scored 93 not out and help in the English team to win the Test by a three-wicket. Series were lost by England losing the fourth Test match in which Hobbs made 0 and 1. In the final Test match, Jack Hobbs scored his Test hundred sharing a magnificent 221 runs stand with Rhodes.
He produced a brilliant 187 and bagged his only Test wicket of Reggie Schwarz. On this tour, Hobbs scored 539 runs with an excellent average of 67.37. Critics admired Hobbs’s batting and describe him as the best batsman in the world. His approach of taking quick singles by pushing the ball just past nearby fielders raised the art of running to a new level.
In 1910, he was a bit behind his caliber managing 1,982 runs at an average of 33.03. However, in the subsequent season, Hobbs scored 2,376 runs at 41.78 in a hot and dry summer. Also bowled more frequently and took 28 wickets. In the 1911-12 season against Australia, he scored 63 in the First Test.
Jack Hobbs scored the first century against Australia at 126 not out eventually chasing the target of 219 to win. In the third Test match, Hobbs scored 187; putting England in a strong position to win the Test match by seven wickets. In the third Test match, Hobbs scored a century in 133 minutes with some aggressive batting finally dismissed for 178. Due to this England down Australia an inning and regain the Ashes. So, he has a successful series of scoring 662 runs at an average of 82.75.
In the 1912 season, he tried to capture quick runs on difficult wet pitches. The English press heavily criticized him for his rapid runs approach. In the summer season, Australia and South Africa both took part in Triangular Tournament. He bowled out quickly in the opening match. However, in the second match, he put a great century against Australia at Lord’s on a difficult batting pitch. Jack Hobbs continued with the two half-centuries 55, and 68 in the next two games against South Africa.
South Africa was defeated five times in six matches; eventually, England and Australia played a two-draw match. Thus the final match was designated as the deciding match where he scored 66 runs which were made in a tense situation ultimately England won the match by 244 runs. He was the top scorer in this series. In the 1913 season, he scored in a controlled style, scoring 2,605 runs at 50.09. In a game against Worcestershire, he made twice 100 runs before lunch on the first day. He and Hayward put in a massive 313 runs-opening partnership in just 190 minutes.
When in 1913-14, he went to South Africa, where he was part of thumping wins of 4-0. In this Test series, he scored 443 runs at an average of 63.28 without a century. Jack Hobbs scored a brilliant double century of 226 runs in 1914. The First World War overshadowed cricketing ties. Despite World War, he scored 2,697 runs at 58.63.
But Jack Hobbs’s reputation was at its peak, he was described by Wisden as one of the greatest bats of his generation. His career restarted after the war in 1919. He scored 2,594 runs more than anyone else, at an average of 60.32. His excellent form continued into 1920, totaling 2,827 runs at 58.89 along with five wickets for 21 runs against Warwickshire.
Hobbs toured Australia during the 1920–21 seasons, wherein the first Test; he was top-scored in both innings with 49 and 59. In the second Test match, Hobbs scored a brilliant 122 on a difficult pitch affected by rain. In the third Test match, he also scored a century of 123 as England failed to score 489 to win the game. So, after that, his form dipped,, and could not pass 50 again in the series. He scored 505 runs at 50.50 and could not replicate their former successes.
In the 1921 season, Hobbs played just five first-class matches. He missed the first two Tests against Australia due to a thigh muscle injury. In the third Test match at Leeds, he was diagnosed with acute appendicitis and operated on the same day. Hobbs returns back in the 1922 season, scoring 2,552 runs with 10 first-class centuries at an average of 62.24. He let down the offer of touring South Africa in that season.
In the 1923 season, he failed on many occasions. However, he scored his 100th first-class century against Somerset. He was the third man after W.G. Grace and Hayward. Overall Hobbs scored 2,087 with a low average of 37.95. In the 1924 season, Hobbs scored his highest Test score of 211 against South Africa. In this series, he changed his mindset and scored 355 runs at an average of 71.00.
His graceful stork-playing shots were missing this season as he scored slowly and in less spectacular and batted in a safer and more secure style. In the 1924-45 seasons, he and Sutcliffe scored seven centuries-opening partnerships against Australia. In the third Test, Hobbs did not open the batting but scored 119.
Hobbs was massively successful in the 1925 season, scoring four centuries in consecutive innings and close to W.G Grace’s 126 centuries. On 20 July 1925, he scored the 125th century against Kent but lost the form due to anxiety and fatigue. Though he scored consistently but could not reach the century. Thus, on 15 August, he scored 101 against Somerset to reach the massive landmark. This achievement was praised by everyone in the country. Overall, in that season he scored 16 centuries setting a new height of record for most centuries in a season, and made 3,024 runs at an average of 70.32.
In the 1926 season, he started well against Australia in the Second Test scoring 119. He was heavily criticized for his slow batting. In the Third Test, he made 88 to save the game for England. In the fourth Test match, Hobbs named England captain in the absence of Arthur Carr. He performed well in technical style and made 74 runs but heavy rain ensured the fourth successive draw.
At the close of the season, Hobbs made career-best 316 not out against Middlesex at Lord’s. Jack Hobbs missed the 1927 season mainly due to illness and injury. But still, he managed to score 1,641 runs at 52.93 with seven centuries. In the 1928 season, he started well with four centuries in the first month, but a leg injury kept him out of cricket for two months. When he returned, he scored 159 in the first Test match against West Indies. England whitewashed West Indies 3-0.
Jack Hobbs finished the season second in the batting chart scoring 2,542 runs at 82.00 including 12 centuries. In 1928-29, he toured Australia for the final time. His little contribution in the first two Tests made England victorious. His skills were downward on the third Test and onwards. He played poor shots in the Third Test to prove his batting is on the decline side. In the fourth Test, he scored 74 with an opening stand of 143 runs with Sutcliffe.
In his last Test match, he scored the 12th century against Australia at the age of 46 years 82 days. He wrote his name in record books as the oldest man to score a Test century. In the 1929 season he scored heavily and compiled 2,263 runs at an average of 66.55.
In the 1930 season, he started in good form scoring 78 and 74 in the first Ashes Test and top-scored in both innings. He failed the second and third tests. In the fourth match, he batted well and shared an opening partnership of 108 runs with Sutcliffe, though he just scored 31 in two hours battle.
In the fifth Test, Hobbs decides to goodbye to Test cricket but shortly after making the decision he scored and passed the all-time W.G. Grace record career of 54,896 runs. In his final Test series, he scored 301 runs at 33.44. Overall he played 61 Tests and scored 5,410 runs at an average of 56.94.
He retired as the leading run-scorer in Test matches, a record he held until it was passed by Wally Hammond in 1937. Jack Hobbs’s two centuries is controversial against India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1930-31 with the private team Maharaj Kumar. So, Wisden didn’t recognize these centuries as first-class hundreds. So Hobbs’s century total is 197 in Wisden books. However, the others recognized 199 centuries.
In 1931, Jack Hobbs took part in domestic cricket scoring 2,418 runs at 56.23. In 1932, Hobbs missed the main portion of domestic cricket due to injuries and fatigue, he scored 1,764 runs at an average of 56.90 including a century in each innings against Essex. He scored 16 centuries in this season to equal his own record of most centuries in a season. Moreover, Jack Hobbs was also partially involved in the Bodyline controversy against Australia in 1932-33.
In 1933, he played fewer matches and scored 1,105 runs at 61.38 at the age of 50. A brilliant double century 221 was made against the touring West Indies. His career was fueling anticipation of more centuries of reaching 200 marks. In the 1934 season, he scored very less than 624 runs at 36.70. He also scored his final first-class century against Lancashire after his batting started to decline due to fatigue.
In February 1935, he announced his retirement after scoring world record 61,760 runs at an average of 50.70. The master batsman scored on all types of pitches, hard and dry, sticky pitches against pace, spin, and swing bowling. Many English legends rated Jack Hobbs better than Donald Bradman and are regarded them as the greatest batsman in the history of cricket. He was a consistent run-getter of all time but never as dominant as Bradman. After their retirement from cricket, he worked as a journalist. He died at the age of 81 in 1963.