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It’s one of the most attacking and exciting shots in cricket but what is a hook shot and how is it executed?
What is a Hook Shot in Cricket?
A hook is an attacking shot that is played to a very short ball. The ball will arrive at the batter between chest and head height.
The batter will then play a cross batted shot in a sweeping motion from the off side to the leg side. If the hook shot is played correctly, the ball will travel in the air towards the leg side field.
When can you use a Hook Shot in Cricket?
The hook is used as an attacking stroke so we will see more of it in limited overs cricket matches. The aim is to score runs, either all along the ground for a boundary 4 or over that boundary for 6.
The hook is best played to a short ball that approaches the batter at above waist height. Generally, the ball will be struck at around chest to head height. The direction of the delivery is also important. If the ball is outside off stump then the hook is difficult to play. Ideally it will arrive at the batter between middle stump and outside leg stump.
How to Play the Hook Shot?
Step One: If you’ve quickly judged the length and are sure that you can play the hook shot to this delivery, the first step involves foot movement.
We are looking to go back and across. Push the weight back off your front foot. Move your back foot back and across to the off side. We are looking to get outside of the line of the delivery. This will make it easier to play to the leg side.
Step Two: Now move the front foot back and across towards the leg side. Keep the hands and bat high as this will help you get momentum into the shot.
Step Three: Swing the bat through horizontally. The arms should be fully extended as you swing through the line of the ball.
As you follow through, both feet should pivot and face the direction of the shot. They should be planted on the ground although it is acceptable to raise the front foot, in a Gordon Greenidge style – if you can stay in control.
Depending on the height of the ball and the height of the batter, some players will look to roll their wrists at the point of contact in order to try to keep the ball on the ground.
One last point to note. Some of these instructions relate to right handed batters. For those who are left handed, the instructions are simply reversed.
Who Plays the Best Hook Shot?
Viv Richards (West Indies)
Batters with a reputation for being strong and attacking are the best players of the hook shot. Viv Richards fits that description so it shouldn’t be surprising to see him at the top of this list.
Those that saw him play the stroke felt that the hook was all part of Richards’ plan to dominate the bowler. He would always look to go on the attack in a manner that was designed almost to break their spirit.
Ricky Ponting (Australia)
In my article on the pull shot, we’ve already seen that Ricky Ponting is one of the best exponents of that particular stroke. The former Australian captain was very good at picking up length and, if the bowler dropped a fraction short, Ponting would execute the hook or pull as appropriate.
He’s been described as a pugnacious batter. Lots of his front foot shots relied on force rather than timing. In contrast, Ricky Ponting could be stylish and elegant when it came to playing the hook shot.
Ian Chappell (Australia)
Another former captain of Australia, Ian Chappell was a highly competitive batsman who liked to take the attack to the opposition. The hook shot tells the bowler that you’re not scared of the short pitched stuff and that may well be one of the reasons why Chappell was happy to take it on.
Early on in his career, Ian Chappell had some issues with the short ball. England’s John Snow caused particular problems on one Ashes tour. He worked hard to deal with things to the point where, if a bowler sent down three bouncers in an over, Chappell felt confident that he would be scoring 12 runs off those deliveries.
Ian Botham (England)
England’s greatest ever all rounder was also one of the best players of the hook shot in cricket history. Anyone who watched the incredible Ashes series of 1981 will remember Ian Botham hooking the Australian fast bowlers into the stands with great regularity.
Like all of the batters on this list, Botham was an attacking player and he needed to perfect the hook against the Aussies and also the greatest West Indian bowlers of the 1970s and 1980s. English batsmen struggled as a unit against pace but Ian Botham was a rare exception.
Roy Fredericks (West Indies)
It’s fair to say that Roy Fredericks’ most famous hook shot ended in disappointment. Playing for the West Indies against Australia in the 1975 World Cup final, the left hander hooked Dennis Lillee over the boundary but had trod on his stumps in the process.
That’s unfortunate because Fredericks was a very fine player of the hook shot and he formed part of a fearsome opening partnership for the Windies through much of the 1970s.
Gordon Greenidge (West Indies)
Fredericks’ opening partner at the time was Gordon Greenidge who would go on to have a much longer test career. Brought up on the fast and bouncy wickets of the Caribbean, he was comfortable with launching into deliveries that were travelling at speeds in excess of 90mph.
Greenidge stated that he played attacking shots as a form of revenge. When it came to the hook, he had a unique style, pivoting on one leg as he executed the shot.
Jacques Kallis (South Africa)
In terms of pure statistics, there is an argument that suggests that Jacques Kallis was the greatest all rounder in cricket history. He made over 24,000 international runs and that’s a phenomenal number.
Kallis was especially adept at the hook shot and had the ability to keep the ball down, even when that ball was rising up towards head height. He was very much the complete package as far as a cricketer was concerned and the hook shot was one of Jacques Kallis’ chief weapons.
Rohan Kanhai (West Indies)
Just like his fellow West Indian Gordon Greenidge, Rohan Kanhai had a unique way of playing the hook shot. As he executed the stroke, he would start to fall over to the leg side and would sometimes end up on the ground.
It was a very risky technique and one that would occasionally get him into trouble. Because of the way he played the hook, Kanhai had to ensure that he cleared the boundary which he frequently managed to do.
Stan McCabe (Australia)
A contemporary of the great Don Bradman, Stan McCabe was another batter who was given a tough time during the infamous Bodyline series of 1932/33. Bodyline was devised as a weapon to counter Bradman but it was McCabe who rose to the challenge of the short pitched delivery.
He’d been playing on fast and bouncy Australian pitches for his whole career and was highly successful. He made a century in that 1932/33 series, one of six hundreds that Stan McCabe scored in 39 tests between 1930 and 1938.
The hook shot is arguably the most exciting shot in cricket. There will usually be something happening when a player attempts to play it. The ball will either disappear to the boundary or, if the hook is not executed properly, there is a chance of taking a wicket.
For those that are new to the game, this is one of the riskier shots to execute so it’s important to be confident with the hook before you step out onto the field of play.
Like all shots, it’s vital to practise hard in the nets. If your club has a bowling machine, you can set the speed and length to the type of levels where a hook shot will be appropriate. One last piece of advice – always remember to wear a batting helmet when you’re practising this one.