"Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong" - Oscar Wilde
I'm sure I've read that some English players like Hammond thought that Jack Hobbs was the greater batsman of the two if all kinds are wickets and conditions are taken into account. But I can't find the actual reference to save my life.
I haven't read anything about Hutton or Sutcliffe being Bradman's superior on dodgy wickets though, despite them playing great innings on dodgy wickets.
Interesting comments from a couple of Yorkshire openers.
So there you have it, some of Bradman's contemporaries thought that Headley/Hobbs were better overall batsman because of their skill on sticky wickets.Who's the next-best batsman after Bradman?
We all know who the greatest batsman of them all is, but who's second in line?
April 22, 2013
In terms of figures and performances, making runs, and helping win matches, it has to be Don Bradman. The best. But the people in the era he played, think that on all types of pitches, and I repeat, on all types of pitches, John Berry Hobbs was the best player the world has ever seen.
Now, nobody can compete with Bradman on good batting pitches. His record is unbelievable. But you have to remember, right up to the 1970s, cricket was played on uncovered pitches in Test matches. In many of the hot countries, they didn't get much rain, so you hardly ever got a wet pitch - or a sticky dog, as they call it in Australia. But in places like New Zealand and England, where we get lots of rain, you never quite know what you are going to get. The pitches would be juicy. Even if they were not wet, the grass would make the ball move around.
Hobbs played 61 Tests. Remember, only England, Australia and South Africa played then. He averaged 56.94. It doesn't even come close to Bradman's 99.94. He played his first Test in 1907-08 and his last one in 1930.
He was the oldest of 12 children. He taught himself the game by actually using a cricket stump and a tennis ball in the fives court - which is very much like a squash court - at Jesus College, Cambridge, where his father was the groundsman and umpire for the college. With no formal coaching, Hobbs practised on his own through the long vacations, hitting the ball with a stump. He said in his autobiography, years later, that this was responsible for his ability to play predominantly off the back foot and to place the ball accurately.
I think this simple practice laid a wonderful foundation. As a boy Hobbs watched the older boys playing cricket at the college and tried to pick up things. He had no formal coaching; he became a natural batsman with hand-eye coordination and footwork, the neat, quick footwork you need to hit a tennis ball with a stump on a fives court.
This, to me, is what made him a great player on all sorts of pitches, where the ball turned alarmingly, where it jumped when it was wet. It was fascinating when I read that the greatest batsman ever, Bradman, born a few years later, used the same method as a child when he was growing up in Bowral on the other side of the world. When you think about it, Bradman hitting a golf ball with a cricket stump was making the same type of cricket match for himself as Hobbs was doing on the other side of the world.
Hobbs was more or less brought up on the principle laid down by the first great batsman, WG Grace, which was to get the left leg forward to the length of the ball and the right foot right back to the short ball. That's how Hobbs played, from Grace's way of playing and by watching his elders. He made his first-class debut for Surrey in 1905 and scored 197 hundreds.
He is known to have been the best player anybody has ever seen. Now how do I know this? I never saw him play, but I've read so much about him by the doyen writers of the day, who wrote about the way Hobbs played and what he did, and the batsmen of that era who talked about him.
Hobbs had never played on matting wickets when he went to South Africa for the first time to play. The ball turned alarmingly on matting pitches there, but in five Test matches in 1909-10, he worked it out and scored 539 runs at an average of 67. The key is not the 67. It's that it's double the average of the next four run-makers for England - George Thompson, Frank Woolley, Lucky Denton and Wilfred Rhodes. They averaged 33, 32, 26 and 25.
He more than doubled their averages, which showed how good he was compared to everybody else, which is how we rate Bradman. We look at how many players average 50 in Test cricket and they are the iconic greats of our era. Yet Bradman averaged twice as much.
Hobbs' nickname was "The Master", because he played on all types of pitches. He had a great opening partnership with Herbert Sutcliffe of Yorkshire. They were fantastic players on sticky pitches, when it rained overnight and the ball jumped. At The Oval in 1926. In Melbourne two years later, they just played out of this world.
Hobbs was just an outstanding player. Wilfred Rhodes, the great allrounder of the time for Yorkshire and England, said, "He was the greatest batsman of my time. I learnt a lot from him when we went in first together for England. He had a cricket brain, and the position of his feet as he met the ball was perfect. He could have scored thousands more runs, but often he was content to throw his wicket away when he had reached his hundred and give someone else a chance."
Sutcliffe, who formed the greatest opening partnership ever for England with Hobbs, said: "I was his partner on many occasions on extremely bad wickets and I can say this without any doubt that he was the most brilliant exponent of all time and quite the best batsman of my generation on all types of pitches. On good wickets, I do believe that pride of place be given to Sir Donald Bradman."
Jack Fingleton played with Bradman and became a great writer. He wrote, "Although figures indicate the greatness of Hobbs, they don't convey the grandeur of his batting, his faultless technique and the manner in which he could captivate those who could recognise and analyse style. Australians who played against him believe cricket never produced a more correct batsman but it is well to note Hobbs' claim that he never had an hour's coaching in his life. He was a self-taught cricketer, observing, thinking, and executing for himself." Very interesting, that.
And the great doyen writer of the time, Neville Cardus, wrote: "Immediately the bowler begins his run, Hobbs seems to have some instinct of what manner of ball is on the way. Rarely does he move his feet to an incorrect position. His footwork is so quick that even from behind the nets it is not always possible to follow its movement in detail."
Mouth-watering stuff, eh? What a player he must have been.
The Jury's Out: Who's the next-best batsman after Bradman? | Cricinfo Magazine | ESPN Cricinfo
Last edited by watson; 02-03-2014 at 04:21 AM.
Neither Fingo nor Sir Nev were the Don's greatest admirers though - for me the key is his averages in his four seasons in England - 98, 84, 115 and 89 - I'd be delighted if someone could put forward a decent argument to topple him, but them as try are all pissing into the wind
“I shiver, thinking how easy it is to be totally wrong about people - to see one tiny part of them and confuse it for the whole, to see the cause and think it’s the effect or vice versa.”
The comment about rain and Aussie pitches is valid though. A wet wicket in England was hard but you could apply a technique to the problems. From what I've read the sun coming out after rain made Australian stickies incredibly difficult to bat on. You could excuse Bradman from thinking the task is impossible to master so why bother.
That said Sutcliffe and Hobbs batted England to a win in a Melbourne test in 1929 on a wicket made difficult by sun after rain. Even they were fortunate that Australia didn't pick Ironmonger who was deadly in those conditions.
Exactly, you can't play cricket shots on a wet Australia one, barely stand up. English turf a bit different, doesn't pop as viciously in the main.
I'm English and get a bit fed up of beatification of The Don but you cant escape the fact that his record is amazing.There's not a sportsman so far ahead of anyone else in their particular sport. If I'm picking a team, its Bradman and Sobers without question, then 9 others.
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