Australia mourns as Hookes dies after attack outside pub

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The Independent Online

Australians were in mourning yesterday after David Hookes, a popular and outspoken former Test batsman, died from head injuries inflicted in an assault outside a Melbourne pub.

Hookes, 48, who became an instant celebrity after hitting the England captain, Tony Greig, for five successive boundaries in the 1977 Centenary Test, was taken to hospital after the incident late on Sunday night.

Hookes, the coach of the Victoria state side, had been celebrating with his players in the beachside suburb of St Kilda after a win over South Australia in a one-day match.

Zdravco Micevic, a 21-year-old bouncer employed by the pub, the Beaconsfield Hotel, was charged with assault yesterday. The sequence of events was unclear, but witnesses said Hookes was felled by a single blow during an altercation between two groups of people and hit his head hard on the ground.

When paramedics arrived, he was lying on the pavement, clinically dead. They spent half an hour reviving him before taking him to Melbourne's Alfred Hospital.

Hookes, who played 23 Tests from 1977 to 1986, never regained consciousness and spent the day on a life-support machine. He died surrounded by family members including his wife, Robyn, who had maintained a bedside vigil. His brother, Terry Cranagh, said: "We trust that ... the justice process will provide us with some insight into what occurred."

Steve Waugh, the recently retired Australia captain, expressed the shock felt by many Australians. "I felt physically very sick this morning when I heard the news," he said. "It really is terrible."

Hookes, who courted controversy in recent years as a forthright radio and television commentator, made a sparkling debut in the Centenary Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. His bat held together by scraps of white tape, he showed no sign of nerves as he posted a half-century.

Greig, now a television commentator based in Sydney, said yesterday that Australians had never allowed him to forget the drubbing he received that day and the standing ovation given to the 21-year-old. "I can tell you that Hookesy handled himself very well," he said.

The blond left-hander was signed by Kerry Packer's rebel World Series Cricket circuit. But his career suffered after his jaw was broken during a game against the West Indies, and he never fulfilled the potential he showed in his maiden Test. He made 1,306 Test runs, including a top score of 143 not out, at an average of 34.36.

Hookes, who retired in 1992, held the record for the fastest century in Australian interstate four-day cricket, taking 34 balls to reach his hundred for South Australia against Victoria in 43 minutes in 1982.

As a commentator, he often complained that national selectors favoured Waugh's home state, New South Wales.

Allan Border, the former Australia captain who was a close friend, said: "I remember his cricket very fondly because of the way he played it in a swashbuckling style but, as a bloke, he was right off the top shelf."