Having already produced one engrossing biography of one great England opener - in the form of the curmudgeonly Geoffrey Boycott, Leo McKinstry has repeated the trick and if anything surpassed himself with his take on the astonishing career of Sir Jack Hobbs.
Hobbs was known as The Master and during his lifetime was afforded almost saint-like status. His long career stretched from the age of Grace to the era of Bradman, he scored more first-class runs and centuries than any player before or since. Even today, he remains England’s greatest run-maker in Ashes Tests.
It is widely recognised that Hobbs evolved the art of batting with his elegant style, and transformed the status of professional cricketers through the strength of his quiet, dignified personality.
As someone who grew up in awe of his extraordinary run-making feats, we especially enjoyed the descriptions McKinstry provides on his most notable achievements such as the 1911/12 tour of Australia, his incredible opening stand with Sutcliffe on a sticky dog at The Oval in 1926 and perhaps most of all the day at Taunton where he equalled W G Grace’s record of 126 hundreds.
But crucially McKinstry provides a balanced view, no more so when he assesses the failure of Hobbs to volunteer for service in World War I until conscripted in 1916. There are also tales of how the Master was not averse to making commercial capital out of his feats, as well as certain instances on the field which suggest that Hobbs was not always the saintly figure he is often portrayed as.
We thoroughly enjoyed the book and rank it alongside the best cricket biographies we have read such as Duncan Hamilton’s wonderful biography of Harold Larwood and the portrayal of Douglas Jardine by Christopher Douglas. Hobbs may have given McKinstry plenty of material to work with, but he proves to be a master of his craft just as his subject undoubtedly was at the crease.
In short, we recommend it wholeheartedly – buy Jack Hobbs by Leo McKinstry on Amazon here.
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