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How to Play a Hook Shot in Cricket

By CricketersChoice Editors

The hook shot in cricket is often one of the most exciting shots a batsman can choose to play. It is associated with attacking and aggressive play from both the batsman and the bowler. 

But the reward for the risk taken can often vary. For the batsman, the ball could soar over the square leg boundary for six, or, for the bowler, it may lead to a mistimed shot and catch in the field.  

While the hook shot may look like an attempt to slog the ball to score quick runs, there is plenty of skill and technique needed to execute the shot, which takes practice and perseverance to master. The hook shot has to be judged well, timed well and can only be played from a certain delivery. 

We take a closer look at what exactly makes a hook shot in cricket, how players can learn to play an effective hook and identify some of the best cricket players in history to master the hook shot in their game.

What Is a Hook Shot in Cricket?

A hook shot in cricket is played off the back foot, which means a batsman will generally move their hands, feet and body backwards towards their crease when playing a shot rather than stepping forward into the delivery.

The hooks shot is usually played to guide or slog the ball into the square leg area of the pitch. It can be played either along the ground or in the air but it is generally very difficult to control as quick reactions and hand eye-co-ordination are needed to play the shot from a quick, short delivery. 

As the hook shot is played off the back foot, it can only be executed when the bowler delivers a ball short of a length, which bounces around the batsman’s chest to head area as a result. When a batsman faces a short ball, they usually have a few options: play a hook or a pull shot, or duck out of the way to prevent being struck on the helmet or the chest. 

How Do You Play a Hook Shot in Cricket?

Playing a hook shot successfully requires expert timing, quick reactions and an element of bravery too. If it’s mistimed, the ball will go straight into the air, nowhere near its intended target, for an easy catch to the fielding team.

Also, if a player gets their judgement and movement wrong at the crease, the ball could strike a player in the chest or on the helmet. Below are the steps required to execute an eye-catching hook shot:

  1. Watch the ball closely: Like with any good shot in cricket, watching the ball carefully as its bowled is key to choosing the correct shot. Keep your head upright and still whilst trying to maintain an even balance between the front and back foot, as you steady yourself for the shot. 
  2. Transfer Weight on to back foot: As the ball approaches, transfer your weight on to the back foot. The shoulders, feet and body should transfer in a backwards movement towards the stumps to set for the hook.
  3. Open front foot towards the leg side: As the weight is transferred back, you should be standing slightly further into the crease. Then, to send the hook shot into the leg side, the front foot should open slightly towards the leg side.
  4. Arms: Now the body is set and ready for the hook shot, bring the arms towards the ball as it comes closer. A hook shot does not usually require a large backswing because it uses the pace already on the ball. Therefore, a more guided arm motion is more effective and less risky when playing the hook.
  5. Rotate wrists: Guiding a well-judged hook shot will require soft wrists that slightly rotate the bat and angle its face towards the ground. If you want to slog the hook shot and go for a six, rotate the wrists softly to open the bat’s face. 
  6. Follow through with body: Playing a successful hook shot is as much about the follow-through as the preparation. A lack of fluidity through the shot will lead to less control and send the ball in a different direction than it’s intended to go. To finish the hook, the front foot will rotate even more towards the leg side, almost at a 90-degree angle, and the back foot will pivot around as you connect the bat with the ball. Your torso should also swivel almost 90 degrees through the shot. Depending on the technique, some players also control the direction of their hook by lifting their front foot off the ground during the follow-through. 

The hook shot is one of the most difficult shots to execute and many players, even the top professionals opt out of playing bouncers and leave them to carry to the wicketkeeper. However, with plenty of practice in the nets, along with plenty of guarding to protect your head and chest, the hook shot can become a useful tool in response to the short ball. 

What's the Difference Between a Hook Shot and a Pull Shot

When watching or playing a cricket match at full pace, it’s sometimes difficult to notice the difference between a hook shot and a pull shot. Both are played at a similar height and both send the ball in roughly the same area on the pitch – the leg side.

However, at a slower pace, some noticeable differences distinguish a hook from a pull in cricket. Firstly, a hook is played at a higher point than a pull shot. The former is played at around chest to head height, while the latter is played from between the upper hip and the torso of the batsman. 

Another noticeable difference is the launch point from the bat. For a hook shot, the ball will often remain in the air for a longer period compared to the pull. When playing a hook, the batsman usually struggles to control the shot into the ground because the natural height of the shot keeps the ball air bound for longer. In comparison, the pull shot can either be guided into the ground and hit into the ground with force as it has a lower point of contact. 

What Type of Delivery Would You Use a Hook Pull Shot?

A hook shot is played by a batsman when the bowler bowls a short delivery – known as a bouncer. When delivering a bouncer, the bowler will attempt to release the ball so it bounces up around the batsman’s chest, or, in some cases, around their neck or helmet. 

In general, the bouncer is not a very common delivery in cricket as bowlers prefer to aim around the stumps. But bowlers occasionally deliver a quick bouncer in an attempt to intimidate the batsman. A batsman can either duck out of the way of a bouncer or take it on with a hook or a pull shot.

Bouncers can only be bowled by fast or medium-fast bowlers as these types of bowlers generate enough power to get the ball to bounce around the batsman’s chest area. Spinners and medium paced bowlers often bowl full deliveries and use movement on the pitch to catch the batsmen out rather than getting pace and bounce off the track. As a result, a hook shot can only be played from a medium-fest or fast bowler. 

Best Hook Players in Cricket

Watching a batsman guide or slog away a fierce bouncer is one of the most engaging phases of play in cricket. The shot plays a big part in the ongoing drama and battles between bowler and batsmen throughout a match. 

When carried out well, a hook shot looks seamless and fluid. Some of the best batsmen to play the game frustrated quick bowlers with their nonchalant hooks, and made one of the most challenging techniques in cricket look flawless. Below is a selection of the most effective hook players in cricket history. 

  1. Ricky Ponting (Australia): A modern batsman who played expertly off the backfoot. Australian great Ricky Ponting regularly answered quick, aggressive deliveries with a taste of their own medicine. Despite being an edgy, combative player, Ponting’s technique for playing the hook shot was graceful, which combined well with his bravery to stand up to the short ball. His aggression, footwork off the backfoot and ability to react to the bouncer blended so effectively to make him one of the greatest hook players in the history of cricket. 
  2. Viv Richards (West indies): To hook the ball, you need to back yourself at the crease and ‘King Viv’ certainly did this. Such was Richard’s confidence that he opted not to wear a helmet when batting, believing that a helmet was a sign of weakness. Viv Richards played in the 1970s and 1980s – an era where the short ball was more common and aggressive bowlers, who would try to intentionally hurt the batsman. Richards used this to his advantage and is remembered for his attacking back foot play and controlled hook shots. 
  3. Ian Chappell (Australia): For Chappell, the hook shot was only an interim part of his game. Early in his career, the Australian batsman struggled to face the short ball and spent hours in the nets figuring out his hook technique. It paid off and Chappell became known as one of the greatest hook players in the game. However, he trained himself to stop taking on short bowlers with the hook later in his career after he was dismissed too many times whilst playing the shot. Instead, he opted for the more controlled pull shot late in his career. 
  4. Jacques Kallis (South Africa): As a perfectionist, it is no surprise that all-round great Jacques Kallis mastered the controlled hook shot early in his 19-year career. Kallis had a flawless technique to play any shot in cricket. But his use of soft hands and ability to roll his wrists and the right time to guide the ball into the ground made him an expert run-scorer and a clever hook player. 

Conclusion

The hook shot in cricket has always been a great advertisement for the sport. It is a shot that perfectly sums up the attacking side of the game from the bowler and the batsman and gets the crowd on their feet. 

The greatest players make it look easy, but the hook shot requires practice and care to execute effectively. There are few better feelings than answering a bowler’s bouncer with a hook shot right out of the sweet spot that runs away to the boundary.