A year on: Hughes and the de­liv­ery that changed cricket

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

MEL­BOURNE: Cricket has changed in Aus­tralia in the 12 months since Phillip Hughes was felled by a ris­ing de­liv­ery that ul­ti­mately led to his death. Hughes, who played 26 tests for Aus­tralia, died three days short of his 26th birth­day of a brain hem­or­rhage on Nov 27, 2014, two days af­ter he was struck un­der the rear of his bat­ting hel­met by a short-pitch ball while play­ing for South Aus­tralia against New South Wales at the Syd­ney Cricket Ground.

His death stunned the in­ter­na­tional cricket com­mu­nity, caus­ing an out­pour­ing of grief from play­ers, of­fi­cials and from the gen­eral pub­lic - tens of thou­sands of fans around Aus­tralia showed sol­i­dar­ity in mourn­ing by putting their cricket bats on dis­play out­side their homes as a trib­ute.

While new safety mea­sures such as im­proved bat­ting helmets are the ob­vi­ous legacy of Hughes’ pass­ing, oth­ers are more sub­tle but af­fect the very cul­ture of cricket. Fast bowlers, by and large, tend no longer to aim to in­tim­i­date bats­men with head-high bouncers, and spec­ta­tors no longer re­joice in pace­men serv­ing up “chin mu­sic” or cheer when a bats­man is hit.

Re­cently re­tired strike bowler Mitchell John­son, one of cricket’s most feared pace­men, told Aus­tralian Broadcasting Corp. tele­vi­sion that Hughes’ death made him ques­tion the way he played the game.

“I had that (2013-2014) Ashes se­ries where I was re­ally ag­gres­sive and bowl­ing a lot of short balls and I did hit play­ers,” he said, re­flect­ing on the sum­mer be­fore Hughes died. The death, he added, “made me think, was I do­ing the right thing? You know, was I play­ing in the spirit of the game?”

While John­son even­tu­ally came to terms with his in­tim­i­dat­ing style, his former team­mates agree the game is dif­fer­ent now. A num­ber of se­nior play­ers have since re­tired from in­ter­na­tional cricket, John­son be­ing the most re­cent of a line that in­cludes former skip­per Michael Clarke, all­rounder Shane Wat­son and wick­et­keeper Brad Haddin - who all played in pro­vin­cial and na­tional teams with Hughes.

“The game has changed for me for­ever. It’s not what it was,” said re­called spin bowler Steve O’Keefe, who was who was field­ing for New South Wales when Hughes was struck.

Emo­tions

O’Keefe told a news con­fer­ence in Ade­laide, where Aus­tralia will take on New Zealand in the first day-night cricket test match start­ing to­mor­row, that his per­spec­tive changed. “You’re play­ing a game that’s sup­posed to be fun and you’re sup­posed to be in a great con­test, and then in the blink of a ball it com­pletely changes on you,” he said. “I just hope in my life­time that I never have to see any­thing like that again, and we can re­mem­ber Phil Hughes for what he was, which was a great bloke and an even bet­ter player.”

The sched­ule for Aus­tralia’s 2014-15 home se­ries against In­dia was re­drafted in the wake of Hughes’ death, with the emo­tional open­ing test played at Ade­laide Oval, the same venue where the Aus­tralia vs. New Zealand test will start on the first an­niver­sary of the bats­man’s pass­ing. In that match last year, Aus­tralia play­ers wore No. 408 - Hughes’ test cap num­ber with black arm­bands on their shirts. Hughes was 63 not out late on Nov. 25, 2014 when fa­tally in­jured at the SCG. The Ade­laide Oval crowd of­fered 63 sec­onds of ap­plause in his honor be­fore the start of play in the next test match, and a large num­ber 408 was painted on the field in trib­ute.

Phillip Hughes

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