Hughes’ death should not have happened
RARELY has cricket faced a tragedy quite like this. Rarely can such a freak accident have devastated a whole sport and its followers worldwide. No-one should die playing a game of cricket. The passing of Phillip Hughes is utterly devastating.
The dangers of facing a hard ball propelled at anything up to 90 miles per hour are obvious, of course they are. We have all seen batsmen hit, most recently at Old Trafford last summer when Stuart Broad took that nasty blow on the face from Varun Aaron that broke his nose.
Yet nobody can ever expect this. Not the sight of a talented, highly popular international batsman receiving a blow from which he never recovered in the middle of an innings that was set to propel him back to the Australian Test team.
It is nobody’s fault. Certainly not poor young bowler Sean Abbott who, at 22, had made his Australian Twenty20 debut alongside Hughes in Dubai against Pakistan just a few short weeks ago.
The bouncer he delivered to Hughes was a routine delivery, a ball that 99 times out of 100 would either have been despatched to the boundary or avoided with ease by a player of the Australian’s ability.
The tragedy is that on the 100th occasion Hughes was through with his shot too quickly and the ball hit him on an unprotected area at the back of his head.
Nor can any blame be attached to the manufacturer of the helmet Hughes was wearing when he played his final innings in the fabled surroundings of the Sydney Cricket Ground, where so many legends of the game have performed.
Helmets will be improved, more protection will be given to the back of the head, but there is only so much safety equipment can do to lessen the risk of something as inconceivable as this happening.
And cricket should not blame itself. There will be considerable soul searching, questions as to what changes can be made to make the game safer. Is the ball too hard? Is there enough medical assistance provided at any cricket ground?
Improvements can and will undoubtedly be made but the fact is, as Nasser Hussain said here after the incident, it is 99.9 per cent certain nothing like this will ever happen again to any cricketer.
This was a freak, an extremely rare occurrence according to the doctors of the St Vincent’s Hospital where Hughes spent his last hours after being hit in a Sheffield Shield match on Tuesday plying his trade for his adopted state South Australia against his old one in New South Wales.
It will take a long time for world cricket to recover from this. The game will go on, of course it will, but for the moment it is hard to see how Australia can play India in the first Test in Brisbane next week. Not when Hughes was expected to replace the injured Michael Clarke and make his Test comeback. The Indians have cancelled their two-day tour match against a Cricket Australia XI.
There will be an enormous shadow over next year’s World Cup in Australia too and an Ashes series next summer that Hughes would have been expected to play in. He had appeared in three of the greatest series of them all and seemed to have his best cricket ahead of him as he approached his 26th birthday.
Phillip Hughes was unquestionably a talent. A country boy from the part of Australia where New South Wales meets Queensland, his unorthodox technique was honed in the backyard of the family home where any legside shots would have flown into the kitchen and incurred the wrath of his mother.
So everything went through the offside and he initially took that somewhat rustic game into the Test arena. But it worked.
What an impact he made too when he famously made 115 and 160 in only his second Test against South Africa in Johannesburg. A star was born and Australian cricket could look forward to enjoying a rare and exciting talent.
There were ups and downs after that, there had to be with the way he played. He arrived in England for the 2009 Ashes via a spell at Middlesex in a blaze of publicity but had his troubles against the short ball and had to work on his technique if he was to stay at the highest level of the game.
He did so and was continuing to do so right up until the last.
Hughes went on to play 26 Tests, earning a reputation as a fighter to overcome the ups and downs of the game and would have played his 27th at the Gabba next week, probably after making a century in the innings that was devastatingly cut short when he moved on to an unbeaten 63 for South Australia at the SCG.
Something like this is just not meant to happen. – Daily Mail