Hughes’ death should not have hap­pened

The Star Early Edition - - CRICKET -

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

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