Cricket’s tragic loss
HE WORLD of cricket is in a state of shock following the death of Australian batsman Phil Hughes. Hughes was on 63 not out playing for South Australia against his former side New South Wales on the first day of a Sheffield Shield match. He was making a solid case to be recalled to the Australia side for the first Test of the winter against India next week.
He received several short balls from the fast bowler Sean Abbott, which he ducked or backed away from. Faced with another bouncer, he went for a hook and missed. The ball hit him behind the ear on the left side as he turned his head, evading the protection of the helmet. He stood motionless for a few seconds with his hands on his knees, then collapsed.
When Hughes hit the international scene,it was as if a new batting idol had landed. The excitement was palpable, for here was a farmer’s kid from the Outback, swashbuckling, raw and talented, the embodiment of the Australian dream.
His reputation was formidable. Against the impressive might of Dale Steyn and Morné Morkel in Durban, he had scored centuries in each innings of his second Test.
From his 26 tests, he scored 1 535 runs at an average of 32.65, with three centuries. His maverick batting was matched by his country-lad’s diffidence. It was tragically ironic that his life should be so catastrophically cut short by a bouncer at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Perhaps the evidence is anecdotal, but more players are struck on the head in modern big cricket than in the days before helmets. There is probably more short-pitched bowling but the helmet, while not lending invincibility, offers a confidence that an attacking shot may be possible without too much to fear.
There will be some hand-wringing about the safety of helmets, and their manufacture is a constantly evolving process.
Hughes’s death is a sobering reminder of the risks that cricketers face each time they go out to bat. His death is not a loss only for Australia, but for the whole world that follows and adores cricket.