Cricket’s tragic loss

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

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.


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