“Cricket was Phillip’s life”

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Phillip_Hughes

Australian batsman Phillip Hughes has died aged just 25 after being struck by a bouncer from Sean Abbott on the base of the skull two days ago. Playing for South Australia against his former state New South Wales in a Sheffield Shield match in Sydney, Hughes was hit by a bouncer and having collapsed on the pitch face first, was taken to hospital soon afterwards where he never regained consciousness.

Hughes made his Test debut in February 2009 at the age of 20 against South Africa and would go on to represent Australia 26 times in the longest format of the game, making three centuries and a highest score of 160. His One Day International (ODI) debut came more recently in January of last year against Sri Lanka in Melbourne, scoring two centuries and a highest score of 138*. Hughes was no stranger to English County Cricket, having represented Hampshire, Middlesex and Worcestershire, nor was he unfamiliar with fans of the England side, having shared what was then a world record 10th-wicket partnership of 163 with debutant Ashton Agar in the 2013 Ashes series.  Hughes, who would have turned 26 on Sunday, had been tipped for a recall for the upcoming series against India, with captain Michael Clarke struggling with a hamstring injury.

A family statement, read out by the Australian skipper in a press conference on their behalf, stated “We’re devastated by the loss of our much-loved son and brother, Phillip. It’s been a very difficult few days.  We appreciate all the support we have received from family, friends, players, Cricket Australia and the general public”. “Cricket was Phillip’s life and we as a family shared that love of the game with him. We would like to thank all the medical and nursing staff at St Vincent’s Hospital and Cricket New South Wales medical staff for their great efforts with Phillip. We love you”. Tributes also poured in from Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Australia coach Darren Lehmann, the International Cricket Council (ICC) and all of the National Cricket Boards.

What really stands out from the family statement is the line “Cricket was Phillip’s life and we as a family shared that love of the game with him”. Phillip Hughes was playing the game he loved, a game that is very rarely life-threatening. His death demonstrates that there still could potentially be a player safety problem with regards to helmets. Former England captain and opening batsman Michael Atherton stated there may be “complacency” from batsmen in the modern game in terms of safety. “It’s an incredibly safe game, but I think this will shake batsmen slightly out of what might have been complacency” he said. “I wore the same helmet for 10 years. I never changed it. I didn’t give it much thought really. If there is that kind of complacency that I was guilty of, then I think people will be shaken out of that”.

However, BBC cricket analyst and Durham alumnus Simon Hughes believes “the safety element” in today’s game is “very good” despite Hughes’ death, saying that “the helmets are excellent; there’s lots of technology brought in to make sure helmets are very safe”. On the batsman’s passing, he described it as “freak, very very unlucky, terribly unfortunate, (and) devastating for the game of cricket and also for Phillip Hughes and his family”. Simon Hughes also made reference to the bowler Sean Abbott, who he believes will need “a lot of support” to deal with what has happened. “It’s a terrible feeling when you injure anyone in sport, even though you’re trying to intimidate them”. “I don’t know how he’s going to cope with it because it’s never happened before, certainly in professional cricket” the analyst stated. “He’s going to need a lot of counselling and it’s going to be very difficult for him to come back from this”.

The worrying yet remarkable factor that Hughes mentioned was how this was the first fatal incident of its kind in professional cricket, particularly as he stated “In the 1980s there were so many fast bowlers, there were so many bouncers bowled, there was no real legislation about bouncers in those days”.  “The protection wasn’t very good and lots of people were hit, no one really seriously, so in a way it’s incredible it hasn’t happened before”, he commented. With the fact that helmets are used today unlike 30 years ago and all the evidence suggesting that they are extremely safe, no word could be more suitable for this devastating situation than a “tragedy”.

Photograph: wikipedia

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