Dark cloud hangs over cricket world after Hughes’s death

2014-11-28 00:00

THERE is more than a dark cloud hanging over the cricket world after the passing of Australian batsman Phillip Hughes (25), who died ­yesterday.

That cloud has encompassed the whole sporting world, highlighting that no matter how gentlemanly some sports may appear on the surface, there is always an element of ­danger, a sleeping phantom that raises its ­unwelcome head to let us take stock and realise that in the end, we are just mere mortals.

Hughes was struck on the side of the head on Tuesday in a Sheffield Shield game, batting for South Australia against New South Wales. A bouncer from rising quick bowler Sean ­Abbott did the damage and the obvious shock reverberating around the world is the fact that Hughes died.

A cricket ball is a nasty piece of work if closely analysed. It’s hard, has some weight and can cause damage — it can kill too — and Hughes is not the first cricketer to lose his life on the field, playing the game he loved.

For us critics and spectators, it’s easy to recline on the couch with drink in hand passing comments and ridiculing sportsmen and women, shouting at a television screen telling them how they should play their game.

The thing is, Hughes was an experienced cricketer, despite his age. He had burst onto the scene at 18 and already had 26 Test matches under his belt, with the possibility of more to come.

He knew the dangers of the game, he knew the bouncer was a fast bowler’s prime weapon — he had been through it all before. It’s like most of us driving every day. We know the dangers on the road, we face them every day, yet we go out there, going through the motions of driving, hoping all goes well and we can return home in one piece.

Anything can happen at any time and so it was with Hughes. Cricketers can play the game for years without any mishap, while others get cut down cruelly, leaving us stunned and looking for reasons and answers to an infinite number of questions.

Hughes had a helmet and he had the necessary protection. The ball happened to strike him in an exposed area that, a few millimetres either side, would have seen him still alive today.

There’s talk of helmets being redesigned and more features being brought in. It’s something, like safety in Formula One, that will always have room for improvement and the cricket helmet has come a long way since its early days.

Rewind back to the days of Graham Gooch, and our own Dave Richardson who wore helmets that basically covered the ears and had no face guard or grille. The element of danger was always there, yet fortune smiled upon them and they pulled through. West Indian great Viv Richards never wore a helmet — such is the fickleness of life.

Cricket must and will go on. Abbott no doubt must be more than gutted, but he cannot be blamed and Hughes would have been the first to acknowledge that.

While the cricket world mourns the cutting down of a tough, promising talent and a decent, down-to-earth bloke, we must allow time to remember and look at Hughes’s achievements, brief as his time at the crease was.

They will forever be etched into the annals of cricket statistics and closer to home, we can appreciate him in what was perhaps his finest hour on a cricket field.

If you happen to find yourself in the main grandstand at Kingsmead, pause to look at the Test match batting honours achieved at the ground.

Take your eye down to March 2009 and there, etched in perpetuity is Phillip Hughes, SA against Australia, 115 and 160, a century in each innings in only his second Test, aged 20. He is one of a rare breed who has achieved that feat.

RIP Phil Hughes, Baggy Green number 408 and may the runs continue to flow in heaven.

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