Such tragedies are not unfathomable in cricket

2014-11-29 00:00

THE sporting world mourned again this week. This time the tragedy was further away from home, but the shock of what happened rocked every cricketing nation.

It has been labelled a freak accident, but it is actually quite alarming that there aren’t more serious head injuries in cricket. When one thinks of how much top-level cricket is played around the globe each season, and then about how many balls are bowled during that time and how quick the quicks actually are, then such tragedies are actually not unfathomable.

I wonder how many balls Phil Hughes faced in his professional career. Why that ball from Sean Abbott? Why did that have to be the one that would take a life too soon? Why did the ball miss the helmet? How can this not have happened in cricket before? Why didn’t Hughes just drop his hands and let the ball sail through to the wicketkeeper? And if these are questions that have occurred to me once or twice over the past few days, then can you imagine how many times they’ve been asked in the minds of Hughes’s family and friends?

Reading the Tweets that have emerged from the cricket fraternity, it is clear that there is a real concern for how all of this has affected Abbott. He has now killed a man. As brutal as that sounds, it is true. Much of the point of a bouncer in cricket is to unsettle a batsman — to strike fear in him so that he will be that much more on edge when he faces up to the next delivery.

Abbott can’t even say that he didn’t want to hit Hughes, because had that happened and Hughes was left slightly dazed, then that would be a good result for the bowler’s overall mission of unsettling the batsman. But what happened, as we all know, was the absolute worst-case scenario. Anybody with any kind of human emotion would have felt sick after seeing the video of Hughes falling face first onto the pitch.

How will Abbott ever find it within himself to bowl another bouncer?

How will this affect other fast bowlers around the world?

Will there be stricter rules when it comes to the short ball? If you think about it, cricket is actually pretty crazy like that. A ball at 145 km per hour aimed at another man’s head 22 yards away, and it is all perfectly legal. I’m not saying that they should change the rules — cricket needs that element of the unexpected — but maybe we shouldn’t be this shocked when something this disastrous does happen.

It sounds clichéd, but it is true that Hughes died doing the thing he loved most, and that will be some form of solace to his family.

Another shining light is that we will leave this with a greater appreciation for what batsmen are actually up against every time they stride to the middle. They are, quite literally, batting for their lives.

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