Cricketing Tragedy In Sydney

His final shot typified his approach to the game – aggressive, positive and defiant. Alistair Nicholson, Australian Cricketers Association CE

The passing of a first class cricketer

By Roger Childs

P Hughes 25

Phillip Hughes was used to short pitched deliveries and often despatched them to the boundary. Tragically last Tuesday, playing for South Australia against New South Wales, he made a rare miscalculation and swung too early at a bouncer from paceman, Sean Abbott. The ball hit him on the neck below his helmet and the blow proved fatal. He died two days later. It is a very sad time for the sports world: a quality player cut down in his prime. Questions will now be asked about whether such deliveries should be banned and whether batsmen need to have better protection around the head.

An outstanding talent

P Hughes bananasHughes was brought up in a rural area in northern New South Wales where his parents had a banana plantation. As a teenager he was both a promising cricketer and rugby league player. At the age of only18 he was picked to play cricket for New South Wales and had an outstanding debut season scoring 558 runs at the excellent average of 62.11. Then in 2009 he gained international honours and played his first test in Johannesburg against South Africa.

In all, the 25 year old opening batsman had played 26 tests and 25 One Day Internationals for Australia and as well as South Australia, he represented Hampshire, Middlesex and Worcestershire in English County cricket. A distinguished career stretched ahead of him and some spoke of him as a future Australian captain.

Tributes from around the world

Phil HughesThe tragedy has brought hundreds of tributes and messages of sympathy from around the world. Amongst the many:

Phillip Hughes was a young man living out his dreams. For a young life to be cut short playing our national game seems a shocking aberration. He was loved, admired and respected by his team-mates and by legions of cricket fans. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott

He was a very, very close friend of mine. He was a cheeky, funny, positive guy. Looking back, I feel like he’s made the most of his 25 years and it breaks my heart to think of a guy who I certainly thought would go down in the record books as one of the better run-scorers in Australian cricket. England batsman Nick Compton

He was an extremely popular and hugely respected cricketer in England and Wales not only as a successful tourist with various Australian teams but also as a wonderfully talented county player with Hampshire, Middlesex and Worcestershire. Giles Clarke

Just far too young. He was only doing the job he loved and was brilliant at it. Former England captain Michael Vaughan

Sharing the same dressing room as him, he was a man you would always remember. He always had a cheeky smile on his face, always wanted to be the best and wore that baggy green with such pride. We have lost one of the bright hopes who would have been a big success in the game. Former England bowler Dominic Cork, who played alongside Hughes at Hampshire

He was very humble, good fun and nobody had a bad word to say about him. He spent a lot of time working with the younger players, passing on his knowledge which was great for us. Worcestershire director of cricket, Steve Rhodes, who coached Hughes during his season with the county side.

RIP my little man. You will always be with me when I walk out onto the field. Not just a mate but a loved one to us all big man. Forever in my heart, brother for life. Miss you buddy. Australia batsman David Warner

Awful, awful news. What a devastating end to an incredibly talented athlete. My love goes out to everyone who cared and loved for you Phils. Australian Olympic swimmer Stephanie Rice

Sport can be dangerous

Young men of 25 die every day – in crashed cars, on battlefields, in cancer wards. When it happens in a sporting arena it is no more tragic, but its impact is both more universally felt and somehow far more shocking. Phil Fordyce, BBC Sport

All sports and recreational activities have their dangers, and participants are aware of them whether they ride motorbikes, climb mountains, hurtle down mountain roads at over 90 kph on a bike, or face cricket balls whistling through at great speed.

ChatsSadly there have been hundreds of sporting deaths over the years with most being in activities where the risks are high like, motor racing, motorcycle events, mountaineering and skiing. And when sporting heroes die doing the things they love, the world takes it hard.

Cricket is not one of the high risk sports, even though a cricket ball is hard and can be delivered at over 150 kph. Back in 1975, at a time before helmets gave batsmen head protection, New Zealander Ewen Chatfield was hit on the temple by a bouncer from English fast bowler Peter Lever. Chatfield collapsed on the pitch and his heart stopped beating for a short time. Fortunately he made a full recovery and continued to play test cricket.

What will come out of this tragedy?

In recent decades, helmets have reduced the dangers from fast, short pitched deliveries but as the Phil Hughes tragedy demonstrates, the risks are still there. Hughes, as an opening batsman, faced fast bowlers virtually every time he went to the crease and was careful not to play his full range of shots until he had “got his eye in”.

However even the best can make mistakes. Hughes was on 63 when he tried to hook a high pitched ball from Sean Abbott. The hook shot requires the batsman to hit across line and exposes the side of the head and neck. To execute it efficiently, split second timing and precise judgment are needed. Tragically, Phillip Hughes got it wrong.

As the world mourns the loss of a highly promising cricketer and feels for the bowler who delivered the fatal delivery, there will be reflections on whether there are lessons to be learnt.

No cricketer or fan will want short pitched deliveries banned, as these are part of the armoury of fast bowlers. There are already limits on how many can be bowled in an over. However, players will look at ensuring they wear appropriate helmets and those that provide greater protection for the neck and jaw may become more popular.

In the meantime, Phillip Hughes will be remembered for the pleasure he gave the fans and the friendship he extended to those with whom he came in contact.

South Australia team-mate, Kane Richardson, summed up the regard in which the man was held:

P HughesIt was an honour to play alongside you at club, state and international level. You were an absolute genius on the field and a loveable lad off it.

To know that we will never share a changing room again hurts, but I am privileged to know that we did. Every time I pull on one of those caps above I will think of you.

I don’t know how we will go one without you, but we will have to find a way, which is what you always did. Even in your last innings they still couldn’t touch you. 63*