I’m the first to admit that I’m not a huge cricket fanatic. When it comes to Aussie summer sport, I favour tennis. Having said that, I’m aware of who ‘big’ name cricket players are purely due to their celebrity status. I’d heard the name of Phillip Hughes in passing, but wasn’t aware of his achievements or even his age. He wasn’t a player that I was overly familiar with; just a name I’d heard on the radio and on sports reports on TV.
That all changed on November 25, 2014, when Phil was felled by a ‘bouncer’ bowled by Sean Abbott at the SCG. The cricket ball hit Phil on the side of his neck in a place that isn’t protected by the helmets batters wear. Watching the ball make contact, see Phil lurch face forward and pass out was sickening. It was only then through continuous media coverage I became aware that he was only 25 years old, but had achieved major feats during his (now cut short) career. He became the youngest cricketer in history to score centuries in both innings of a Test match. He proudly represented his country with enthusiasm and fervor.
Phil was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital in a critical condition. He never regained consciousness after the ball made contact. He suffered a massive brain bleed. Although emergency surgery took place, sadly Phil Hughes died, only a few days shy of his 26th birthday, two days after he was initially injured.
What has taken place during the time he was filmed being driven off the pitch, till the moment that his death was confirmed is classic Australian behaviour- we rallied together in our grief. I didn’t know this young man. I’d seen him play (on TV) but was unaware of what a stellar human being he was. I was surprised to find myself crying when Michael Clarke, our Australian Cricket Captain, gave a press conference where he was clearly overwhelmed by the death of not only a colleague, a team-mate, but as he put it- a brother. This seemed to be a common theme. An outpouring of grief for a man many of us had only heard of in passing. I can’t imagine how much harder it must be for those who are cricket devotees. They lost a young hero in the making.
Australians rallied together to show support to the Australian cricket family and to the Hughes family, with social media going into overdrive. People were encouraged to place their cricket bats outside their homes with the hash tag #putoutyourbat. Junior club cricket games went ahead over the weekend, but with black armbands, a minute’s silence and retiring at 63 runs. Phil was at 63 when he was struck- and will forever remain #63notout.
Our Prime Minister gave a televised speech expressing his sorrow at the loss of such a fine young man. Elton John dedicated ‘Don’t let the sun go down on me’ to Phil during a concert in Munich. Twitter filled fast and thick with tributes flowing from fellow cricketers, celebrities and athletes of all kinds.
Team sports including Rugby Union and Soccer have stopped and paid tribute to Phillip Hughes during their matches. Flags have flown at half-mast. This was a freak accident, only the second injury of it’s nature to be recorded, ever. Only (roughly) 100 cases (none involving a cricket ball) have been recorded worldwide. While we stop and mourn the loss of a young man who was a typical country kid who loved working with his dad on the family farm near Macksville, we must also give our support to Sean Abbott, the bowler whose 135km bouncer was responsible for Phil’s tragic death. There is no place for blame here. Not with cricket safety measures, not with the paramedics, not with Sean Abbott- this was an accident, pure and simple.
Vale, Phil Hughes. Gone too soon. Your loss has been felt keenly worldwide- this speaks to the nature of this remarkable young man- a friend, son, brother, larrikin and teammate who achieved his dream of representing his country in a sport he was deeply passionate about. #63notout
Did you find yourself moved by Phillip Hughes’ death?