The news has been dominated by the sad loss of Phillip Hughes, a 25 year old cricketer who died after being struck on the neck by ball during a match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
His death has been very public, as has his funeral.
Tragedy brings out the humanity in people and it’s been an incredibly moving sight to see the bats laid out in remembrance of the young man who loved his cricket.
As a former ‘cricket widow’, I understand the love of the sport. I have a place in my heart for the game which dominated my life for twenty years. On a beautiful summers day, with a book on the go (for the boring bits) and a glass of wine (or three) what’s not to love about it?
I was uncomfortable with the intrusiveness of the tabloids – his poor mother’s grief there for all to see. No mother should have to bury her child. That’s not the way it’s meant to be. But the media also showed us the compassion of cricket fans the world over. In this grief there is love and unity.
Australia’s captain. Michael Clarke, gave an emotional tribute to his friend.
This truly must be what they call ‘the spirit of cricket’.
Michael Clarke may have his critics but I like him. He played for my (now) local team in 2002 in the Lancashire League. As a captain his role has been tested both during and the days after the accident. He has won the admiration of his country. He’s certainly won mine.
No captain envisages a day where they will be called upon to deliver a message from a heartbroken family nor a message on behalf of a stunned team.
On what must have been one of the hardest days of his life, Clarke delivered an emotional speech in memory of the man he considered to be his “little brother”.
So what now for cricket?
Protective helmet sales in Australia have increased by 70% since the accident and that’s a good thing.
ECB guidelines are that under 18’s must, without exception, wear a protective helmet. It’s standard practice throughout England and Wales. There are no such rules in adult club cricket. I’ve known many cricketers who’ve refused to wear helmets for various reasons such as comfort, ability to see the ball, cost or the, “I’m ‘ard” – approach.
For the mothers and significant others who spend their weekends watching their loved ones play cricket – it can be nerve racking. The ‘near misses’ are enough to have one reaching for door to the bar and I’ve certainly done the “Wear your helmet, you silly git” nag on a few occasions.
Should we change the way the game is played?
I don’t think so.
My heart goes out to Sean Abbott, who bowled the unfortunate ball. He bowled a bouncer – a tactical ball that is used to intimidate the batsman.
Intimidating bowling is considered to be part of the game and has been since the 1932-33 Ashes tour of Australia when the England team devised a tactic to combat the awesome batting machine known as Don Bradman. It became known as the Bodyline Series and it changed the game.
According to the ECB, fast bowlers regularly win international matches. It’s natural in the aftermath of such an accident to want to take steps to make sure it never happens again but in this case, I don’t see that anything can be done that wouldn’t take the game a step backwards.
Only 100 cases of this type of injury have ever been reported and only one was due to a cricket ball.
The wearing of helmets has only become commonplace within the last 30 years and that in itself has changed the game because batsmen are less fearful of the ball. Some would argue that, although it’s safer to wear a helmet than not, it does create it’s own problems.
Helmets have unfortunately taken away a lot of that fear and have given every batsman a false sense of security. ~ Geoff Boycott
Having seen the state of helmets that have taken the full impact of a ball, it’s clear that while they can’t prevent injuries, they do an important job in absorbing the impact.
Hughes was wearing a helmet but it was a 2013 design. The new one offers more protection but experts say that there is currently no helmet which would have been guaranteed to save him. Realistically, if a sport involves contact with a hard ball, it has to be accepted that there will be freak accidents. It’s tragic but I don’t think for one minute that he would want the game to be changed.
I can’t imagine what’s going through Sean Abbott’s mind but I’m sure that his team mate would want him to carry on playing their beloved game to the best of his ability. A big ask, but I hope he receives all the love and support he needs in order for that to happen.
The Australian team will grieve but when it’s right they must pick themselves up and play on. Grief affects people differently. I’ve known players go to pieces after the death of a loved one. I’ve known others go out to bat and score a century. The difference here is that the death was that of a cricketer and it took place on the pitch.
Phillip was a talented young cricketer with a bright future ahead of him. Sadly it wasn’t to be. He will forever be 63 not out.
Phillip’s spirit, which is now part of our game forever, will act as a custodian of the sport we all love.
We must listen to it. We must cherish it. We must learn from it. We must dig in and get through to tea. And we must play on.
So rest in peace my little brother. I’ll see you out in the middle. ~ Michael Clarke