Phillip Hughes: A tragedy that has shaken a sport

This week, cricket has been affected by a tragedy that is incredibly hard to come to terms with. The sport has lost a player, who had an entire career ahead of him, whilst he was doing his job – doing the thing that he loved.

Phillip Hughes’ tragic death on Thursday, following a freak injury he sustained whilst playing for South Australia in the Sheffield Shield on Tuesday, has sent shockwaves around the world and has united an entire sport in grief as they struggle to come to terms with losing a fantastic talent at the age of just 25.

A player with his heart on his sleeve

Hughes was a modest character; a young lad from the bush who made it onto the world stage and lived every single moment that he spent on the field. He lived the baggy green dream, a dream that is carried by a lot of young Australians.

As humble as he was, his style of play was aggressive. As a batsman, he went for every ball that was bowled to him and chased the shot. It was an aggressiveness that saw him, aged 20, achieved two centuries in a single test match in Durban against South Africa; making him the youngest player to do so but this was all taken in his stride because he was doing what he loved.

And that’s exactly what he was doing on Tuesday. He was chasing a short ball that was bowled by Sean Abbott that hit him on the neck; a short ball that lead to his death. But Abbott is not to blame because, like Hughes, he was doing his job. It is his job bowl cricket balls that intimdate his opponent to make them react and that is all he did, his job. 

While most of our thoughts will be centred on Phillip Hughes’ family, friends and team mates, we need to think of Abbott who will be going through his worst nightmare and will need a lot of support to come back from this.

It’s going to take a lot of time, but cricket will need to move on from what has happened; the entire incident was an anomaly of the modern game. It is not often deemed to be a high-risk sport, things like this don’t happen very often and there are now questions over the integrity of the short ball and trying to intimidate batsman. But that’s the bowlers job, asking them to change would be like asking a policeman to walk around without his baton – it shouldn’t happen. This was a freak accident, an awful freak and thankfully rare accident. 

United in grief

Following the news that their team mate was in a bad way, lead by Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke, he and his men rallied together at the hospital and made vigil at Philip Hughes’ bedside, praying that he would come through this and return to play cricket. 

But this was not the case and now they’re facing the toughest test of their careers. Their main priority is to support each other through their darkest days and remember their friend for the player and person that he was. The Australian team were due to start a test match on Thursday but this has been postponed, they need time to grieve.

Clarke has proven himself to be a terrific leader during these difficult days, his constant presence in support of the Hughes family and his team has been overwhelming; so overwhelming that he has broken down whilst reading out statements on behalf of both which has reminded us all that this is a very human tragedy.

Cricket Australia released a beautiful and moving tribute to their player on the evening following his death. Five minutes of footage that celebrated the young life that has been take away from them far too soon. It includes images of his rural childhood, clips of his debut century against South Africa and footage of him talking about what he loved most in life; which were his sport, his home on the farm and his family.

Thousands, including many who aren’t cricket fans, are also paying tribute to the much loved player through a Twitter phenomenon named #putoutyourbats where players and the public alike are posting an image of their bats standing alone with a cap resting on the top. Its simplicity makes is all the more beautiful and poignant. 

These tributes show the world exactly what it has lost, a cheeky chap with an infectious smile whose full potential we will sadly never know.