I didn’t know much about Phil Hughes except for the fact that was touted to replace the injured Michael Clark for the first test in Brisbane staring on December 4th. In 3 days, he would have celebrated his 26th birthday. Instead of the sounds of hooting, cheering and shouts of happy birthday, we will hear funeral hymns. Instead of hearing the crowd roar as the first ball is about to bowled on December 4th at Brisbane, we will stand up for a minute of silence.
Phil Hughes died what he loved doing the most – facing a cricket ball. The first Australian batsman to score a century on debut and the youngest cricketer to score centuries in both innings of a test match, Hughes was attempting to make a comeback. There he stood, padded up, gloved and wearing a helmet, waiting to do battle with a leather ball. Can there be any other safe heaven from death than on a cricket field? No speeding cars on asphalt. No players charging headlong at you. And then the ball had to miss the everything and strike him below the helmet. That’s the distance between life and death – a few millimeters.
And what of Sean Abbot, all of 22? Will he ever pick up a ball and bowl again? It’s not his fault but events like these have a way of etching themselves in the subconscious.
So what is the tragedy of it all, the death of promise or the fact that it occurred on the playing field? The difference between the death of an elderly person and that of a young person is the fulfillment of promise. When someone young dies, everything is seen through the prism of ‘what could have been.’ Would Phil Hughes have had a successful series were he chosen and gone on to become a legend? What kind of father would he have been? When someone older dies, they have more or less fulfilled their promise or died with their music still in them. There isn’t much place to fit in the ‘what could have been.’
The Border-Gavaskar trophy will now take place under the shadow of Phil Hughes. In his final innings, he was 63 not out – another unlikely metaphor for the death of promise. His tragic and untimely death have shown us that sport isn’t a matter of life and death as we so often make it out to be.
But in the game of life, Phil Hughes was dealt the cruelest hand of all.
PS – This piece was written just after the news of Phil Hughes passing. Since then, Cricket Australia has announced that the first test match which was scheduled to begin on Decmber 4th will be postponed.