Cricketer Phil Hughes’ death: a young West Indian reflects

| December 9, 2014

Cricket commentary. Phil Hughes’ tragic passing has truly shocked the cricket world. First of all, thoughts and prayers to Hughes’ family and friends. I hope that Sean Abbot is receiving the support to help him come out of this a stronger person and player. In the words of Simon Barnes, Hughes’ death was a loss, not a waste. The outpouring of love for Hughes is a testament to his character and the positive impact he had on those he met.

Even cricket fans that did not know Hughes have been moved and stilled by his death. So many of my friends have taken to Facebook and social media to pay their respects. The rugby match between Wales and South Africa started with a minute of silence for his passing.

This shows how deep the bond between sportsmen is. They grow up together, train together and ultimately share the same crazy passion for the same sport. Seeing Michael Clarke and the Australian team stand by Phil Hughes, his family and each other was heartbreaking. The overseas’ response was equally affecting. New Zealand and Pakistan’s response felt particularly respectful and fitting.

How do we deal with a game that can now provably be viewed as fatal? I do not have the answers. The bouncer has and should remain a part of the game. On a purely practical level, I do believe that batsmen should learn to play the short ball better. I do think that the bouncer that hit Hughes was a freak incident and was not down to bad technique. However in the 21st century, there has been a worrying trend of Batsmen seemingly happy to let the ball hit their helmets. That is dangerous and batsmen should be better equipped with ducks, sways and hooking when the ball is outside the line of their head.

The late Phil Hughes avoids a bouncer. Photo courtesy www.odt.co.nz

The late Phil Hughes avoids a bouncer. Photo courtesy www.odt.co.nz

I do not want to make this article about lessons we can learn from Hughes’ death. It is a human, not a cricketing tragedy and I do not want to be so callous as to make his death a statistic or a jumping off point.

However, I do think that Hughes’ death has (in part) elicited such a response because it has happened at a time of great uncertainty for cricket. In England, amateur participation is declining. The 2013 Ashes, the South Africa-Australia, the England-Sri Lanka and India series saw some terrible sledging and shameless posturing. The IPL is never far away from corruption charges and controversy; Chennai Super Kings are being scrutinized for conflict of interest and corruption. The West Indies Cricket Board has to pay up for a cancelled tour of India. The cricket world is stratified between The Big Three and the rest, all while associate nations seem to be phased out. How many times have we heard of the death of Test Cricket? It’s as if the cricket world is in complete shambles.

Hughes’ tragic death has come on the back of all of the confused and tired emotions associated with the above events and to my mind, has put these squabbles in perspective.

I am not a psychologist. I do not know how to cope with loss or even what the stages of grief are. But what I do know and can see very clearly is that  this tragedy has been instrumental in pulling the cricket world together to pay respects to a player who was a ‘fighter’, ‘fun loving; the kind of guy who learnt Hindi so he could better communicate with those he played with in the IPL. And he was a pretty darn good cricketer too.

This entire period has revealed just how strong the bonds between cricket players, administrators and even fans truly are. We who did not know Hughes personally are united in the wake of this tragic event due to our love of cricket. I can only hope that all cricket lovers the world over can now move forward in the same spirit of unity and mutual support.

by Zikomo Smith

Zikomo is a 19 year old British student of West Indian parentage at McGill University in Montreal.  He is a sports writer and staff writer at the McGill Tribune Newspaper.

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