Sunday, 30 November 2014

63 Not Out

Sunday, 30 November 2014
I don't want to have to be writing a post like this, to be talking in the past tense about a gifted cricketer and a person, but I want to write something. I am a cricket fan and a human being and so, like so many others across the world, I was absolutely shocked and saddened to hear such devastating news about Phillip Hughes.

You think of sportsmen and women as being invincible. They are the ones with that extra talent and ability that takes them beyond the realm of us mere mortals and into this higher arena of professional, international sport. They have that privilege of being able to play the sports that so many of us love as their job, and we watch them with adoration. In many ways we aspire to be like them, especially as we grow up and watch our heroes on the television screen, and if we're lucky enough we can see them in the flesh. You don't think that it's going to be the same thing that we love, that they love, that could possibly take their life away. It's not supposed to be the thing that could kill you. But it does happen, very rarely.

When Phil Hughes burst onto the international scene in 2009 there was such a buzz. Only twenty years old, scoring twin centuries against South Africa and playing in such a manner - there was no fear, he just took the bowlers on and won. Over here in England we certainly sat up and took notice with an Ashes series coming up in the summer - so much of the buzz was about how to bowl to Australia's newest star. Of course, it didn't quite work out - his unorthodox technique that had brought him so many runs then being exploited to England's gain. He was in and out of the international side for the next few years but continued to put his name in the history books - after already being the youngest player to score a century in both innings of a test match, he then became the first Australian to score a century on ODI debut, and was also part of that partnership with Ashton Agar in the first test of the 2013 Ashes. And even though he wasn't always in the team, he was always that player you saw as having time on his side, who would certainly be a major part of Australia's future.

That's part of what makes it so horrifying. His final score of 63 not out is so poignant - it represents both an innings and a life that had made a start, but that could become so much more. But more than that, it's a human life cut short. As just a fan of the game, it has shaken me, so god only knows what his family, friends, teammates and all players of the game must be going to. And I can't imagine what Sean Abbott, the bowler, must be going through right now. He was doing his job, bowling a bouncer as every pace bowler does; just like Hughes went to attack it as batsmen do. Of course he wouldn't imagine that such a thing could happen. It has been heartening the way the cricket world has gathered around him and given him the support he needs right now.

There have been so many touching tributes to Phillip Hughes over the past few days that it's impossible to list. Around the world, in countries you wouldn't typically associate with the sport as well as the test playing nations, people have been taking part in the #putoutyourbats tag on Twitter - a mark of respect that is simple but beautiful; international teams following the trend as matches have resumed, and similar tributes being seen in many other sports. Cricket Australia posted a moving video and have amended the scorecard of his final match: 63 not out, rather than retired hurt as it had originally stated. The whole world has gathered to pay their respects.

Right now my thoughts are with his family and friends, his teammates and all those who played with or against him, and with Sean Abbott too.

RIP Phillip Hughes

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