It is the time to grieve for Hughes

This game which has been commended throughout its existence for its fairness and its decency is under the greatest pressure in 250 years, writes Ted Corbett

November 29, 2014 12:29 am | Updated November 17, 2021 11:06 am IST

Cricket stands at a crossroads today as its extended village mourns Phillip Hughes, the Australian batsman who, despite all the care from a major hospital close to the ground where he was hit, has died.

It is a time for grieving, for remembering the promise of a 25-year-old who was barely beyond the start of his Test career, and for wishing he had worn a better helmet, had picked a different ball to hook and had that bit more luck.

More to the point it is time for action and for leadership.

ICC is in charge of the global game and it is not noted for making decisions at speed; now is the time for them to prove its worth.

Darker side

Cricket has an image almost of gentleness and it is certain renown for gentlemanly conduct but beneath that graceful picture there is a darker side. The leather ball is brutally hard, fast bowlers are growing taller and stronger and soon we may expect to see a 100 miles an hour ball on a regular basis.

So it is no wonder Hughes, a patient at a hospital where motorists in 90 mile an hour crashes are treated all too often, did not survive. His helmet was not adequate, the ball was slower than he expected and now the sight of him falling on to the pitch is one of the game’s enduring memories. Sadly.

In the next few days and weeks we will hear all too many references to a young life wasted, to the need for better equipment and to the hope, in that despairing phrase, that this will never happen again.

It will, believe me, it will; unless ICC steps into the breach now. In an era when health and safety is talked about so often it owes its players, the spectators and the ancient game itself, a declaration of intent at least.

Boxing has cleaned up its act by reducing the length of fights, insisting on regular medical checks and supervising fighters inside and outside the ring. Formula One motor racing has trodden a more dramatic route although accidents still happen.

I was in a room recently where there was a warning against opening the door in case someone was standing outside. Lifts have a disembodied voice which tells when the descent is to begin. An American grid iron player watched a Rugby match in England and commented on the courage of the players “not wearing a helmet.”

Without needing to ring any of my many friends in cricket, I can hear their reaction now. They will not want to change the game they have loved all their lives.

Part of that love is due to the danger of facing a hard leather ball travelling at 90 miles an hour; they will no more consider banning the bouncer or forcing batsmen to wear bigger and better helmets than they would leave their children outside all night.

Call them conservative, or reactionary, or simply stupid but those who have played 15 years of international cricket and come through unscathed cannot understand the fuss.

Bouncers, being hit, dangerous deliveries . . . these are all part of cricket as they were before today’s perfect pitches reduced the danger. (At one time it was the second most lethal game in the world, just behind ‘pelota’, the Spanish racquets game, played in a narrow hall in which the hard ball flies around at many miles an hour).


So we must turn to ICC for a solution. A meeting of the wisest men in the game, a report from someone of the stature of Mike Brearley, Mike Atherton, Mark Taylor or Clive Lloyd, maybe a consultation with MCC and the three greatest national bodies of England, Australia and India.

Cricketers are not stupid. They will see the need for action whatever the result of the incident that put Hughes in a coma that led to his death.

This game which has been commended throughout its existence for its fairness and its decency is under the greatest pressure in 250 years. The current rulers must not let it down.

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