1988 – 2014
It’s November 30th and Phillip Hughes should’ve been surrounded by family and friends celebrating his 26th birthday, a 27th first-class ton should’ve been under his belt, and a likely return to the baggy green just a few days away.
Phillip Hughes didn’t have an orthodox style about his batting, it didn’t matter. He made runs, lots of runs.
Despite averaging 40+ in all three forms of the game, and having just ticked past 9000 career first-class runs, his best cricket was most definitely still ahead of him.
Hughes was a first-class batsman of the highest order, and an under-rated talent in the limited overs arena.
Four months ago he became the first Australian to notch a List A limited-overs double century, whacking a 6 of the last ball of the innings to lift him to 202*, and taking him past the previous record of his good mate David Warner.
He had also brought up his maiden test century in a similar fashion as a 20-year-old back in 2009.
“This young man’s lived up to the hype! He takes a couple of paces down the track and lofts him with the turn and deposits the ball on the grass embankment over deep midwicket, Hughes take a bow! All the Australians are up on their feet.
There’ll be major celebrations in Macksville, New South Wales”
– Cricinfo commentary
This achieved against a South African attack that included Steyn, Ntini and Morkel.
He followed his maiden effort with 160 in the second inning of that match, twin tons in just his second test, the youngest ever to do so.
“He’s done it! Morkel gifts him with a short delivery outside off, he gets the elbows high and upper cuts it over the slips, he’s now the youngest to score a century in both innings of a Test, surpassing George Headley”
– Cricinfo commentary
Just a couple of weeks after his one-day double he hit another career best, again playing for Australia A, again against the touring South African A side, when he put together 243*. This was his 26th, and final, first-class century.
He was still only 25, and seemingly had a world of time to add to his tally of 26 Tests and 25 ODIs. But everything changed in a split second last Tuesday afternoon.
Having brought up his 50 – his 72nd 50+ score in 114 first-class matches – and looking to be on the way to century number 27, Hughes received a ball no different to that which he would have previously faced hundreds of times across his career, he was 63 not out at the time.
However he was already through his shot when it arrived, and the ball struck him. Initially dazed, Hughes collapsed as his mates frantically called for assistance.
So many times, at all levels, have we seen batsmen get stuck by the ball. Most would shake it off, a few would retire hurt, but this time it was different.
Phillip never regained consciousness, and surrounded by family and friends he passed away on Thursday afternoon.
63 not out. Forever.
So unspeakably sad for such a freak accident to take a freak talent away from his family and friends at such a young age.
There is no way to begin to understand how his family and closest friends are feeling.
And it truly was a freak accident, one in a billion, apparently just 100 reported cases of the same injury in recorded history.
The bowler, Sean Abbott, a former NSW and Australian team-mate, meant no harm and was among the first to Hughes’ aid when he fell. No one holds him responsible, and I genuinely hope that he knows that. I hope that he is being given all the support and care that he needs.
The same applies to the rest of the New South Wales and South Australian squads, almost all of whom had been his team mate at some point.
The initial response efforts of Dr John Orchard, and the other medical staff at the ground must be applauded, along with the efforts of the paramedics and doctors who treated him at St Vincents. Their quick action gave Hughesy a fighting chance in a battle he would sadly not emerge victorious from.
The dedication and courage shown by Michael Clarke over the past week has been superb. He barely left St Vincent’s Hospital, staying to support the family of his little mate.
No one should ever call into question his leadership again.
Thursday afternoon Clarke read a prepared statement on behalf of Phillip’s family, how he got through that I’m not sure.
The statement he read on behalf of his Australian teammates yesterday morning, and the immense difficulty he had getting through it, showed just how deeply the loss has affected them.
If it wasn’t already clear before Clarke’s 10am statement, it surely was afterwards. There is no way they could have been expected to play this coming Thursday.
It’s been reported there were unto 70 players, past and present, at the hospital over those couple of days. The immense popularity of Phillip Hughes the person is something that I don’t think many of us were truly aware of.
It is still hard to comprehend how and why Hughes’ passing has impacted the global cricket, and sporting, community so profoundly.
No one deserves to die playing cricket, nor any other sport or occupation of any description. No one deserves to have their life cut short at the age of 25 for any reason. An accident is likely the worst way to lose someone, the complete lack of warning, the immediacy of it all.
The #PutOutYourBats social media tributes have been amazing, at this point there have been well over 32,000 images shared on Instagram alone, and probably at least that many again on Twitter and Facebook.
Those that didn’t have a cricket bat instead put out hockey sticks, tennis rackets, hurling sticks and soccer balls. Anything to pay their respects.
Celebrations were muted in the ongoing New Zealand v Pakistan test match, while the Kiwi players also wore “PH” on their chests. A-League matches have been pausing for 63 seconds of applause at the 63rd minute mark. Golfers are wearing black ribbons on their caps.
Junior cricketers are retiring at 63* instead of the usual 50*. With reports this morning that one kid even walked off after reaching 37* yesterday, remarking that he’d finished off Hughesy’s 100 for him.
One grade side held a minutes silence at the 63rd over, and wrapped up the days play at 4:08.
So many tributes in so many ways, to a guy who most of us never met, nor knew, personally.
He had simply fulfilled a dream that many of us had as kids, playing a game that he loved at the highest level, wearing the baggy green. Number 408.
Cricket will go on, it must, Phillip Hughes loved the game and you suspect he wouldn’t want it any other way.
But it will be a while before it’s the same.
The first test at the Gabba has been delayed, and with the small gap between the first and second test leaving little wriggle room in the schedule it’s increasingly likely that the second test at the Adelaide Oval might become the first.
With Adelaide being Phillip’s adopted home, that would seem fitting.
Phillip Hughes. #408
Forever not out.