Cricket World Revisit: The fatal blow to Philip Hughes that lives on in minds of cricketers and fans
Hughes, who played 26 Tests for Australia, passed on just three days short of his 26th birthday after a bouncer from pacer Sean Abbott slammed into the back of his neck.
25th of November, 2014 feels like any other day. New South Wales are playing South Australia in the 12th Match of the Sheffield Shield 2014-15 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
This is a big game for Phil Hughes. He had made a sparkling entry to international cricket. As a 20-year old, Hughes made his international Test debut against South Africa in February 2009 in Johannesburg, and made a strong statement in the second innings by scoring 75. In the second Test, the opener showed immense temperament and maturity to unleash twin tons (115, 160), becoming the youngest player (20 years 96 days) to hit two tons in both innings of a Test.
Four years later, he announced his arrival in ODIs, smashing 112 runs against Sri Lanka at Melbourne in January 2013. A lean tour of India and loss of form saw him being dropped from the team. But, almost everybody involved in the sport knew that it was only a matter of time before the youngster bounced back.
In fact, Hughes was on the verge of an international comeback and was the frontrunner to replace the then-injured Michael Clarke for the upcoming Test series against India.
Back to the Sheffield Shield match, Tom Cooper and Philip Hughes were at the crease. At 2:23 pm, fast bowler Sean Abott bowled a bouncer that Hughes pulled too soon, missed it, and the ball slammed into the back of Hughes' neck.
And he instantly collapsed to the ground, motionless.
Immediate healthcare was provided with the southpaw rushed to the hospital. The batsman slid into coma and succumbed to his injuries a couple of days later.
Hughes, who played 26 Tests for Australia, passed on just three days short of his 26th birthday. His death stunned the international cricket community, causing an outpouring of grief from players, officials and from the general public as tens of thousands of fans in Australia and around the world showed solidarity in mourning by putting their cricket bats on display to pay tribute to the departed soul.
"There are a lot of emotions in the back of a lot of our minds, but at the end of the day we're coming out here to play a game that we love, and it's about crossing that line and putting our cricket caps on and thinking about the job ahead,'' recalls opener David Warner, who was a close friend and held Hughes' hand as the fallen batsman was lifted from the field in November, 2014.
"We always know that our mate is looking down on us and we'll always do our best for him when we walk out in the field, as we have done. We've said from the first Test [played after his demise] that he's with us every day.''
The schedule for Australia's 2014-15 home series against India was redrafted in the wake of Hughes' death, with the emotional opening Test played at Adelaide Oval. The unfortunate incident led to an upgradation in helmets, with the concussion substitute rule also becoming a reality in due course.
Some might say that cricket has recovered from that blow, but one disagrees. Still, when a batter is hit, or at the slightest hint of a player showing any discomfort, the Phil Hughes reference is back. Self admittedly, some bowlers like Mitchell Johnson had to rethink about the bouncer ploy which, in turn, also brought about a few retirements.
The bouncer though, as it should, pretty much remains an integral part of the game.
The clock might not have stopped at 2:23 pm that day, but Phillip Joel Hughes will remain unbeaten on 63 forever.
©Cricket World 2020