Shailesh Kapoor: The Phil Hughes Tragedy: A Deathblow To Cricket

28 Nov,2014

By Shailesh Kapoor


Twenty-five-year-old Aussie batsman Phil Hughes passed away last morning, after battling for life for two days, since being hit by a bouncer in a first class game at Sydney. There was high chance that Hughes, who would have celebrated his 26th birthday this Sunday, would play in the first Test against India next week. Now, the Test itself is under question, as players come to terms with the loss.


Even as family, friends and the cricketing community grieves, fans have also been left shaken. I’ve invested more than 30 years in this sport, though the interest has admittedly reduced over the last few years. I have seen Mike Gatting being hit on the nose by a Malcolm Marshall snorter, Sanjay Manjrekar have a bloody debut, Sachin Tendulkar fighting it out at Sialkot after a nose blow, Kris Srikanth’s forehead blow against Wasim Akram, and many others.


In recent times, ace South African wicketkeeper Mark Boucher had a nasty eye injury on the field, forcing him to retire from cricket, and start a recovery process that’s still on after more than two years.


There are many other instances, including former Indian opener Raman Lamba losing his life after being hit by a shot fielding at forward short leg in a game at Dhaka. Lamba was not wearing a helmet. But with Hughes’ incident, even that little learning can’t be taken.


There are two ways for a fan to handle such an incident. You can either pass it off as a one-in-a-billion case, convincing yourself that you are unlikely to see any other tragedy of this scale in your lifetime again. Or you can watch each delivery in each future game with a sense of trepidation, hoping all goes well. The reality, at least for me, will lie somewhere between these two ends.


There’s so much media talk around cricket of late. Sachin Tendulkar released his wonderfully sterile autobiography recently, and the Supreme Court is going all guns blazing to clean up the IPL. But the Hughes incident dwarfs everything else, in terms of its potential long-term impact on the game. I shudder to think what could happen if this freak, one-in-a-billion incident repeated itself within the next few months with another International cricketer.


The media coverage around the incident has been reasonably mature, though I haven’t seen much in the Indian media that’s insightful analysis with an eye on the future. On social media, some new agencies and publications were under attack for posting pictures of the on-field incident. The pictures are not “gory”, and one could question if there was indeed a need to exercise censorship here, or is it by now a stereotypical response to pan the media for being “insensitive”, when a tragic incident happens. But that’s another debate, for another day.


Helmet-makers will find some answers. ICC will find a few other. But a promising International cricketer has died at the age of 25. For me, cricket may never be the same again.


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