Had Phil Hughes survived that blow to his head, he would have celebrated his 29th birthday on November 30. His sudden death had shocked the cricket world with tributes flowing in for the young cricketer. Nishad Pai Vaidya trawls the cyberspace to pick 10 anecdotes that speak volumes about Hughes:
1. Growing up in Macksville
As a child, Hughes loved playing the sport with his mates in Macksville. Telegraph (UK)reported that Hughes and his friends install lights and play up until 2 am on Fridays. One of his friends recalled, “One back yard game, we decided that if you hit the clothes line pole, it was worth 50 runs. Phil hit it three times in one innings. It was incredible. Before we knew it, he was on 150 runs.” Also, he couldn’t hit on the leg-side as he risked smashing windows, and thus developed that fearless off-side play, particularly that trademark cut-shot.
2. Striking an understanding with Simon Katich
The norm dictates that the youngest person in the squad would be positioned at forward short-leg. Brydon Coverdale wrote in his article for Cricinfo, that Hughes reached an understanding with statemate and opening partner Simon Katich. Hughes told him that he would take on the bowling by taking first strike, if Katich stood at short-leg during the South African innings. And, thus Hughes faced Dale Steyn immediately.
3. Taking on Dale Steyn and company
Hughes had started off with a blob on debut as Steyn had him caught behind after four balls. With a lot of hype around his entry, Steyn had announced his plans against the youngster. Mike Hussey recalled in his column on Herald Sun, that Peter Siddle responded by bowling bouncers to Dale Steyn when he walked out to bat. In the second Test at Durban, Hughes hit two centuries and took the mighty bowling attack head on. Needless to say, they had a go at him in the middle. Ricky Ponting mentioned in News Corp, “I thought I’d better go down there and check how he (Hughes) was but, before I got there, he looked up and grinned at me.I’m absolutely loving this, he said.”
4. Going after Andre Nel
The South African pacer had retired from international cricket by the time Hughes burst onto the scene. However, the duo faced off in county cricket, where Hughes was picked by Middlesex. During a game against Surrey, Hughes was on his way to 195. Nel, the mercurial fast bowler known to speak his mind, had bowled a beamer which upset Hughes. Angus Fraser wrote for Cricket Australia’s official website that Hughes went after him as he said, “weak, ******* weak, that is why you quit international cricket to play for Surrey.”
5. Shopping in England
Hughes was deeply rooted to the countryside and its values but enjoyed his time in the big cities. He was only 20 when he was picked by Middlesex. Fraser recalls that Hughes had carried back a lot of extra luggage while returning and spent about 1,500 pounds for it at the airport.
6. Commercial appearances with a difference!
Hughes spent a good part of 2009 in England, first while playing for Middlesex and then on national duty for the Ashes. Ponting recalls how Hughes enjoyed his trip and ended up spending a lot of money. Hughes used his Australian mobile number throughout. Ponting wrote for News Corp,“I can’t remember if his bill was $26,000 or $36,000, but I know it was so much that he had to work it off by doing commercial appearances for the phone company.”
7. Love for the farm and cattle
Having travelled all over the world, Hughes still maintained his love for the farm. He had purchased a farm recently and was breeding Angus Cattle. To commemorate his Baggy Green number, Hughes named them the Four O Eight Angus. Michael Clarke wrote in his column for Daily Telegraph, that Hughes would relieve the pressure when they batted together by speaking about cattle. “What that man didn’t know about cows wasn’t worth knowing,” wrote Clarke.
8. Bonding with the Langers
Hughes truck a bond with Justin Langer, the former left-handed opening batsman. Langer went on to become a renowned coach in Australia and also worked with the senior side. As Hughes wanted to work on a few things, he sought Langer’s advice and lived with him and his family. It wasn’t only Langer, but his wife also endeared Hughes. Langer wrote in his tribute on Herald Sun, that he would joke with his wife about marrying one of their daughters to Hughes. Langer’s wife would then tell him, “If we can’t marry him off, maybe we could just adopt him. You have always wanted a son.”
9. Nick Compton’s roommate
England cricketer Nick Compton was close to Hughes. Not only did they play together for Middlesex but they were flat-mates while playing Grade cricket in Sydney. Compton was in South Africa when Hughes hit those two centuries in only his second Test. Compton and Hughes chatted about the Ashes 2009 and the prospect of playing Andrew Flintoff and the other English bowlers. Hughes replied, “I’m going to go out there and smash it bro.” He was also very supportive of Compton and was quick to give him a call when he was dropped from the England side ahead of the Ashes 2013, where they could have played each other on opposite sides.
10. Promise the coach
In Hughes’ penultimate match, South Australia were beaten by an innings and 46 runs by Victoria. Darren Berry, the South Australia coach, wrote in Adelaide Now, that he sat his team down and gave them a lecture. He did not spare the batsmen, who had folded for 130 in the second innings. Berry said, he received the following message from Hughes the day after: “Horrible performance… I’ll turn it around in Sydney coach. Sorry mate —Hughesy.” And he almost did! On 63 not out he was playing a platform for his team and it was cut short with that bouncer.
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