Phil-Hughes

The general perception about celebrities across fields can be astonishing; those who watch them flourish from the other side remain unaware of their true character and their personal lives. Similarly, cricket fans usually know little of what their favourite cricketers are like off the field, how they behave at home, what they do when friends and family are around. Seldom do we, from the outside, realise that no matter how robust cricketers appear from outside, they too are vulnerable. Exactly one year ago, cricket lost a talented player in Phillip Hughes in a tragic incident. What happened that day shook the cricketing world to the core, but Hughes’ death also brought to the fore a lot that was never imagined earlier. Cricket changed a lot in the last year.

The immediate change was seen when New Zealand decided not to bowl a single bouncer in the remainder of their then-ongoing third Test against Pakistan at Sharjah. They did not celebrate another wicket in that game. Perhaps in the last one year, that Test was the epitome of the ‘spirit of cricket.’ The Kiwis played ‘good, hard cricket’ the Australian way, echoing the emotions of everyone that cricket will remain superior to its frailties.

The excruciating pain that came out from New Zealand cricketers was in a way the fight back from the men who wanted to defy all the odds and continue enjoying cricket.

Batsmen started wearing helmets that protected their heads from behind. As for bowlers, they started getting apprehensive every time they hit a batsman on their helmets. No one can ever forget that look on Mitchell Johnson’s face when he hit Virat Kohli on the helmet on the third morning of Australia’s first Test after Hughes’ death at Adelaide. For once, the bouncer seemed to have done more harm to the fielding side than it did to the batsman. Every single time a batsman would get hit for the next few months, the panic would resurface across television sets, across cricket grounds, and throughout the globe.

Cricket had changed.

Perhaps the cricketing world had forgotten how vulnerable and how dangerous the sport can be for those who indulge with pure passion and all their hearts. Speaking about hearts, they certainly are not as brave as they were earlier — the human trait of fear has never presided over the game as profoundly as it has since November 27, 2014.

And never did the entire cricket fraternity mourn as deeply as it did in the wake of Hughes’ death. The tragic demise, mere days before his 26th birthday, of a cricketer who had a wide cheeky grin, who loved nothing but the sport and his farm off it, broke the strongest of spirits.

Cricket Australia (CA), Michael Clarke, and especially Sean Abbott deserve rich praise for the way they handled it. CA worked tirelessly to help cricketers overcome the tragedy. Clarke emerged as the leader of Australian cricket, paying a wonderful tribute to his ‘little brother.’ And Abbott showed tremendous heart and fortitude when he sent down a bouncer in the next game he played.

Hughes’ death told us all about how vulnerable we are, how a cricket ball can be pernicious, how ignorant we remain, deluged in our day-to-day lives that we forget that death could be just around the corner.

(Devarchit Varma is senior writer with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)