Twenty two players walked out on one of the most hallowed turfs of the cricketing world. That’s how a story always begins when one writes or reads about a cricket match. The story then builds about how some batsmen crafted a beautiful innings, how some bowlers eked out wonderful spells. The story always ends with how a team won, or lost, or how the match was drawn. This time, and I hope that it’s for the last time, I read a new ending in a match story – A man died! Phillip Hughes’ mortal remains were lowered in Macksville, Australia, but it’s important that his story lives.
Hughes was playing a safe sport. He didn’t hurtle down on tracks at 300 KM/h in a racing car. He didn’t face a raging Mike Tyson in a ring eager to knock him out. He was in a park, all decked in protective armour, but he still died and that’s why it’s important that his story lives on. That batsmen, far inferior to him, have come out unscathed facing bowlers even more fearful, but he succumbed, is why this story should live on. The fact that he died when he had so much to live for is why this story should live on. The belief that no other man with a dream should have a death like this is the reason why this story should live on.
Cricketers have done much on fields that has been reported. Taken stunning catches, scored gritty hundreds, bowled sublime spells. Some have questioned the parentage of the opposition batsman, some have tampered with the ball’s seam, some have stood their ground despite knowing that they have edged one and some have signaled crooks by hanging a towel from their waists. But no cricketer has ever wanted a life taken on a cricket field. As a fan I had read about Raman Lamba dying because of a cricket ball hitting his head when he was fielding. That story was reported, but it died. It has come back to life, ironically, because another man trying to build a career has died.
I saw Michael Clarke fighting his tears while giving his tribute to his little brother one last time. I saw Sean Abbot trying, manfully, to face his demons as he came to bid his mate goodbye. I saw an ageing man act as pallbearer for a man he’d once cradled and called ‘son’. This story needs to live on because stories on cricketing endings shouldn’t be ones of a mourning family at a funeral. Aren’t cricketing endings happy stories of a family acknowledging the fans for finally returning them their son who always had to be away?
We are now talking of the helmet that needs to be improved. We probably will see innovations that will cover the back of the head as well. We will probably see a headline in a few years that would say ‘Helmet manufactured that completely insulates cricketers from head injuries’. We will probably live out our lives without the news of a cricketer dying because the equipment protecting him wasn’t inadequate. This story needs to live so that the ‘probably’ used so often in this paragraph transforms to ‘certainly’. Raman Lamba’s story died, so it’s very important that Phil Hughes’ story lives.
I have read about two cricketing deaths and this is a sport where one death is also one too many. What has happened to Phillip Hughes can’t be undone, the pain and grief cannot be lessened. But we cricket fans can take solace in the fact that Hughes died when he was at a place he could call his own, doing the one thing that loved doing most, playing cricket. I believe that is another reason why his story should live.