The tragic death of an Australian cricketer has prompted new calls for harsher safety measures for the sport.
Phillip Hughes, 25, who was batting for South Australia on Tuesday against his former team, New South Wales, attempted a pull shot against bowler Sean Abbott, 22, of New South Wales, when the ball struck him in the neck, piercing his vertebral artery. He died on Thursday in a Sydney hospital. Dr. Tony Grabs, a trauma specialist at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, said, “The head injury he suffered was catastrophic. Despite extensive surgery, (Hughes) did not make very much improvement, and unfortunately, as a consequence of the injury, he died.” Doctors tried to save Hughes by inducing a coma, but that attempt failed.
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland asserted that his organization will conduct an investigation into player safety as soon as possible. Speaking at a news conference in Sydney, Sutherland said, “Statistics say it’s clearly a freak incident, but one freak incident is one freak incident too many. That, of course, puts us in a position of looking into that and we will immediately, in consultation with the manufacturers and the other safety providers or regulators, look into it to make sure that these things are addressed and improved. It’s a matter of interest, not just for us here in Australia but for cricketers all over the world.”
Geoffrey Boycott, a former England batter, said, “Helmets have made batsmen feel safe in the belief that they cannot be hurt and made batsmen more carefree and careless… [Unless batsmen]wear a suit of armor, there are always going to be injuries in cricket.
Batsmen normally wear helmets with a grille that protects their faces and heads, but the helmet often does not protect the neck. Bowlers have various methods of confronting batsmen in cricket, but the pitch that struck Hughes was a bouncer, a throw designed to hit the ground and rocket toward the batsman’s head or chest. The ball used in cricket can be hurled up to 90 mph, and weighs more than a baseball. AP stated that only four men have been killed in cricket since 1870, but the latest fatality before Hughes occurred last year; Darryn Randall, 32, died in South Africa.
Sutherland said of Hughes, “The word tragedy gets used too often in sport, but this freak accident is now real-life tragedy. Without doubt, he was a rising star whose best cricket was in front of him.”
At cricket grounds in Sydney and Melbourne, the Australian flag was lowered to half-staff; games were suspended all over the world, including in the United Arab Emirates, where a team from New Zealand was playing.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott stated, “What happened has touched millions of Australians. For a young life to be cut short playing our national game seems a shocking aberration.”
The man who hit Hughes also received sympathy. Jonathan Agnew, a British cricket commentator and former player, tweeted, “That ball could have been bowled at any time in any game. Tragic that it should end like this for the Hughes family, and for Sean Abbott.”
Hughes, who used an unusual technique in batting, debuted in international test cricket when he was 20, and scored 100 runs in back-to-back innings in his second match. Once English bowlers solved his style, his levels dropped, and he was let go from the national team. He appeared ready to climb back on to the national team this year when the tragedy occurred.
Andrew Jones, the chief executive of New South Wales, said, “Despite being in and out of the Australian team during his emerging years, Phillip never complained when he was dropped or overlooked. It was typical of Phillip that he was fighting his way back into the national team again with a fine innings for South Australia before suffering a freak accident.”
Sutherland would not offer a knee-jerk response to the tragedy, instead carefully saying, “All of those things around safety need to be looked at and will be considered but one of the things about the game of cricket is that it’s a finely tuned balance between bat and ball. That’s what the game is built on and those things will need to be carefully considered.”