2014 has been a wretched year, with bad news headline after bad news headline. But the latest tragic event has hit a lot closer to home for me. Phillip Hughes, an Australian cricketer 3 days shy of his 26th birthday, has died. His family decided to switch off life support two days after he was struck behind the ear by a cricket ball while batting in a domestic game.
Hughes’ death has brought about a huge outpouring of grief nationally and also in the international cricket community. I’m adding my contribution to remember him and explain why he was important to me.
Perhaps the biggest reason is that we were so close in age. I have a friend who played against him in club cricket back in the day. I was barely out of high school when news circulated of Hughes’ precocious talent and exciting potential, punctuated by making history as the youngest player to score a century in the Sheffield Shield final.
At age 20 all things seem possible, but it still feels remarkable when great things actually happen. To play for Australia must have been such a big thrill for him. For me it was inspiring to see that our generation was breaking barriers and going places. I still remember being hunched in my cubicle one evening at my casual call centre job, impatiently refreshing the 2G flip phone data connection to receive updates from the South African tour. I remember the feeling of exhilaration upon finding out that he had scored twin centuries in the Durban test, making history once again.
Watching Hughes was a treat. I only ever saw him on TV, but it was always captivating. I have a certain affinity for lefties — I loved Gilchrist’s explosiveness and Hussey’s smoothness. Hughes had an unorthodox style, but he was similar to them in that every time you watch him, you knew something exciting was going to happen. His penchant for slashing at balls got him into trouble more than I’d like, but it certainly made for compelling viewing.
Finally, I respect how Hughes conducted himself. He was dropped several times from the Test team, and each time he went about his business diligently, plundering runs in domestic competition to put himself back in contention. There was never any drama, on-field or off. Hughes was a humble man who loved the game, and by all accounts he was well-loved by those who knew him.
Thank you Phillip Hughes, for inspiring me as a fellow Gen-Yer, for bringing us joy through your craft, and for being a great example in life. You will be sorely missed.*
* I also give my deepest condolences to Sean Abbott, the young man who felled Hughes. He was simply trying his best for his team, and now this incident will haunt him forever. Mike Carlton put it best:
Young men are not meant to die as Phillip Hughes did. Nor to bear the burden now laid upon Sean Abbott. How infinitely sad.