27 November will always be remembered as a ‘black-letted’ day in the history of cricket. It is always be remembered as a day when we were once again made to realize why we should be grateful for everything that we have been given in life and not take anything for granted. It is a day when a 25-year-old Phil Hughes departed from the world in an unfortunate accident that once again exposed the fragile nature of life.
November 25, 2014. Sheffield Shield. New South Wales was locking horns with South Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground. It was a crucial game for players pushing for a spot in the Australian squad for the marquee Test series against India. Young Phil Hughes was one of them.
Hughes started off brilliantly, stroking some audacious strokes as he crossed the 50-run-mark. The fateful moment came when he was on hit by a Sean Abbott bouncer on the score of 63.
Hughes was hit on the unprotected part below his left ear. The southpaw looked visibly dazed. But then any batsmen would after being hit on the unprotected by a 150+ kmph bumper. And, so the players on the field would have thought that normal services would resume soon enough.
Except they didn’t! Within a matter of two seconds, Phil Hughes collapsed on the ground, leading to the players rush towards him. The medical staff rushed to the field to assist Hughes. After being given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, the 25-year-old was rushed to a Sydney hospital and was placed into an induced coma as he suffered a brain hemorrhage.
As news spread across the globe, prayers started to pour in for Phil Hughes. But, unfortunately, none of those were answered and the talented southpaw was declared dead on this day six years ago.
It was a jolt that left everyone from Australian cricketers like Michael Clarke, David Warner to the administrators and fans from around the world shell-shocked. Not only in Australia but cricketers from other parts of the world mourned the untimely death of the young batsman.
Hughes’s funeral took place on December 03 which was attended by nearly every Australian cricketer and Indian skipper Virat Kohli. Tears rolled down profusely and Michael Clarke’s emotional speech for his young mate just reflected the feeling of every cricket lover that day.
“I’m deeply honoured to have been asked by Phillip’s family to speak today. I am humbled to be in the presence of you, his family, his friends and his community. He was so proud of Macksville and it is easy to see why today. Taken from the game, his family and loved ones at the age of just 25, he left a mark on our game that needs no embellishment,” Michael Clarke said as quoted by BBC.
I don’t know about you, but I keep looking for him. I know it is crazy but I expect any minute to take a call from him or to see his face pop around the corner. Is this what we call the spirit? If so, then his spirit is still with me. And I hope it never leaves.
I walked to the middle of the SCG on Thursday night, those same blades of grass beneath my feet where he and I and so many of his mates here today have built partnerships, taken chances and lived out the dreams we paint in our heads as boys. The same stands where the crowds rose to their feet to cheer him on and that same fence he sent the ball to time and time again. And it is now forever the place where he fell,” as quoted by BBC.
Such was the overriding emotion that Cricket Australia retired the number 63 as part of a tribute to Hughes. The Australian team named Hughes as the 13th man for the first couple of Test matches against India while every player wore black armbands.
Hughes untimely death sparked a debate on the nature of the helmets worn by batsmen in international cricket. In 2016, Cricket Australia released the findings of an independent review chaired by Melbourne barrister David Curtain QC. The findings concluded that the main difference between the helmet worn by Hughes and the latest British standard model was the grille protecting the face being extended further to the rear of the helmet.
“I do not believe that the new helmet would have afforded protection against the blow given the location of where Phillip was struck, as the protection to the neck, at the rear, is no different,” Curtain said in his report.
Meanwhile, the International Cricket Council introduced the concussion rule in 2019, where a batsman immediately undergoes a medical examination as soon as he is struck on his head by a bouncer.
As for Phil Hughes, it six years to the day when that fateful incident happened and to mark the somber occasion, both Indian and Australian players gave 63-second standing applause as a mark of respect towards the departed soul. Hughes represented Australia in 25 Tests and as many ODIs between 2009-14.