It is an unfortunate day for cricket, a day when it has lost one its great budding talents, a cricketer who was tipped to bring great laurels for his country in the future. One can only blame luck for all that has happened, and it is Phillip Hughes who is unlucky in this instance.
We can do our bit by remembering the achievements of this gentleman of the game. He has been described by his teammates as a very hard worker and one who always remained down to earth, no matter how much success came his way. In my piece here as a tribute to the New South Welshman, I take a look at his journey as a batsman.
Phil was a country guy, born on a banana farm in Macksville, a small town in Nambucca Shire, New South Wales, to parents Greg and Virginia. He was always connected to his roots, and talked about getting back to his family property the day he quit playing. Even times when he was not playing for Australia or his clubs, he found the greatest pleasure in helping his dad at their farm back home. Perhaps the fact that he did most of his scoring on the off side has to do with the fact that more space was available on that side of the field where he played as a kid and windows, which held a danger of being shattered, being present on the other.
Rugby was his first love, which later gave way to cricket. He was in many ways Michael Clarke’s protégé, one of them being that he attended the same batting academy in Sydney as Clarke. He developed his own unconventional batting style, and though he had some supposed difficulties with the short ball, he managed to excel against some of the best bowling attacks in the world.
Asked about his technique, he had this to say, “Everyone’s got their own technique, I’ve had mine since I was a junior, and going through the ranks. Everyone plays their own way. There’s been a lot of talk about my technique, but everyone plays differently and you’ve got to get runs in the middle. I’m a big believer in being your own person, being yourself and playing how you’ve played all the way through. When you talk to guys who’ve been around the game for a long time, the big thing they do say is to be yourself, and play your own game.”
Beginnings in Professional Cricket
He moved to Sydney at the age of 17, and before he had turned 19, he made his first-class debut for New South Wales, ironically the same club he was playing against on the fateful day. He also started playing county cricket as a 20-year-old for Middlesex. By the time he was ready to be called into the Australian side, he had already had outings at world famous cricket grounds like the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) and Lord’s, which is dubbed as the Home of Cricket.
Hughes was awarded the Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year Award in 2009. He played a total of 114 first-class games, and scored 9023 runs at an average of 46.51 in that time. The figure included 26 hundreds and 46 fifties. He was a dependable first-class opener throughout. He got his highest first-class score of 243* for Australia A, while playing against South Africa A.
List A career
His List A career, which started with him making his debut for NSW against Victoria in November 2007, saw stints with Worcestershire, Middlesex, South Australia and Australia A.. Earlier this year, he became the first Australian to score a double hundred in a List A game, when he did so playing for Australia A, taking just 151 balls to get there.
He made his ODI debut for Australia in January 2013 against Sri Lanka at the MCG. He hit 112 in that match, as Australia won comfortably by 107 runs. Hughes was Man of the Match. He scored 826 ODI runs in 25 games at 35.91, and hit 2 centuries, the second of which came against Sri Lanka as well, just 4 games later at Hobart, as Australia won once again due to his match-winning performance.
He had a promising Test career as well, and was on course to feature in the Australian line-up against India at the Gabba in the wake of Clarke’s injury. Clarke said that he would surely go on to join the elite 100-Test club one day, given his flair for batting and cricket in general. Sure, he was dropped from the team on no less than 4 occasions, but he made it a point to bounce back every time. “It's about getting out of bed in the morning and becoming a better player, that's my mindset because I suppose I’ve had a few kicks over the past few years,” he once said.
He scored 115 and 160 in his second Test itself, playing against a dangerous South African bowling attack in 2009 at Johannesburg that featured names like Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini, Morne Morkel and Jacques Kallis. Australia cruised to victory by 175 runs. His 3rd and last ton came against Sri Lanka at Colombo, where he made 126 in a drawn game.
He made the move to South Australia in 2013, the same year he was awarded the Australian Domestic Player of the Year award. He was unbeaten on 63 when he collapsed to the bouncer that hit him below the left ear, and that is the last of Phil Hughes that the cricket field will ever see. Perhaps he could have hooked the ball successfully. Or perhaps the bowler could have bowled a yorker.
What happened at the SCG on Tuesday is nothing but extremely unfortunate. You can’t blame the bowler for attempting to give the batsmen some chin music in a game that is already tilted so much in the batsmen’s favor. It is difficult to attribute the loss to any reason other than bad luck.
Nobody had a doubt that Hughes was headed for great things. He was prying at the national side’s door for quite a while, and was sure to cement a permanent place sooner rather than later. One has to think what can be done to avoid such incidences in the future, as no clear answer presents itself.
Thoughts also go out for Sean Abbott, who made his ODI debut for Australia just last month and probably looking to play lots of cricket for Australia in the future. It remains to be seen how he handles things and whether he can return to the game with a positive outlook.