Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes’ sudden, tragic death shook the world on Thursday, its impact and outpouring of grief extending far beyond a sport only played by 15-odd countries.
Hughes’s death was a freak accident in what’s known as the “gentleman’s game,” and came two days after he was struck just below his left ear by a speeding ball during a domestic match and collapsed face-first onto the ground.
The 25-year-old left-handed opening batsman was rushed to the hospital and operated upon but succumbed to the injury Thursday morning, with his official cause of death being termed a “dissected vertebral artery.” The Australian team doctor revealed that he could find only 100 such fatalities in medical history, and only one other caused by a cricket ball.
No blame whatsoever is being attached to the bowler, Sean Abbott, 22, who was on occasion an international teammate of Hughes.
“We are devastated by the loss of our much loved son and brother Phillip,” said a statement from the Hughes family read out by Australian team captain Michael Clarke. “Cricket was Phillip’s life and we as a family shared that love of the game with him.”
It was not just his family, the Australian cricket team or even the global cricket fraternity that went into mourning on Thursday. Several other sportsmen and prominent figures offered their tributes to the young cricket star, and hundreds of Twitter users shared photos of cricket bats on empty fields or propped up against walls using the tag #putoutyourbats.
The passing of Hughes, who grew up on his family’s banana farm in the northern New South Wales town of Macksville, not far from Sydney, also shined a spotlight on the dangers of cricket. Despite its genteel reputation, the sport commonly leads to broken bones — though fatalities remain extremely rare — when played at the highest level. The five and a half ounce cork and leather balls hurled can reach speeds of 100 mph and are much harder than their baseball equivalents.
Masuri, the company that manufactures the helmet Hughes was wearing, said he was not wearing their latest version that affords greater protection, according to the Independent.
But many insist that even with a different helmet, the freak nature of the injury means not much could have been done to prevent it.
Australia’s next international match, scheduled to take place against India at Brisbane next week, still hangs in the balance. A practice encounter between the teams featuring an Australian reserve squad has already been canceled, and Reuters reports that the Hughes family will also be involved in the decision whether to go ahead with the international match.