Johan Fourie's blog

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In memory of Phillip Hughes

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Kids in Mumbai, India pay tribute to the memory of Phillip Hughes. Source.

Kids in Mumbai, India pay tribute to the memory of Phillip Hughes. Source.

The reaction to the death of Phillip Hughes this week has been nothing short of overwhelming. Hughes died tragically after being hit on the head by a bouncer playing in an Australian provincial cricket game. He lost conciousness less than 10 seconds after being hit, and never regained it. His death was announced two days later. Here is the report in Australian media showing on-field events.

Tributes to Hughes’ family and team mates have poured in from all over the world. His death has touched me and my cricket-loving friends too. Even though we are all amateur cricket players, playing at school and university and perhaps the odd club game afterwards, we share in the camaraderie of the game. As batsmen, we have had to face fast bowling too, and shared the fear and doubt of playing the short ball. There is always the risk of misjudging a pull shot or the bad luck of an uneven pitch. Hughes’ freak accident, and it is nothing more than that, has put all these doubts in perspective.

Google pay tribute too

Google pays tribute too.

How cricket is played will not change much because of this event. Bowlers will – and should – continue to bowl bouncers. If anything, I suspect more batsmen worldwide will 1) understand the importance of wearing a helmet, and 2) be more circumspect in their approach to playing the bouncer. (This includes kids: I still have the scars of a bouncer that hit my mouth in grade 11. Only then did I realise that a helmet was essential.) But I suspect the psychological and emotional scars will run much deeper. Hughes was the smile, the friendly face of the Australian team. Not only that, but he was the nexus of an Australian team that was often divided. Here are the opening lines of the obituary on Cricinfo:

Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting. David Warner and Shane Watson. Simon Katich and Justin Langer. Brad Haddin and Matthew Wade. Darren Lehmann and Brett Lee.

These strong men of Australian cricket have often had very little in common. Their competitiveness, pride and differences of opinion have caused plenty of arguments and disagreements. Apart from the baggy-green cap, there was often only one thing that they all agreed on: Phillip Hughes.

His death will make all these squabbles seem petty. The impact on the Australian team can already be seen in this touching press-conference by Australian captain Michael Clarke earlier today. Spare a moment for Sean Abbott, too, the bowler who had probably bowled hundreds of bouncers like that in his career. He will find it hard to return to the playing field.

It is often after tragic events that we re-evaluate what we do and why we do it. The next time I walk in to bat, I will do so with a smile on my face.

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Written by Johan Fourie

November 29, 2014 at 07:18

3 Responses

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  1. Johan
    Why should bouncers not be prohibited as bodyline bowling was? You can tell from this that I am not a cricket player or committed fan, but I don’t understand why the response is that we should improve the defensive armory of the batsmen instead of prohibiting bowlers from sending a very hard ball at great spead towards their heads. A freak accident is when something happens that could not possibly have been foreseen; the purpose of a bouncer makes this the tragic consequence of a bad rule, not a freak accident.

    Stan

    November 30, 2014 at 11:55

    • Stan

      I would argue that banning the bouncer would have a perverse impact: it would increase serious injuries from bouncers. Here’s why.

      Until the 1980s, most batsmen did not wear helmets. It is safe to assume that bowlers were equally dangerous during this era, and some might say, if you consider the West Indian attack, even more dangerous than bowlers today. Batsmen knew that, to avoid injury, you shouldn’t ‘take on’ the bouncer. The best was to duck and get out of the way. Even without helmets, no fatalities occurred, as batsmen reacted to these incentives.

      Since the 1990s, helmets have allowed batsmen to play the bouncer with less concern for their personal safety. That is also why they’ve been hit more often on the head with helmets than without. Yet the safety of the helmet has protected them in all these cases, except in the case of Hughes where he mistimed his shot, swivelled and was hit on the back of the head where there was no protection. Had he had no helmet on, he probably would not have played that shot.

      What effect would your suggestion of banning the bouncer have? It would force bowlers to bowl full. Not only would it mean that more runs will be scored and, I expect, more spin bowlers will be used, removing the threat of the out-and-out pace bowler, but batsmen will react to these incentives by removing their helmets. Why wear a helmet when bowlers don’t bowl bouncers? School kids will become unaccustomed to playing the short ball as everything will be played off the front foot.

      Yet, bowlers don’t always have precise control. Especially at younger age levels, a bouncer can easily slip through in an attempt to bowl faster. So even though fewer bouncers will be bowled (because they are banned), the ones that do slip through will be bowled to 1) batsmen without helmets 2) that are not used to playing the short ball. This, I would argue, is a more dangerous situation.

      Johan Fourie

      December 1, 2014 at 05:49

  2. Reblogged this on Sites In India.

    sitesinindia

    November 29, 2014 at 11:56


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