Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Some thoughts on Phil Hughes.

(I am late in posting it here but I posted this as an answer to this question on Quora. The question is "How did you feel after hearing the sad news of the demise of young Australian cricketer Phil Hughes?" )

It felt like being punched in the stomach. And later I was shocked beyond belief. I have never felt this way for any sport-related injury and maybe never will again because somehow now I have come to accept that there is a one in a million chance that someone can actually die not only playing cricket but facing a bouncer. I mean, yes there have been cases like Raman Lamba but I thought that to be a freak incident. This one seemed like a seminal incident to me in some ways. I hope I am wrong. 
A bouncer in cricket is not merely a delivery intended to make it difficult for the batsman to score but it is a weapon to intimidate. It often is a ploy which extends far beyond that particular delivery. You have had fast bowlers proclaiming that they wanted to see blood on the pitch. But they surely didn't want to kill anyone. But now they know that rare it may be, someone can die. In the aftermath of the incident, I have often wondered how it will change the face of fast bowling. 
A few months back, without any second thoughts, I would have said that the most exciting thing to happen in last couple of years was Mitchell Johnson's accurate and relentless intimidation and subsequent annihilation of English and South African batsmen. Now I am feeling slightly guilty for feeling that exhilaration. There were some bruises, some broken bones but at least nobody died. I have high hopes from this generation of Indian batsmen and was so looking forward to facing them against Johnson this December. Now I am not so sure. Will Johnson be as willing? In the light of everything which happened, can he be? 
Like many others, I was reminded of my own cricket playing days and in particular of one incident. I was a so called fast bowler with no promise at all. But matting wickets can often bring out the devil out of any trundler and as it happened, one delivery hit a batsman on his gloves and then the chin on which he got a bad cut. The ball ballooned up and my first instinct was not to go check the batsman but to catch the ball. Normally, it would have been a standard practice. But now I feel so guilty. So many times as a bowler I felt angry on being hit and wanted to respond by a bouncer or worse, a beamer just to send the batsman packing. I now feel so relieved that apart from that cut on the chin, I was never able to hurt anyone. It was not for the lack of trying, surely. And that is such a creepy, dirty feeling. For me, that somehow puts into perspective what Sean Abbott must be going through and just how unfair it is to him. 
So, I am terribly sad for Phillip Hughes. I am sad also because of the deep introspection it prompted and am also sad because just maybe, a tearway fast bowler will think twice before bowling another bouncer.