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Hope after Hughes?

Hope after Hughes?

The sad lack of proper gear and medical facilities in sport are highlighted following the cricketer’s demise

Complied from reports by Boria Majumdar

As we come to terms with one of the worst tragedies in contemporary sports history, and the dust settles following Phil Hughes’ funeral, it is time for the sport of cricket to move on. While we will never be able to forget the incident, there are some larger questions that continue to stare at us on an everyday basis, very strongly brought to the fore by Hughes’ demise. Are medical facilities adequate at all levels of cricket in India? Shouldn’t the presence of an ambulance and basic medical amenities be made compulsory not only in first class games, but also in grade cricket all over the world?

Is this tragedy not a warning that fatalities can indeed occur on the field of play and we need to be adequately prepared for such tragic occurrences? Can the BCCI claim that every first class game and match in India is adequately served with a doctor and other medical amenities, which may be required at any point in time? Finally, do clubs which play in the second or the third division even have medical insurance for their players?

These concerns are especially pertinent when we note that the pitches used for grade cricket are, more often than not, substandard and batsman can often succumb to injuries caused by uneven bounce. These pitches are used day and night and are never adequately rolled or watered, increasing the chance of players sustaining injuries. Is it that we have taken the sport for granted for far too long and have assumed that fatal injuries will never occur? While there is absolutely no one who can be blamed for Hughes’s death, it does raise a concern about the nature of protective gear used by the batsmen. Should the grill also be made compulsory in helmets in the near future? Is there any way we can improve on the quality of helmets worn by the batsmen? Also, should experiments like the use of the baseball helmet, used by a few players over the last two years, be shunned altogether?

The truth is, if a batsman gets hit on the face despite wearing a helmet with the ball sneaking in through the uncovered area, as had happened in the case of Sachin Tendulkar at Sialkot in 1989, a fatal injury can indeed occur. Especially when the ball is hurled at 90 miles an hour by some of best fast bowlers currently playing the game. Does this mean that the use of helmets with grills be made mandatory the world over? To think that a hugely talented cricketer can fall to an injury despite wearing a helmet is simply inconceivable. While it draws attention to the hard nature of the sport and speaks about the fragility of the whole exercise, it also tells us that precautionary measures continue to be far inadequate in all parts of the cricketing world. Since Phil Hughes’ demise I conducted an ethnography at the Kolkata maidan to find out if all players have helmets to start with. It was interesting to find out that post the incident, the use of helmets has become a conscious reality.

Even clubs with meagre means have decided to provide their players with helmets, trying to pre-empt unwarranted tragedies from occurring in future. Having known Phil Hughes well, there is little doubt that Australia has lost a talented cricketer. Hughes was tipped for greatness by many and was all set to make a comeback in place of the injured Michael Clarke in the first Test. What makes the tragedy all the more unfortunate, is that he was wearing a helmet. While the manufacturer has said that it was of an older make, it doesn’t mean that Hughes could or should have died. But he did. A five and a half ounce seasoned ball did take away one of the world’s best contemporary cricketers, and that’s the hard truth we will have to live with. It is also an eye opener for those who question why players are highly paid, why are they wearing gear all over and suggest that players should show bravado by not wearing a helmet. Frankly, there is no place for false bravado on the cricket pitch. For the sport to go on safe and sound, we need rules to be put in place by the ICC. More importantly, cricket boards across the world will then have to ensure that these rules are acted upon. While accidents may not occur every day, that they still do is enough cause for concern.

Death on the cricket field is the worst thing for the sport, and it is also perhaps the best opportunity to act. Unless the authorities take notice now, they never will. That Philip Hughes is no more should force us to ensure that there’s no such occurrence in future in any form of cricket. People have questioned if the ambulance in Hughes’ case arrived a few minutes late, and if that resulted in valuable time lost. While such conjecture has little basis in fact, it is important to remember that there are many cricket games in India where there is no ambulance present, as already mentioned. Leave  tragedies from occurring in future. Having known Phil Hughes well, there is little doubt that Australia has lost a talented cricketer. Hughes was tipped for greatness by many and was all set to make a comeback in place of the injured Michael Clarke in the first Test. What makes the tragedy all the more unfortunate, is that he was wearing a helmet. While the manufacturer has said that it was of an older make, it doesn’t mean that Hughes could or should have died. But he did.

A five and a half ounce seasoned ball did take away one of the world’s best contemporary cricketers, and that’s the hard truth we will have to live with. It is also an eye opener for those who question why players are highly paid, why are they wearing gear all over and suggest that players should show bravado by not wearing a helmet. Frankly, there is no place for false bravado on the cricket pitch. For the sport to go on safe and sound, we need rules to be put in place by the ICC. More importantly, cricket boards across the world will then have to ensure that these rules are acted upon. While accidents may not occur every day, that they still do is enough cause for concern. Death on the cricket field is the worst thing for the sport, and it is also perhaps the best opportunity to act. Unless the authorities take notice now, they never will.

That Philip Hughes is no more should force us to ensure that there’s no such occurrence in future in any form of cricket. People have questioned if the ambulance in Hughes’ case arrived a few minutes late, and if that resulted in valuable time lost. While such conjecture has little basis in fact, it is important to remember that there are many cricket games in India where there is no ambulance present, as already mentioned. Leave alone a few minutes, it might take hours for an ambulance to be summoned and brought to a first class cricket match in any part of India. That perhaps, is the takeaway for the BCCI from the Phil Hughes tragedy. Finally, while we mourn Hughes, it is important we spare a thought for Sean Abbot, the 22 year old fast bowler who bowled the fatal ball to Hughes.

He is in no way responsible for the tragedy, but will forever have to live with this trauma. Can Abbot outgrow what happened? Is it humanly possible to forget and move on? It is the responsibility of the entire cricket fraternity to stand united behind this youngster. He may take time to recover, but it will be another tragedy if he decided on giving up what he does best, bowl fast. Finally, some have suggested that the bouncer should be banned. It is the most absurd suggestion, to say the least. Such statements border on paranoia and can only end up destroying the game in the long term. Despite the tragedy the game will surely move on and with time, Philip Hughes will be confined to one of the game’s unhappiest memories. It will be a grave disservice to Hughes if he is merely restricted to being a sad memory. Rather, it is important that we learn a few lessons from the tragedy. Let Hughes forever be with us as a lesson, and not a memory.

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