The past few days, since that fateful incident at the Sydney Cricket Ground, have been perhaps the worst that the world’s cricketing family can remember.
Phillip Hughes’s death, after being struck by a Sean Abbott bouncer in a Sheffield Shield game, has brought the sport to a standstill and left many people shell-shocked from a disaster that could never have been foreseen.
Cricket needs support
During this time cricket, as well as sport in general, has needed someone to guide each and every one of us through the challenges that Hughes’s death brings. From the initial injury, the hospital waiting game, the announcement of Hughes’s passing and the emotional funeral, Australian captain Michael Clarke has been that person.
He has stood tall throughout and by default become a leader to us all, whether cricket lovers or not. Clarke has shown why he was installed as Australian team captain. To be a captain you have to be, admittedly, one of the best players in the team to attract the respect that a captain deserves.
Clarke the leader
However, you must also possess great leadership skills. His leadership skills during this sad time, have gone above and beyond his duty, and have been so admirable that even without trying he has summed up what many of us have been thinking and how we have felt. If ever we are looking for someone to inspire us, in life as well as sport, then we need look no further than Clarke.
From the moment that Hughes was rushed to hospital Clarke has been on hand to support everyone, particularly the family. His bedside vigil in the immediate aftermath of the incident showed the huge bond that he and Hughes had developed and when the announcement of Hughes’s death was made it was Clarke, although highly emotional, that delivered the news to the media on behalf of the family. A truly admirable gesture.
Whilst Clarke has been mourning the loss of his great friend he also, quite rightly, ensured that the world must not forget about Abbott, the innocent bowler who will forever be remembered for delivering that fateful ball.
His timely words to the young man will have brought great comfort to him in his own hour of need and will hopefully encourage him to return to the game when he is ready to do so.
Clarke as a cricketer, especially as the Australian captain, has not been immune to criticism in the past but this is not about cricket, about tactical decisions, or about his perceived bravado. This is about being a human being and Clarke has stood out as one of the very best human beings when cricket has needed him the most.
Strength of character
Incidents like this define men and Clarke has become a hero for many, even those outside of cricket who perhaps didn’t even know who he was before this fateful incident. His emotional eulogy to Hughes at the funeral could not have failed to move anyone and his words will forever remain with us. Cricket Australia and Australians in general should be very proud of their captain.
I have been truly touched, like many, by Clarke’s strength throughout all of this but now it is our turn to comfort Clarke as he tries to come to terms with the loss of his ‘brother’ whilst at the same time he tries to focus on Australia’s upcoming series against India. We must remember that Clarke is also mourning and also needs support.
There is no doubt that Hughes’s passing has been a watershed in the history of the game but cricket must continue even though we know it will never be the same again. Clarke’s emotional words during his eulogy sums up how we all must approach the game from now on, at whatever level we play.
“We must dig in and get through to tea, and we must play on. So rest in peace my little brother, I’ll see you out in the middle.”
RIP Phillip Hughes 1988-2014