The cricketing world is in grief and will continue to be that way for a while following the death of 25-year-old Australian batsman Phillip Hughes.
This grief is unique because never before in the history of Test cricket has a current Test player so young succumbed to death while playing a game. Hughes was to play next week’s Test against India in Brisbane what with skipper Michael Clarke’s injury ruining his chances to play the first game of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
The Brisbane Test is in jeopardy simply because the cricket administration in Australia feel that their players may not be mentally ready for it with Hughes’ death still so very fresh.
One can understand the players’ grief and fractured spirits, but the game must move on and it is only right to take the field next Thursday, however hard it appears now. The world’s cricket fans are with Australia in their time of grief and we mourn along with them.
The Aussies are well known for their grit and professionalism. This is what the departed Hughes would love them to live up to. And they have always played that way. Here’s an example: Forty-five years ago, on Day Four of the 1969-70 India vs Australia Test at Mumbai, a riot broke out at the Brabourne Stadium. A stand was set on fire and rioters hurled bottles on the field after S Venkataraghavan was given out in dubious circumstances. The Australians on the field feared for their lives. As a senior player and vice-captain, Ian Chappell went up to his skipper Bill Lawry to suggest to him that the whole team leave the field in a group. “What do you think?” asked Chappell. And Lawry said, “Gee Chappelli, we need a wicket badly.”
The game of cricket is based on the principles of moving on no matter what. Like, even after completing his century, a batsman is required to take fresh guard and continue piling up runs. Like, despite a poor decision by the umpire, a player must respect the official’s decision and walk back to the pavillion.
The Australians must take the field at the Gabba. They will not be alone. Phillip Hughes will be with them as well, albeit in spirit.