Phillip Hughes ran out of luck, feels Ian Chappell
Sydney: "The world will be a different place." Those words were uttered by a softly spoken ex-army Englishman who was reflecting on the devastating events of 9/11. Similar words could well be appropriate for the cricket world after the tragic accident at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) that took the life of young Phillip Hughes.
Phillip Hughes falls after being struck on the head by a Sean Abbott bouncer during a Sheffield Shield match on Tuesday. Pic/Getty Images
Up until 27/11/14 every player knew that an accident could occur on the cricket field and someone could be hurt. However, no one expected a death from an on-field injury but now, tragically, we all know different.
An integral part
There'll be calls for the bouncer to be banned and for helmets to be improved. The bouncer will remain an integral part of the game and evolution will see an improvement in helmets but injuries will continue to occur. Hopefully not of the magnitude of Hughes' freak accident for it's been a hard one to bear.
Hughes had a technique that was different but a style that excited. Like all batsmen he needed a bit of good fortune to prosper but his luck ran out on Tuesday at the SCG. So many batsmen have been hit or have experienced a near miss but they've been able to brush it off and resume the battle.
A lot of cricketers will be mindful of that second chance, which Phil Hughes was so cruelly denied. Many bowlers have had the stomach churning experience of hitting a batsman. However, they had the chance to make amends after play and then resume the battle at a later stage. Sean Abbott was not so fortunate.
Not easy for Abbott
No one can imagine what he's going through and for him, bowling a bouncer will never be the same again. He'll have many well-meaning people offering counsel and this will be helpful but in the end, it's him who has to find a way to cope. It won't be easy.
How will cricketers react to Hughes' death? We'll only get an inkling at the Gabba when the first Test is played between Australia and India. The game should be played as programmed because in a strange way it'll be the best thing for the players. At least when they're in the nets or out in the middle they'll have something else to absorb their concentration.
You can bet when they're sitting in the dressing room or alone in their hotel room, they'll only be thinking of one thing — Phillip Hughes. The cricket at the Gabba won't be played with the usual intensity but it will probably be the best therapy for all the players.
Bouncers won't stop
The bouncers won't stop; they'll still be unleashed to put some doubt in the batsman's mind. However, I doubt they'll be delivered with the same venom in the immediate aftermath of the SCG calamity. It's only natural for a bowler to be hesitant when unleashing a short-pitched delivery with the ghastly reminder of the consequences of bad luck still fresh in the memory.
This hesitancy will affect the Australian fast bowlers more than the Indian attack. The bouncer was expected to be a prime weapon of an Australian attack better equipped to dish out intimidating deliveries. With no bowler wanting to hit a batsman in these circumstances, this will have a greater effect on the Australian attack.
How will the batsmen react? There probably won't be any noticeable change. Batsmen have always known they could be hurt but they usually shrug it off with the thought that "it won't happen to me". Still, there'll be apprehension but the best players have an amazing ability to compartmentalise things and concentrate purely on the job at hand. They'll be the ones who cope best.
For all players, but especially the Australians, this will be an extremely difficult Test match. They'll be grieving but they'll also want to win the match as a tribute to their fallen comrade. That would be the best way to honour a teammate who was much loved but suffered the unlucky fate that until 27.11.14 remained unspoken among cricketers.