Phillip Hughes, 1988-2014
November 27, 2014 5:33 AM   Subscribe

"He was a fun-loving, care-free sort of see-ball, hit-ball guy with a cheeky grin" ... "We would have late-night coffees and he would just be in awe of the fact he was playing for Australia.... He would just say 'I'm going to go out there and smash it bro'. That was how he would talk. He would not think about it. He would just go out there and whack the ball. He was just positive all the time, he never moaned or complained.
Australian test cricketer Phillip Hughes has died in hospital two days after being hit by a bouncer during a match between South Australia and New South Wales in Sydney. [Warning: graphic images.]

Hughes was struck on the neck by a ball from NSW bowler Sean Abbott, causing a rare vertebral artery dissection, which flooded Hughes's brain with blood.

Widely regarded as one of the most promising batsmen of his generation, he was expected to return to the Australian side for the upcoming test series against India. Now, top-level cricket matches across the globe are being suspended to enable players to mourn and the first Test against India may be cancelled.

Hughes rose to prominence in 2009 by becoming the youngest player (at 20) to score centuries in both innings of a test match. He was known for his thrilling, fluent stroke-play and straightforward approach to the game. Hughes, who grew up in rural Northern New South Wales and once joked that "he knew a lot about cricket and cattle but not much else," was three days away from his 26th birthday.
posted by Sonny Jim (51 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Renoroc at 5:33 AM on November 27, 2014

posted by hawthorne at 5:48 AM on November 27, 2014 [7 favorites]

Sad story. Hard to believe they once played without helmets. (I believe that is also true of ice hockey goalkeepers).

A friend who is a professional cricketer told me of an occasion when a batsman slogged the ball and knocked out one of the fielders. An ambulance arrived to take the fielder away. The batsman was standing forlornly at the crease on his own so my friend went over to chat with him, saying "Bad business ... can't be helped ... could have happened to anyone". The batsman said pensively "Yes ... I think it would have gone for four .... "
posted by Major Tom at 5:48 AM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

posted by zamboni at 5:58 AM on November 27, 2014

Thanks for this post. The outpouring of grief and mourning across the cricketing world has been painful and strongly heartfelt. The flags at Lord's are at half mast. That this was an entirely freakish accident doesn't mitigate the profound disturbance Hughes' death has had on all who love to play and watch cricket. This shouldn't happen.

I hope they play the first Test next week. I hope Sean Abbott bowls again.
posted by bright cold day at 6:05 AM on November 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think most people assumed he would recover, even though it was clearly serious - it was a horrible shock to hear he was dead.
posted by Segundus at 6:08 AM on November 27, 2014

Apart from his family and friends, I feel the most sorry for the bowler who bowled that ball; that must be incredibly traumatising to have a freak accident with your ball kill somebody.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:11 AM on November 27, 2014 [18 favorites]

posted by carter at 6:13 AM on November 27, 2014

Yeah; I read the news of his death this morning and it's the only time in recent memory that reading a news item has involuntarily made me swear out loud. For some reason I always assumed he'd make a recovery.

I'll remember his last wicket stand with Ashton Agar (no matter how painful as an Englishman that was) and I'll remember the first time I saw him bat, this long-rumoured prodigy from Australia, playing for Middlesex back in 2009, when he carved out a quick century pretty much entirely through the off-side.

He seemed one of the good guys.
posted by Hartster at 6:20 AM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Mods you might want to change "Australian test cricketer Phillip Hughes" to the first line of the post as there is an American MLB player with the same name born only two years earlier.
posted by any major dude at 6:21 AM on November 27, 2014

Very sad.

For our international audience, our Australian cousins take their cricket very seriously; and although this is being felt all over the world, it is particularly tough for them.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 6:32 AM on November 27, 2014

posted by colie at 6:33 AM on November 27, 2014

I remember watching David Hooks having his jaw shattered by a bouncer when I was a kid. That was traumatic enough. This is just devastating.
posted by h00py at 6:43 AM on November 27, 2014

Apart from his family and friends, I feel the most sorry for the bowler who bowled that ball; that must be incredibly traumatising to have a freak accident with your ball kill somebody.
Yes. By all accounts he's getting support and counselling, but it's an awful thing to happen to a 22-year old just starting to make his own inroads into the game.
posted by Sonny Jim at 6:48 AM on November 27, 2014


He was very highly regarded in the cricketing world.

This Sunday would have been his 26th birthday.
posted by Salamander at 6:53 AM on November 27, 2014

posted by krakus at 6:57 AM on November 27, 2014

Hard to believe they once played without helmets.

Cricket helmets and a dangerous kind of complacency
posted by NoMich at 6:58 AM on November 27, 2014

It might be difficult for a North American sports fan to fathom but to really appreciate the impact of cricket ball you need to know that it is harder, heavier, smaller and less predictable than a baseball.
posted by srboisvert at 7:36 AM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

Especially since it's being bounced off of a pitch made of any type of hardened soil with bumps and grooves and god knows what else.
posted by NoMich at 7:53 AM on November 27, 2014

Tributes to Phil Hughes from Islamabad Pakistan and from Kolkata India.
posted by NoMich at 7:54 AM on November 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

A . from an Indian supporter who'll be at the upcoming tests as part of a tour group. (Assuming that the series goes ahead)

I saw him play against India at the 2013 Chennai test. The whole Aussie batting lineup had a nightmare for those five days, but even then he was seen as one of the more dangerous batsmen in that team. After *that* performance against the South African pace battery, his reputation in India was quite good.

The news broke here in India just after breakfast, to say that we were shocked by it is an understatement. The cricketing world is a small one and test cricket in particular can be brutal, but not like this.

Thanks for the post. Very nice collection of links.
posted by all the versus at 8:38 AM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

A high school friend of mine was hit in the eye by a bouncer during an interschool cricket game. It fractured her eye socket and caused her pain for years. It's a nasty thing to happen, and I was still shocked to hear Hughes had died. I had read (or misread) that the ball hit him in the head and expected a fracture, or a severe concussion and an eventual full recovery.

posted by tracicle at 9:29 AM on November 27, 2014

This video tribute to him from Cricket Australia is really, really nice:
posted by Hartster at 10:09 AM on November 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

posted by OHenryPacey at 12:09 PM on November 27, 2014


A tragedy and poor Sean Abbott.
posted by fido~depravo at 1:17 PM on November 27, 2014

All my Australian friends have been posting about this story and how terribly shocking it is. I'm beginning to think that no competitive sport is without terrible (if in some cases rare) risks to life and limb.

. for Hughes and I hope Abbott finds peace after this terrible accident.
posted by immlass at 1:22 PM on November 27, 2014

Another point for those not familiar with cricket - at 25 years old Hughes was only really in the early days of his career. He was as being on the cusp of adding/improving the experience, mental attitude/toughness, and self-awareness of his own abilities/limitations, needed to be an elite test-level batsman to his undeniable raw talent. Followers of the game had been generally expecting that this Australian summer would potentially see him regaining and consolidating his position as part of the core of the Australian top-order. Many expected him to be one of the leading batsman in Australia's test lineup for the next decade.

Another aspect to this is his character as a player and as a person. Of the several stereotypes of 'the Australian Cricketer,'he embodied many of the better attributes - the idiosyncratic style and technique, the dogged determination, and particularly the humility that is foregrounded by some of the quotes mentioned above seen in his willingness to accept career setbacks and to address the shortcomings of his game without complaint.

Finally, the start of the test cricket series in Australia is something of a cultural marker for the start of summer and the move into the holiday period down here - even for people not particularly interested in cricket.

63* as hawthorne eloquently put it.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 2:22 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Cricket helmets and a dangerous kind of complacency

Risk compensation in action.

Oh, and


A sad day for cricket.
posted by pharm at 2:51 PM on November 27, 2014

Freak accident, and a total tragedy.

Many years ago, I was hit in the ear with a bouncer. It dropped me to the floor.
posted by Bubbles Devere at 3:01 PM on November 27, 2014

Just an awfully tragic thing to happen.

Pretty much everyone in Australia remains in shock about it, be they close followers of cricket or just casual observers.

posted by chris88 at 3:48 PM on November 27, 2014

Not only is a cricket ball smaller, harder, and heavier than a baseball, it's also thrown differently. Baseballs are generally pitched directly towards the batter's strike zone; they may swerve because of their spin, but the path is otherwise direct. A baseball batter who receives a bounced pitch is in a tactically advantageous position: such a pitch does not count as a "strike" and a batter struck by such a ball shall be awarded first base.

The rules in cricket are different: balls are very often bowled so as to bounce before reaching the batsman. Part of the skill in bowling is to manage this bounce so that it ascends unpredictably. In fact, some bowlers have deliberately aimed repeated deliveries at the same patch of ground so as to create a damaged, non-uniform surface, which will deflect balls and make them harder to hit.

Our American Cousins may not appreciate the fact that "bouncers" are meant to be dangerous. The idea is that a ball bowled this way will intimidate a batsman and throw him off balance. The rules don't even discourage this, really: they actually enshrine these pitches as something that is legal if it isn't done too often. So Hughes' injury was unexpected in the sense that this sort of damage rarely occurs; it wasn't unexpected in the sense that cricketing is supposed to be safe.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:09 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

posted by kjs4 at 5:22 PM on November 27, 2014

Links and discussions at r/cricket and r/sports on Reddit are worth exploring at the moment.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 5:43 PM on November 27, 2014


Terrible news.

It's on odd thing, cricket. I remember once batting and mis-cutting a very powerful shot, sending it right into the head of the silly mid off (very close in fielder). Knocked him senseless, and then he had a fit. Scary stuff, and all season I really struggled at the crease whenever I was batting with a short leg or silly mid off (both very close in fielders). I was acutely aware that one powerful shot and they could get hurt very badly.

The reason that I mention it though, is that I often fielded at short leg. It never bothered me fielding there. I never had the same anxiety or fear as when batting. Stupid really.

Also, thoughts should also go to Sean Abbott, who bowled the ball. It's going to be bloody hard for him to get out there again.
posted by Tasmanian_Kris at 5:49 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 5:57 PM on November 27, 2014

posted by anadem at 6:09 PM on November 27, 2014

posted by Wolof at 6:36 PM on November 27, 2014

Thanks Sonny Jim for the post, I started to make one yesterday but just couldn't finish it.

SMH has some good articles on tributes people are making, including #putoutyourbats and #63notoutforever. The #putoutyourbats twitter hashtag has legendary Australian batsman Dean Jones putting out his 89 ashes bat.

I really liked this obituary of Phil Hughes which I thought was really touching.

This one the mother of an young cricketer has this quote: "Mum, you have to yell out when I am on 63 so I can retire."
posted by Admira at 7:07 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


... and thoughts with Sean Abbott too. No one can have the remotest idea what he must be going through.

"Why does a death in sport hit us so hard?"
posted by mysticreferee at 8:19 PM on November 27, 2014

For some reason before the news broke yesterday I had been thinking about a one-dayer I remember from the mid 80s, where two or three batters took balls to the head. Helmets weren't so commonplace then. I was only about eight but I still remember Larry Gomes spitting teeth on the pitch.

I figured that the ubiquity of helmets meant that sort of thing would never happen again. Horrible business.


Google's front page has a lovely touch right now.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 8:57 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Good explanation with illustrations:
Phillip Hughes’ freak accident explained
Conclusion of the article:
“If you take away [bouncers] from the game it takes away that combative nature of cricket,” Australian great Matthew Hayden told Triple M.

“I know that we’re not running into massive human men, but you actually just want to challenge yourself and Test cricket is called that for a reason – it tests everything.

Added former Australian fast bowler Stuart Clark: “As a fast bowler you’ve got to intimidate. That’s part of the game. It’s been a part of the game for a long period of time now and I hope it always will be.”
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:24 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

So sad. You're not meant to die playing cricket.

63 Not Out forever.
posted by Duke999R at 10:05 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by xedrik at 7:23 AM on November 28, 2014

And I see that the first Test between India and Australia, scheduled for 4 December, has been postponed. Utterly, utterly tragic.
posted by vac2003 at 11:55 PM on November 28, 2014

posted by spinifex23 at 10:15 AM on November 29, 2014

Begun, the Cricket Wars have: Israeli cricket umpire killed by ball
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:21 PM on November 29, 2014


posted by matrixgeek at 9:08 PM on November 29, 2014

There have been a lot of nice tributes, but this one from Justin Langer was especially lovely: "Get up little fella, get up".
posted by Hartster at 7:20 AM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by LobsterMitten at 12:04 PM on November 30, 2014

Apparently (at least according to the Guardian's over by over commentary), there was a group of spectators on the bank determinedly cheering every bouncer. And the short ball has already had an impact on this match with Clarke's back injury, sustained while evading a short pitched ball from Sharma.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:28 AM on December 9, 2014

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