“As an ex-player I’m in awe of Phillip Hughes’s batting ability. At 25, he had 26 first-class hundreds and nine one-day hundreds. Statistically this is freakish. You can trust me on that,” said the former Australian southpaw Justin Langer in his tribute to Hughes.
Hailing from Macksville, the 20-year-old Hughes made his mark in international cricket in 2009 when he ripped apart the lethal Proteas bowling attack on a tough Durban track. As he became the youngest player ever to score two centuries in a Test, I strongly felt not only will this guy play 100+ Tests for Australia, but he’ll also score plenty of tons and that too daddy ones.
When some of Hughes’s technical flaws got exposed, especially his dismissals in identical fashion in slips in the home series against New Zealand in 2011, he didn’t back down. When mocked for same, Hughes, unlike any other Australian, preferred to stay calm and maintain his focus on getting things right. Never for once he complained and that’s why he was loved by public for his fighting spirit and boisterous nature. In 2013, he became the first Australian player to score a hundred on ODI debut and the very next year, he hit the first List A double ton for his country as well.
When Hughes was all set to get a Test call-up in place of injured Michael Clarke for India series, a bouncer hit him on the back of his head during a Sheffield Shield match and he never regained consciousness after that. On November 27, 2014, Hughes tragically passed away (three days before his birthday), leaving the cricketing fraternity in utter pain.
The incident not only affected his family but left a deep scar on the Australian team and everyone around. From being a pack of dogs showing ruthless aggression, having threatened opposition of suffering broken arms, we could see a sense of concern the moment an opponent got hit by a ball. Be it India’s Virat Kohli or England’s Eoin Morgan, the concern was genuine and impact of Hughes’s incident was evident. It also gave Australia an additional incentive ahead of the ICC World Cup 2015. They didn’t just had to win it for themselves, they had to win it for him.
What happened to Hughes had a huge impact on Mitchell Johnson, at least as a lethal fast bowler. Throughout the 2013/14 Ashes and the South Africa tour that followed, the left-arm pacer was in the form of his life – 59 wickets in eight Tests. But after Hughes’ unfortunate demise, he never looked the same.
In case of David Warner who opened alongside Hughes for New South Wales, he became a different man altogether. His attitude towards the game now stands as a tribute to his friend.
I wish I could have seen you bat a lot more, wish you had scored more centuries, wish to got to know you more. Rest in Peace Phil! You are missed badly.
Never known anyone who I have just seen play and analysed (his game) made so many grown ups cry.