It’s never easy to cover serious news on a website like this because whatever we write will have to stand alongside something stupid. Our usual way of dealing with this is to just let the serious story completely pass us by. But you can’t write a cricket site and not comment on the death of a cricketer who was killed while playing cricket. Where are you if you start doing that anyway? The modern world is a disconnected, unfeeling place at times. Ignoring a person’s death is not acceptable.
However, the first thing we’ve noticed is that even if people can feel distanced from major events nowadays, the cricket world – and that includes you and us – seems to remain healthily responsive. We’re writing this because it’s a struggle to read. Phil Hughes’ death seems to have rinsed all the cynicism away so that even trite words are making us teary.
That’s one of the things about cricket. A day’s play is six hours; a Test match five days; a tour can last months – it’s a lot of time to get to know someone. We don’t see players in every situation in their life, but we do see a hell of a lot of them. We take in the ups and downs that shape them – ups and downs which can be very personal and unrelated to the fortunes of their team. Cricket’s like a huge, freakish family and when a cricket family member dies, we all feel a sense of loss.
Quite a few of the obituaries are saying that Hughes was destined for greatness, which is the kind of fortune-telling revisionism which often takes place when someone dies at an unacceptably young age. We don’t much care whether he would have been great or not. What we’ll miss is Hughes’s career, however it might have panned out. That was the fascination – in seeing things unfold.
And Hughes was a truly fascinating player. We’d have loved to have seen how things went from here. He could look – and we’ll not mince our words here – outright bad at the crease. He could look like a bad batsman. But he could also look good and more than anything, he could perform in a way that made him impossible to ignore. He bounced between those extremes like no-one else and that is what we’ll miss. All players are unique, but Hughes was a high profile, potentially-alter-your-entire-way-of-thinking unique.
His career seemed to constitute an experiment as to whether really obvious shortcomings could be completely negated by sheer brilliance. Hughes would pick up a whole string of ducks and you’d think it was an open-and-shut case and then he’d score hundreds when no-one else could get off the mark. That was the quality we picked up on in his early days and he only became more interesting when we later discovered that his was a qualified brilliance.
Freakishly heavy scoring is hard to ignore and if Australians still talk about Shaun Marsh as being some great white hope, it’s worth noting that Hughes made over twice as many first-class hundreds despite being six years younger. He was 25. We hadn’t even started this website when we were 25. We hadn’t even thought about doing the thing that we do when were the age at which Phil Hughes has died. We know a sportsman’s career starts and ends earlier than most, but it isn’t meant to end this early.