Chilling reminder of dangers of cricket

The year 2014 hasn’t been kind to sportsmen and their millions of fans. It began with Formula One great Michael Schumacher suffering a crippling head injury while skiing in French Alps. The German legend is still alive but making a painfully slow progress.

Another F1 driver Jules Bianchi of France went into coma after an accident during the Japanese Grand Prix. After some anxious weeks, Bianchi, 25, came out of induced coma much to everyone’s relief. Phillip Hughes, who was just shy of 26, wasn’t so lucky though. The Australian cricketer, after battling for life for two days, breathed his last plunging the world of cricket into deep sorrow.

In his moving tribute to Hughes, struck fatally on the back of his head by a bouncer, South African great Jacques Kallis says the untimely death of the 25-year-old batsman has put everything in perspective. He is absolutely right when he says nothing seems important now. The two-day practice match between India and a Cricket Australia XI was cancelled without a murmur and a day’s play was called off in the Test between Pakistan and New Zealand without any debate. And the fate of opening Test between India and Australia remains in doubt. The emotional outpouring from across the cricketing world reflects the impact of this tragic incident.

While a young life has been snuffed out in the cruellest of ways, it has opened up a debate on how dangerous the game of cricket actually is. Cricket being a non-contact sport, the general perception has always been that it’s not as hazardous as motorsport or rugby or for that matter, even football. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

The so-called gentleman’s game is equally unsafe despite the advent of advanced protective equipment. Many of the old-timers, connoisseurs or cricketers, tend to romanticise the way Sir Vivian Richards strutted around to bat without a helmet. Hughes’ death, despite wearing helmet, shows there is no machismo in this act. The great West Indian was just plain lucky that he got away despite the likes of Lillee and Thomson bowling during his era. That said, can there be a fool proof gear then? Former India fast bowler Javagal Srinath, who had knocked down a few himself in his prime, hit the nail on the head when he said one can’t be prepared for uncertainties. Hughes was wearing a helmet but still suffered a fatal injury so the debate has now moved to what kind of helmet he should have been wearing. Fact is, all it takes is one good ball to get a batsman out. And chillingly, it also takes just one nasty ball to kill a batsman.

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