The death of Phil Hughes and the way it united the cricket community serves as another reminder of just how powerful sport can be. He’ll always be remembered as cricket’s little brother, and the global sorrow only highlights the tapestry that unites the game’s fans. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
“Why do you love cricket so much?”
It’s a question every single cricket fan has been asked at least once in their lives. It usually comes from a perplexed non-cricket fan or a passive fan, who doesn’t quite get how a game that goes on for five days and sometimes doesn’t have a winner can be so enchanting.
The answer is never universal. Every single cricket fan has a different anecdote. Some love it because their mothers (or their fathers) were ardent supporters and it’s something which grew from there. Some remember their early days playing club cricket in Blighty, cold hands sheltered inside of a jumper’s sleeve so the catch at long off doesn’t hurt so much. For others, it’s playing in the backyard with siblings, using bins or tree trunks as stumps. Some love it because it’s an escape. For those who played at the legendary St. Augustine’s club in Cape Town, it offered opportunity in the Apartheid years. We love the hum of the crowd as the sunburn begins to sting in the late afternoon sun. We love the crack of leather on willow or the whoosh of the two nearly colliding.
The reasons are endless and those drawn to the game are not defined by anything; they are united instead by their love for the sport.
Why do you love cricket so much?
Nobody can give one answer to that question, but if the last week taught us anything, it’s that part of the reason we love cricket is because of its power to bring people together, even in sorrow. We love the game because it unites us.
That’s whether we’re united at a club game over lunches lovingly made by parents or partners. United in outrage over a poor decision. United in boycotting a country abusing the human rights of its people. United by a tantric cover drive in a World Cup to lead a team to the winning runs. United through a fast bowling spell that makes our hairs stand on end as we watch, from side on, as the world’s best fast bowler steams in on fast deck. And when we are united in sorrow as cricket loses one of its soldiers while playing the game he loved, as we all do, cricket is a glue that can bind as all together.
Australian captain Michael Clarke gave a touching eulogy at Phil Hughes’ funeral on Wednesday. He said:
“Is this what we call the spirit of cricket? From the little girl in Karachi holding a candlelight tribute to masters of the game like Tendulkar, Warne and Lara, showing their grief to the world, the spirit of cricket binds us all together. We feel it in the thrill of a cover drive. Or the taking of a screamer at gully, whether by a 12-year-old boy in Worcester or by Brendon McCullum in Dubai. It is in the brilliant hundred or five-wicket haul, just as significant to the players in a Western Suburbs club game as it is in a Test match.
“The bonds that lead to cricketers from around the world putting their bats out, that saw people who didn’t even know Phillip lay flowers at the gates of Lord’s, and that brought every cricketing nation on earth to make its own heartfelt tribute.
“The bonds that saw players old and new rush to his bedside. From wherever they heard the news to say their prayers and farewells. This is what makes our game the greatest game in the world. Phillip’s spirit, which is now part of our game forever, will act as a custodian of the sport we all love.
“We must listen to it. We must cherish it. We must learn from it. We must dig in and get through to tea. And we must play on.”
In a time where cricket is tethering on the brink with maladministration and a power struggle, these words have never been more poignant. The tragic death of Hughes has showed just how much good can come from the game and it should serve as a reminder to greedy administrators of just how precious the sport is. It’s more important than controlling finances. It’s more important than reserving certain formats for the elite. Cricket’s power should not be underestimated and if there ever were a time for a reality check on its impact, it’s now.
Phillip Hughes died doing what he loved most. It was a terrible accident and while no life is more important than another, the loss has been so deeply felt because it came through the beautiful game with a tapestry that binds us all. He might be gone, but his legend will live forever. It will live on through the player with the cold hands in Blighty and the young kid using a tree trunk as stumps. It will live on to those forcing positive change and those taking responsibility for the power they hold.
Hamba kahle, cricket’s little brother. You’ll stay 63 not out forever, and we’ll play on. DM
Photo: Floral tributes at NSW Cricket headquarters at the Sydney Cricket Ground following the death of Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes, in Sydney, Australia, 28 November 2014. Philipl Hughes, who died on 27 November 2014 at St Vincent’s Hospital, was a critical condition after being injured on 25 November 2014 when he was hit by a bouncer while batting for South Australia during a Sheffield Shield game.