November 26, 2014

Hope for Hughes, feel for Abbott

It is impossible to imagine how Sean Abbott must feel after sending down that bouncer to Phillip Hughes. While the cricket world hopes for Hughes' recovery, it should also ensure Abbott is supported

Only last month, Phillip Hughes and Sean Abbott enjoyed a happy moment together when they were presented with their Twenty20 international caps © AFP

What is there to do but hope, desperately hope, that Phillip Hughes recovers? What is there to do but feel for Sean Abbott, a young man who must be so very distressed? It is easy when you watch elite cricket on television or in a packed stadium to forget that the players are human, just ordinary people like the rest of us. It is easy to overlook the inherent danger in what they do for a living.

On Wednesday, former Test bowler Rodney Hogg recalled once crying while walking back to bowl after knocking out the teeth of an Indian batsman. That is a natural human response. If Hogg didn't know that batsman well, try for a moment to imagine how Abbott must feel right now. You can't. None of us can. He must be inconsolable.

Only last month, Hughes and Abbott enjoyed a happy moment together when they were presented with their Twenty20 international caps by chairman of selectors Rod Marsh. They shared a debut in Dubai, where they were part of a strong victory for Australia over Pakistan. It was business as usual: Abbott bowled fast-medium and picked up a wicket; Hughes struck a boundary and then got out top-edging a pull off a quick bowler.

At the SCG less than eight weeks later, it was again business as usual, only this time they were on opposite teams. Again Abbott was bowling fast-medium, again Hughes was trying to score. Then a tragic, random accident occurred, a regulation bouncer that Hughes missed, and which struck him below the helmet. Abbott immediately went to check if Hughes was okay, and immediately saw that he wasn't.

The bouncer is and has always been an integral part of cricket, and accidents like this are so, so rare. It won't stop Sean Abbott thinking of 'if onlys'. If only I'd bowled a yorker... If only I'd bowled a slower ball... That is human nature.

It goes without saying that Abbott did nothing wrong. The bouncer is and has always been an integral part of cricket, and accidents like this are so, so rare. It won't stop him thinking of 'if onlys'. If only I'd bowled a yorker... If only I'd bowled a slower ball... That is human nature. Abbott will need immense support from those around him.

Abbott and Hughes are both just young men trying to make careers as cricketers, like the players they idolised as children. Hughes had Steve Waugh posters on his wall when he was growing up in Macksville, where his parents, Greg and Virginia, owned a banana farm. He moved to Sydney to pursue cricket at 16, but has never lost his country approach to life.

It is remarkable that Hughes has remained so humble, so polite, so unaffected by his quick rise to stardom. He made his Test debut at 20, scored twin centuries in his second Test in South Africa, has made 26 first-class hundreds before the age of 26. You could imagine such achievements changing a bloke, but not Hughes.

On last month's tour of the UAE, he was his usual courteous self, stopping and saying hello whenever he ran into a journalist or someone else he recognised. He's just a typical country guy who happens to be a damn fine cricketer. And yet cricket has never seemed as meaningless as it does right now.

Nor have words have ever felt so trivial. But what else is there to do but use them to express sympathy for Abbott, and hope for Hughes. Often when Hughes has been dropped from Australia's side it has seemed unjustified, that he has been more unlucky than others. Hopefully his luck has all been saved up for the time when he needs it most.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale

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