Rest in Peace Hughesy

December 28, 2014 , by Bibek Kapali, Leave your thoughts
Rest in Peace Hughesy » My Dreams Mag
“We must dig in and get through to tea. And we must play on. So rest in peace my little brother. I'll see you out in the middle,” a teary-eyed Australian cricket team skipper Michael Clarke concludes as he gives a moving eulogy at the funeral of Philip Hughes, who passed away in one of the rarest accidents in the world cricket history.

Tournament: Sheffield Shield (Four-day First Class Match)
Match: New South Wales versus South Australia
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground
Date: November 25, Day 1

Little did Hughes know what the day had in store for him when he walked out of the dressing room and stepped onto the Sydney Cricket Ground on a somewhat cool Tuesday morning under the pleasant sunny sky. As he drew his crease whilst sniffing in the cool breeze all set to bat through the day, add some runs to his name and get back in the Aussie squad with the baggy green for the first Test in Border-Gavaskar trophy due next week, he had no clue whatsoever that it would be his final game.

Hughes had already opened the day with a 61-run opening wicket stand with Mark Cosgrove. His opening partner had departed but he was going steady on 32 when umpires Ashley Barrow and Michael-Graham Smith called for the lunch with South Australia batting at 74-1 at the end of 29th over with Callum Ferguson unbeaten at the other end on four.

Hughes reached his half century after the resumption in the 34th over with two consecutive boundaries off Sean Abbott. The Hughes-Ferguson partnership finally came to an end when the latter was caught behind by Brad Haddin off a Doug Bollinger delivery in the 40th over.

Tom Cooper came in at No 4 joining a solid looking Hughes at the other end. After a dot in the last ball off the 48th over, Hughes retained the strike. Hughes was slowly inching towards triple figures with his scores reading 63 with Abbott the new man to deliver. Abbott has always been a lethal bowler and he was running hard from the other end as Hughes scampered for a couple off the second ball. Charging in, Abbott banged a short delivery in the third ball that was destined to shock the whole world.

Hughes stood tall and took a full swing at the rising delivery only to miss the ball completely. He seemed to have moved his bat a little too soon and the ball hit the base of his skull, the part unprotected by the helmet. The painful blow unsettled him, he took a few steps wide off the crease and tilted a little with his hands resting on his knees trying to swallow the pain and get on with the game.

But within seconds, he collapsed in the pitch leaving the whole stadium in a complete terror. All the eleven players and the umpires swarmed towards him rushing in to help. His helmet was taken off and he was held in by his fellow mates, distraught players waved their hands fanatically gesticulating for help and a motorized stretcher was hurried in with a few medical staffs. The stretcher carried him to the front of the Members Stand and the paramedics tended him.

He had stopped breathing and it was getting worse. However, the paramedics’ struggle for half an hour was a success as they resuscitated him after multiple efforts. They were successful in restoring his breath by applying mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and oxygen. By the time, the ambulance had arrived and Hughes was promptly transported to St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Photo: Getty Images
To no surprise the Sheffield Shield four-day game was abandoned and drawn. The Cricket Australia doctor Peter Brukner later explained that the ball that struck Hughes had compressed his vertebral arteries, splitting it leading to a massive internal bleeding in his brain.

At the St. Vincent’s Hospital, Hughes underwent a brain surgery. The doctors placed him in an induced coma and he was transferred to the intensive care unit to allow his brain to relax. Brukner described the incident as “incredibly rare one” as he explained how the blow had led to vertebral artery dissection causing hemorrhage in the brain.

Prayers flooded from all across the globe. There were encouraging words from the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Kevin Pietersen, Virat Kohli and so many others took to their social media accounts sending out their thoughts and prayers to Hughes and his family. But like most prayers, these went unanswered too. The heaven turned deaf ears.

Three days prior to Hughes’ 26th birthday, on November 27th, Thursday afternoon at St. Vincent’s Hospital Michael Clarke appeared at a press conference with a letter in his hand. On behalf of Hughes’ family he read a statement: “We are devastated by the loss of our much-loved son and brother Phillip," the room went cold; the relatives, players and concerned fans were brought to tears, cries filled the room as they tried to console each other. Fighting tears himself Clarke continued: “ It has been a very difficult few days. We appreciate all the support we have received from family, friends, players, Cricket Australia and the general public.”

"Cricket was Phillip’s life, and we as a family shared that love of the game with him. We would like to thank all the medical and nursing staff at St Vincent’s Hospital and Cricket NSW medical staff for their great efforts with Phillip. We love you and we always will." Clarke left the room breaking in sobs without another word.

Phillip Joel Hughes was son of a hard working father, a young country lad with a cheeky grin, the lad who’d made it, became the “Macksville Dream”, in fact the “Australian Dream”. From a small town in New South Wales, a young boy with dreams so big worked hard every day and transformed into a potential Sir Don Bradman taking the world by storm.

At 20 years of age on his second international game( March 2009), he scored two prolific tons dumbfounding the robust South African bowling attack becoming the youngest to do so in a single match. Though he failed to continue his exquisite run scoring form, partly because of his unorthodox batting techniques making him vulnerable to the bowlers who started cramping him for room and runs never came at ease.

In an out over the years, Hughes couldn’t secure himself a permanent position in the Australian squad. Some may call it the beginner’s luck but he did make a huge impact in his debut One Day Internationals with a shining 112 against the Sri-Lankans followed by a quick-fire 138 in the final match of the same series. His rollercoaster ride in his international career didn’t seem to affect his enthusiasm and his passion for the game, the baggy green was all he ever wanted. He worked on his techniques, did his drills, performed well in the domestic tournaments mounting up ton after tons.

Things were suddenly starting to look bright. He was expected to get a call from the Australian selectors to fill in for the injured captain Michael Clarke on the 2014/2015 Border-Gavasker Trophy. 25th November, a week prior to his potential comeback in the baggy green, he was looking rock-solid, better than ever at the crease. Then the third ball of the 49th over came hissing at him the moment it left the ground. Things went south in an instant, the same ball he’d fended, slashed, sweeped and driven all over the field the whole day, missed his bat but unfortunately didn’t miss the base of his skull.

Hughes could have ducked, slashed it towards the off side or simply tried to fend it off with a solid defense. But no, the rear wheels of the bus had skidded off, the disaster was already in the making. Abbott, who released the deadly ball having no intention of hurting the man who stood before him, could do nothing to stop it.

Within a few moments of the press conference, the tragic news ran across the globe. Heartfelt prayers and pictures of him smiling floated all over the internet with added three words one would never want in a photograph, Rest In Peace. Famous international cricketers and renowned personalities from from the non-sport sections that included Sachin Tendulkar, Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne, AB Deviliers, Tony Abbott (Australian Prime Minister), offered their condolences through social media.

The numbers 63# ( his final score on his ultimate match ) and 408 ( Hughes was the 408th player to get into the Australian Test squad) popped up all over the internet. People put their bats out as a display of homage to his legacy, a large wave of such photographed bats streamed across the social media.

Photo: Getty Images

As planned earlier with the consultation of Hughes’ family, the funeral service was set to begin at the Macksville High School hall 2:00 PM sharp on Tuesday, December 2. All the walls and windows, doors and archways of the little Macksville town seemed to mourn their favorite son; pictures, streamers, paperboards were laid across the street with beautiful messages.

Macksville was ready to celebrate the life of the amazing local lad who had taught them so much in such a short time. Players, relatives, local mourners arrived one by one and gathered inside the Macksville hall. The service commenced at about 2:22 local time led by the father Michael Alcock. Hughes’ cousin Nino Ramunno, brother Jason, sister Megan and Michael Clarke took turns to deliver emotion-filled eulogies.

There was silence in the hall when Michael Clarke stood at the lectern to deliver his tribute to his beloved mate and brother. “I don’t know about you, but I keep looking for him. I know it’s crazy but I expect any minute to take a call from him or to see his face pop up around the corner. Is this what we call the spirit? If so, then his spirit is still with me. And I hope it never leaves.”

Clarke recalled walking over to the middle of the SCG at the evening ahead of that tragic afternoon. There, he found traces of their footsteps where they’d scrambled for runs, built partnerships. When he knelt to the ground and touched the grass he had felt Hughes’ presence beside him, helping him up and making sure that he was okay.

Adding up, Clarke took the hall back in a brief but beautiful memory lane talking about how he and Hughesy would make plans for movies they were going to watch at night only to end up dozing off on a useless fact about cows.

Struggling to go on, yet pulling himself together Clarke expressed his appreciation and admiration for the continuous prayers and love of people from far and wide across the globe, for the flowers they’d laid outside the SCG, bats and tributes they put out in Hughes’ name and the amazing support that had kept him in his feet. Battling all the way through his speech, Clarke then gave up breaking into intermittent sobs at the end. In between sobs and sniffles, he managed to expel the words that would hold a special place in the heart of Australians and many more.

“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. So rest in peace my little brother. I’ll see you out in the middle. “

Associating the intensely difficult time with an arduous circumstance in a cricket match where the batsmen grapple against all odds and try and fight through to tea, he stressed on the fact that we all must carry on. He finished off with a promise to meet him in the middle someday and withdrew from the lectern wiping up his tear-rimmed eyes as the mourners stood up and slapped their hands together in appraisal of the honest emotions, heartbreaking lament of a true brother and friend.

When the casket where Hughes’ lay was taken for a final tour in the procession, there couldn’t have been a sight more heartbreaking to any eyes than a father supporting his son’s coffin on his shoulder as one of the pallbearers.

Hughes’ tragic end shocked and shook the whole world, but his spirit brought the whole world together. It’s nice to see brothers from different edges of the world coming together for a cause. No one deserves to die so young and innocent and although it might not have been the way we wanted, his uncontaminated soul sew hands to hands, hearts to hearts, knit up a pure foundation of unity, love and compassion.

What we all must learn from him is to appreciate ours and the lives of many, live and enjoy a humble life. Just like his sister Megan mentioned, we all must pledge to not take things for granted and take every opportunity that comes our way. It doesn’t have to mean that we all must accomplish extraordinary feats, conquer and crush every mission with perfection. To lead a meaningful life, one has to admire and respect all the small things, the swooning orange painted across the evening sky, the dark of the night and light of the day, the wind and the rain and the gift of a beautiful life.

Words by Bibek Kapali.

Banner image courtesy: BCCI


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