Australia has been sent reeling by the death of Phillip Hughes: I do not use that term lightly. This exceptional sportsman would have been 26 years old this weekend. I’m not going to rehash all the coverage here, but I’ve had some thoughts rolling around in my head since his death was announced yesterday afternoon and want to try to clarify and share them with you as some food for thought. Before I do, I would like you to also think about Sean Abbott, the bowler, for a minute. Because he’s also lost the sport he loves. Imagine the next time he begins a run up to bowl, all he’s going to be thinking about was the last ball he bowled. The poor boy is going through hell.
This picture of Phillip Hughes is of him celebrating his maiden century in a One Day International against Sri Lanka. A game I watched at the MCG with Hubs. I love cricket. Mum and Dad took my brother and I to see a match in our home-town to watch Worcestershire vs. Sussex. Ian Botham (when he was bigger than God) and Imran Khan were both playing; well Imran Khan was down to play – he actually arrived too late to get on the pitch. Never to mind, from then on, going to watch cricket was something we did as a family.
Hubs also loves cricket; he plays it still, I’ve spent many a happy hour watching him from a deckchair; we named our son after a cricketer; there are Wisdens and balls and bats and memorabilia all over our house; in the back of both cars are cricket sets, you get the picture.
I’m not concerned with all the stats; in the USA I guess the closest sport for statistics and averages would be baseball, but I do like reading the scoreboard and looking at the run rate while the game is playing. My one and only criticism of the MCG, as the ground is truly beautiful, is that for the Melbourne Cricket Ground, there isn’t a static scoreboard. You have to remember to look up at a big screen, before it gets changed to an advert. I get frustrated with the dire TV coverage of matches, now televising sport just seems to be advertising things with the odd bit of sport thrown in.
I told a colleague who’d come over to check in on everyone after an off-site meeting that Phillip Hughes had died. He was a bit nonplussed, he doesn’t do cricket, and said that ‘It is very sad that someone has died, but as a country the things we do to asylum seekers is reprehensible and the country is going to go crazy over a cricketer’. He walked off shaking his head.
You know what, I get it.
The sport that I love is rocked to it’s core. Children could end up being wrapped in cotton wool, there will be review after review, analysis after analysis to try and prevent it from happening again. Yet the head injury was so rare, the hospital had not even seen it before. Ducking and turning away to avoid a ball is an instinctive reaction, the whole situation was an accident.
So far I’ve managed to avoid seeing the coverage, apparently not turning the cameras away out of respect for someone who was obviously critically injured wasn’t thought of. I hate how we get slow motion replay of injuries. I just don’t understand it. Why are we seeing someone’s knee pop, shoulder give way or leg break time and again?
Cricketers are on very high pedestals here in Australia. Any fall from grace, should they have one, is a long way down and the bump at the bottom is often harsh. Think about the uncomfortable press conferences that have been arranged for them to voice apologies for being young men, making bad choices and stupid decisions. All of them stand up and front the press; whether this is done for them to be made examples of, I don’t know the full reasoning behind it, but the Baggy Green is one of the most iconic symbols in sport. Being presented with your cap admits you into a very small club of Australian Test Cricketers, and you do not wear that cap lightly. A group of men, who when they walk onto any pitch carry the whole nations’ eyes on their backs and everyone’s expectations on how they will play in their hearts.
Who will be in the Test side is a matter for national debate, on the news, in the lunch room, in the papers, by the water cooler. Everyone has an opinion, everyone thinks the selectors are getting better/worse/or have no idea. The Bodyline Tour is infamous because England built their whole Ashes team around to try and stop one man, Sir Donald Bradman. Phillip Hughes’ averages were on a par with Bradman – that’s how good he was.
The whole country is talking about a cricketer, but since the Liberals have come into power, they’ve shut down the media around asylum seekers. They refuse to answer questions, respond to comments and are so proud they’re stopping the boats, they’re ignoring the fact that a baby who was born on Australian soil to asylum seeker parents apparently does not have the right to claim refugee status.
Because we don’t hear about, see anything of, or are allowed to have an opinion on how our fellow human beings are being treated in (lets face it) little more than concentration camps; all the while the asylum seekers are trying to justify why they’re fleeing from their country. Imagine if I picked you up now, in the clothes you were wearing – no you can’t stop to get your bag or wallet, you need to leave now. Then I dropped you anywhere on the planet – how would you prove who you were? I don’t have anything in my pockets like my birth certificate, or passport, or driving licence. I saw a great quote a few months ago, I’m paraphrasing here but it was along the lines of ‘Asylum seekers aren’t coming to Australia because we have good TV, they’re coming here because they’re being shot at’.
I’m devastated that a sport I love, with a star at the heart of it, who was just coming back into form has passed away, will be forever changed.
But I am more devastated that as a country, Australia are rapidly being seen as xenophobic, shut down, flouting the Geneva Convention and ignoring the UNs calls for a little more tact and diplomacy. My State, Victoria is going to the polls this weekend, it is compulsory to vote here, it’s your democratic responsibility. I hope Victorian’s put people into power that have more tact, diplomacy and heart; elect politicians that recognise that we’re all members of the human family; that the situation causing people running from fear, poverty, war and famine could so easily be reversed, could so easily be us. We’re acknowledging the hundred year anniversary of World War I, it wasn’t that long ago remember?
I hope that the politicians that are elected recognise that life is fragile, it can disappear in an instant, not just in a war zone, but even on a playing field.