In a Sheffield Shield match at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), Sean Abbott bowled a bouncer. The ball rose off the deck and hit Phillip (aka Phil) Hughes on the back of his head, while he wanted to play a hook shot. Immediately after, Phil lost consciousness and fell on the ground on his face. With a thud. He was rushed to St. Vincent's Hospital where he succumbed to the injury and passed away. Two days shy of his 26th birthday to remain on 63* forever.
The incident was quoted as "freaky accident" by almost all that include medical experts, ex and current cricketers, editors, sports journalists, fans, and the people at large.
The media, especially TV channels, and the social media have gone berserk demanding more safety for batsmen on a cricket pitch. And, according to them, that is only possible if protective gears, precisely helmets, are redesigned and bouncers are relinquished.
Noble thoughts indeed! For such ideas always create more opportunities to debate or argue, and the more the debate or argument, the better the TRP / GRP / Circulation / Readership / Trending. Good business ploys. no doubt.
But the question is, and will ever be, "Do, or can, such gimmicks in news benefit cricket and its stake holders, anyway?"
To understand that, why not don a thinking hat, instead of a reactive one, and try to analyse what exactly happened to Phillip and what might continue to happen to other cricketers, as well as umpires, on a cricket field?
Let's begin the analysis with a pecking question: "Did Sean Abbott bowl a bouncer at all in the first place to intimidate or hurt Phil Hughes?"
From the video analysis, it was clear that the delivery was not a bouncer. It was definitely on the shorter side, but not too short of a length. However, the ball rose off the surface rather stiffly, so, for that, if the bowler needs to be mentioned of, he should rather be credited, not discredited or maligned, for producing such a gem of a delivery.
On the contrary, from batting skills point of view, it was Phil's wrong technique, precisely his flawed footwork and judgement, which put him in a false position to get struck by the cherry and leave the world so early, unfortunately, bringing tears to all of us. Well, to me at least.
While, just swaying away a little backward could have helped Hughes see the ball flying off safely into the keeper's gloves, his erroneously judged aggression to hit the ball made all the damage, irreversibly.
In fact, if playing a shot and scoring off the said delivery was so crucial then an upper cut over the slip would have been ideal. But noway a hook, or even a pull-shot, was apt, given the position Phillip got himself into.
In short, it was not the failure of a cricket helmet but it was the failure of a batsman who, despite being a test player and having loads of talent, failed miserably in 'shot selection' before 'shot execution' owing to his 'aggression'.
Such aggression is actually inevitable thanks to T20, and a tournament like IPL. That turns batting into banging the ball by hook or by crook. Because that's entertainment, often cheap and crazy, which people pay for to help marketeers, and a cricket board like BCCI - out there to sell TV rights even at the cost of a cricketer's life or the game itself.
Money matters, and as long as it flows in, it hardly matters what young cricketers are learning from the grassroots level.
Besides, it's to be noted with due attention that Phillip was not hit by the ball on the back of his head - media hype notwithstanding. He was rather struck on the neck just above the left collarbone, a vulnerable area, where no helmet in the world can provide a protection to any batsman.
Given the weight, hardness, seam and speed of a cricket ball, it would be surprising, if a batsman or, for that matter, any cricketer or an umpire, doesn't suffer from or die of VAD: Vertebral Artery Dissection unlike Hughes had to.
Let alone protecting or saving a cricketer from VAD, as the Masuri 'Vision Series' helmets with 'Active Peak Technology' might not even keep one's face secure and intact, if a cricket ball travels at a speed of over 67-mph from front and enters through the gap between the peak and the grille.
This boils down to the consideration - which ICC or any cricket board hardly cares for - that a cricket ball, from time immemorial, has unnecessarily been hard, intimidating and life-threatening - that is of course, and should never be, acknowledged and appreciated in the name of bravado and machismo.
Frankly, equating one's bruises, broken anatomy, blood or death in a sport with guts or gusto is not normal. It's kind of a psychological disorder like sadism. Quite primitive and predatory, totally devoid of human sense, sensibility and sensitivity, and the spirit of sports. Thus neither ethical nor civilised, and doesn't complement the philosophy and essence of cricket called: The Gentleman's Game.
To be precise, the cricket ball not only harms a batsman but also murders a bowler, a fielder, an umpire (even in the square-leg) - practically anyone, everyone, physically or mentally; literally or laterally.
As a result, it affects the mind of children and parents, psychologically, creating an environment of fear, which cannot help any sport to flourish or get developed, as a global sport, due to the negative emotion that is generated and spread in such situations, automatically.
More so, given the dubious role of the media that fans the fire, as there is hardly any difference between 'Sports Journalism' and 'Page 3 Reporting' at present.
Therefore, the need of the hour is to look into the cricket ball and use science and technology the best possible way to innovate a new cricket ball that won't frighten anyone but, at the same time, will keep the competitiveness in the game alive without compromising or favouring a batsman at the cost of bouncer, swing, reverse swing, seam, cut or spin.
In a nutshell, the core of the cricket ball i.e. the cork has to be gotten rid of, which is not at all conducive but dangerous and harmful to the greater interest of the game.
Last but the least, batsmen should always remember T20 is good; aggression is better; protective gears could be the best, but above all else, it's only the right technique that can save a batsman and help him live longer on the turf and off it.