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Not worth losing a life over

(This post has been published in Here: ) 

This piece has also since been published in The New Indian Express

Losing a wicket is a far far better thing to strive for. No batsman would say that under normal circumstances, but given Phil Hughes' death, he would certainly say that. 

The sight of a fast bowler tearing into a batsman has been one of cricket's most romanticized images, especially in the pre-helmet era. It was a test to the batsman's technique and mental make-up to duck a bouncer or take one on and dispatch it to the fence. Some of the most celebrated tales in cricket come from anecdotes where batsmen have withstood or batted on in spite of a broken nose or a jaw, samurai-like. It is also very macho, I guess, for both players and spectators to witness such episodes involving sweat, and blood, in some cases. Almost all modern-day sports are civilized and evolved versions of some ancient games of one-upmanship or territorial skirmishes. Grace and beauty in sport must have come much spit and polish later. 

Yes, all of sport is like that; there is romance, there is danger. Romance in danger, and danger in romance. It appeals to something inherently raw in our nature, I guess, to see a batsman duck for cover in the face of a ball that is travelling at him at lightning pace. Will he send the ball to the fence, use the best of his technique to duck or weave out, will he take a blow? Every bowler seeks to ask this question, but some faster than others. Some are harmful, some are not. 

Cricket is as much a dangerous sport as any other game, although it is treated as a lazy gentle five-day exercise by most of us. We love to watch the poetry in an on-drive, but forget that there is an inherent danger. 

Questions of safety have come up from time to time, but it really is important for players and coaches to rethink rules on safety and matters of technique. Just not worth losing a life over, this cricket. Most definitely. One feels for Phil Hughes and Sean Abbott and their families. And those before. Raman Lamba, who lost his life, and others who have taken terrible knocks, like Gatting, Nari Contractor, Stuart Broad, Anil Kumble, the list goes on. 

There is a school of thought that says helmets have actually made the game less safe. I read somewhere that helmets induce a certain sense of complacency, and batsmen think they are protected enough to take on the short-pitched stuff. In the absence of a helmet, the batsman chooses to duck and look away. Am not sure about technique, but whatever it takes to make the game safe should be in place. No sport is worth losing a life over. Not rugby, not biking, not racing and not cricket.

Michael Holding was a tearaway fast bowler with the nickname 'Whispering Death'. There were others in the West Indies line-up who were super fast bowlers and their names were enough to send shivers down the spines of batsmen. And there was no dearth of such names in the Aussie side either. Or Pakistan and South Africa. Poor Sean Abbott is not even a super fast bowler in that league, and I really feel terrible for him. How will he cope with this? Am sure that short-pitched one he bowled would have played in his mind many times over. Not his fault, not anyone's.

And yet in this death, life has mimicked cricket in some way. Everything is split-second, there really is a thin line between getting out and staying on to score a hundred. Between life and death. Heroism and tragedy. 

But sadly, in life, once you are out, you are out. In cricket, there is a second innings, in life, none. Spare a thought for this young man's family, friends, and Sean Abbott. Phil Hughes would have turned 26 in a couple of days. 


  1. Sad but well said ...the more you are secure, the less you are cautious about. nevertheless it is he destiny ultimately.


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