Mark Reason in STUFF, 8 December 2014 – http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/opinion/63759297/Reason-Hughes-death-highlights-crickets-hypocrisy where the title is “Phillip Hughes death highlights cricket’s hypocrisy”
The best way for cricket to respect the sad death of Phillip Hughes may be not a minute’s silence, but a lifetime’s silence. By all accounts Hughes was a quiet country lad, who did not brag. On the day of Hughes’ funeral, cricket’s sledgers, and that includes Australian captain Michael Clarke, may like to reflect on the vile abuse that they have used to ram home bowling that often bordered on assault.
A friend dropped me a line the other day to say how he was sickened by the hypocrisy swirling around cricket. An international sportsman himself in hockey and one of New Zealand’s great all-rounder achievers, Brian Turner wrote of how bowlers tried to hit him and of the puerile vitriol that accompanied it. It was bad then, it is worse now.
SHORT MEMORY: Michael Clarke threatened Jimmy Anderson with a broken arm during the last Ashes series. Last year Australia lined up England’s Jimmy Anderson, himself a repugnant bigmouth on the pitch. Mitchell Johnson, the world’s fastest bowler, attacked Anderson from round the wicket. And it was an attack. Johnson wanted to maim Anderson. “Face up,” spat captain Clarke, “Get ready for a broken f…ing arm“.
Clarke’s comments were picked up by a stump mike. Was he ashamed? “l don’t regret being extremely honest with James Anderson and telling him what Mitchell Johnson’s plan was. I just regret that everybody heard it and the language I used.” I hope Clarke regrets his conduct now.
Hughes’s death was a tragedy, but the circumstances that led to the tragedy have been fostered by Clarke and others. You think of Brett Lee laughing as he tried to hit English popinjay Piers Morgan, or of Australian speedster Jeff Thomson telling TV viewers that he enjoyed hitting batsmen more than getting them out.
New Zealand’s test team also bears its share of the shame. In the first test of the current series Corey Anderson struck Ahmed Shehzad a sickening blow on the side of his helmet. Shehzad dropped his bat on the stumps and collapsed. clutching the side of his head. The New Zealanders hooped. their high-pitched crowing ignored the potentially lethal short-pitched damage that had been done. It was a few seconds before BJ Watling came to his senses and went to Shehzad’s aid. Other Black Caps ignored Watling’s concern. The Pakistani suffered a fractured skull. Where was the compassion then?
It has taken a mawkish media campaign, a vigil of arc lights and candle lights, of black arm bands and of propped remembrance willow, to tell people how to behave. It appears an intrusion on private grief by a rubber-necking public, the vast majority of whom did not know Hughes from a bottle of linseed oil.
You could tell the Pakistani cricketers were confused by this Western grieve-in when the decision was taken to postpone the second day of the recent test out of respect for Hughes. This gave the weary Black Caps bowlers a day of rest. When play resumed the Pakistani batsmen, freaked out by the sombre death duties being paid by silent, grim-faced Kiwis, did not have a clue how to behave.
Pakistan cricketers, as one writer astutely observed, ask you “to submit to their reality, their chaos, their unplanning, their spur of the moment, their pox, their talent, their wretchedness, their beauty, their spirit”. When this spirit of submission was removed the Pakistanis fell into a void. Their shot selection was worse than confused. So Mark Craig, a journeyman, took career-best figures and Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson set a record New Zealand second-wicket partnership. And by the end of the match, some of those sombre New Zealand cricketers, with Hughes’ initials still inked on to their shirts, were smiling and celebrating.
Only Williamson remembered to shake Asad Shafiq’s hand, as so many Pakistan players had shaken his, when the centurion walked off after his dismissal near the end. And New Zealand claimed a hollow victory as an achievement – more hypocrisy, I am afraid, and unfairly disrespectful of Pakistan’s competitive withdrawal. Twelve months ago no-one penned the initials ZB on their shirts.
Zulfiqar Bhatti was a 22-year-old kid who dreamed of playing for Pakistan. A fast ball hit him on his chest and killed him. Twelve months ago no-one penned the initials DR on their shirts. Darryn Randall was a 32-year-old South African who was still playing for the love of the game. A fast ball hit him on the side of the head and killed him.
But these men were not famous enough to have their stories told. They were not famous enough to be mourned by the cricket world. Tomorrow Australia and India will not play the first test as a mark of respect to Hughes. Last year Australia and India played a sixth one-day international three days after the death of Randall.
When Hughes was killed commentators were thankful that his was the lone fatality in over a century. We were wrong. Four deaths in 14 months, a memorial that now includes Israeli umpire Hillel Oscar, are too many. Speed kills.
Anthony Miles, an old friend of the Hughes family from their home town of Macksville, said, “People are saying that cricket won’t be the same – for us, home won’t be the same. We know that he was a cricketer and he was a good bloke. Now he won’t get the chance to be anything else.”
ICC chief executive Dave Richardson states it is unlikely that anything will be done to curb bouncers. On the day that Macksville mourns, the question is why?
ADDENDUM: visit Michael Roberts: ESSAYING CRICKET. SRI LANKAN CRICKET AND BEYOND, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2004 …. segment
ABUSE IN THE WORLD OF CRICKET
- The Grunt, the Spit and the Snarl in Sports 96
- Sin-Bin for Verbal Intimidation in Cricket 98
- Letter to the ICC, 25 November 2002 103
- Cricket Dirty Cricket 107
- Legitimising the Bully-Boys on the Cricket Field 116
- Abusive Cricket Fans: A Clarification 112 Softcover: ISBN 955-1266-25-0
Hardcover: ISBN 955-1266-26-9 ….