The game has changed

I played Cricket today.

It was very, very strange. The usually laughing and excitable members of the Woodend under 14’s were not in the mood at all for a cricket match. Eleven small kids were standing silently under a clubroom roof with flat mouths and down-turned heads, seemingly searching the bare concrete floor for any irregularities.

Phil Hughes is dead. I will not dwell on this impossible event as I do not want to act like I was friends, or even met the man who died just three days before his 26th birthday. I will not discuss this horrid, horrid event throughout this article as the pain caused by the death of Hughesy should not be added to. I miss Hughesy immensely but I will not act like his passing has affected me more than anyone else.

Langama Park in Sunbury was filled with cricketers shaking hands with each other and wrapping black tape around their whites. Opponents standing around the pitch were sharing stories, talking like longtime friends. All ill-feelings that could possibly exist on this Saturday were taken out of the game and replaced with comradeship, remorse and encouragement. When a short ball was bowled, the absence of the clapping and raucous encouragement stuck out like a cloud in today’s unblemished blue sky.

Twenty-two kids on Langama Park Oval #2 wore black armbands and sorrowful expressions as they wandered out to the pitch, bats and caps in hand. Every player lay their bats on the pitch, and someone hooked a Baggy Green cap on the stumps. It hung slightly askew off middle and leg, the badge facing skyward as both kangaroo and emu searched the skies with stitched black eyes. Sunbury United and Woodend stood arm in arm, a small memorial service for the brilliant young batsman that should have been traveling with the Australian Cricket Team, his Baggy Green sitting jauntily upon his head, his eyes shining brightly among his friends.

The game itself was an afterthought. The two-day match was half-finished, and Sunbury only needed to chase 127 from their 44 overs to win. In the third over, a tall blonde Woodend bowler slipped in the crease, the delivery thus resulting in a short, rising delivery. The small opener swayed out of the way of the ball, and I snatched it from over my head with my wicketkeeping gloves.

Not a sound followed. No encouragement for the bowler, or fielders talking about a scared batsman at the crease. The bowler held out a hand, profusely apologizing for the delivery. The umpires caught each others’ gaze, before bowing their heads in a silence that blanketed the ground.

Chewey bowled the next ball, a full and swinging delivery down off side, and was hit for a single. That would be the end of the over, and the silence that surrounded the ground was broken.

The game petered out to the end, and Sunbury chased down the runs easily. When I bowled late in the game, Chewey’s twin brother had the gloves on and was chatting to the batsman.

“Poor old Hughsey, eh? The saddest thing that will ever happen in the history of the game, without a doubt.”

The Sunburian nodded his head and a crinkled, sad smile that had nothing to do with the game at hand spread slowly across his face.

“Yeah mate. It will.”

Next ball he was bowled by a leg cutter, and he scuttled off the field with another look of sadness that had nothing to do with his dismissal.

In remembrance of Phil Hughes, batsmen in under 14’s can now retire at 63, not at the previous 50. Sunbury’s number 4 bat got to 50, but didn’t have time to make the magical 63. He said later that it would have probably saddened him too much.

The players in the 14’s may be young and inexperienced, but the tragedy of Thursday impacted on us no less than every other person. The season will continue and eventually the way fielding teams used to react to bouncers will return. The ability to talk freely about short deliveries aimed at a batsman’s head, however, shall not.

Vale Phillip Hughes.

About Paddy Grindlay

Paddy is new to the city and thinks it's all a bit much at the moment. He's studying at RMIT University and can be found 'round the traps.

Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Stunning and insightful Paddy.

  2. Hi Paddy as Swish said a great insight into how the kids playing cricket this weekend were feeling. Well done for getting your thoughts down and sharing them with us.

  3. Thanks Paddy. This is remarkable prose. Good luck for the rest of the season.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Paddy and you summed up how every cricket game played in aust and probably the world proceded on the week end , a difference to normal we are all struggling with but how ironic it has taken the most terrible accident of all to unite everybody in this great game .

  5. matt watson says

    great work Paddy.
    I’ve been remembering junior cricket over the past few days, particularly the time I was knocked out after getting hit behind the ear in the under 16s.
    RIP Phil

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