I, like the rest of world cricket, am very saddened by the death of Phil Hughes. He was a superb cricketer.
The accident was freakish, but this sort of thing has happened in the past. I just hope the game of cricket and the laws surrounding quick bowling and bouncers are not changed because of this accident. It is a tragic time for cricket, but unfortunately the show must go on.
Sean Abbott, who bowled the delivery that hit Hughes, has got a lot of guys supporting him and hopefully this doesn’t negatively affect his career in the long term. The response around the world to this tragedy has been exceptionally huge, showing how much of an impact such a a sadness can create. Cricket Australia, in particular, have been very good in their handling of this all.
In my 27 years of first-class cricket, I only got hit on the helmet once – in 1983 against the touring West Indian rebels. The bowler was Hartley Alleyne – and he was bowling at me from around the wicket. I ducked into a short delivery and it hit the side of the helmet. I had to have five stitches to my earlobe. There were no real repercussions, though, after going for scans. I batted the next day, in fact.
I remember when my brother, Peter Pollock, was bowling to batsmen without helmets. Berry Versfeld captained Natal in the 1960s and was a good cricketer. Peter once hit Berry on the head with a bouncer. Berry was then hospitalised and couldn’t speak for about two weeks. So this sort of thing used to happen – and still does happen – relatively frequently. The nature of Hughes’ accident – how he turned and was hit on the back of the head and behind the ear – is a very sad and freak occurrence, though.
I don’t think bowlers are going to be fearful or shy to bowl short balls from here on in. At international level, in that moment, the competition between batsman and bowler is still going to be there. Batsmen know there is the possibility of being hit in the head. They accept that. They should not be perturbed. They have a lot more protection to wear these days. With these sort of freakish things, when your time is up, that’s it.
Meanwhile, the Proteas are gearing up for the Test series against the West Indies. By the look of things, JP Duminy will not have returned from injury by the time the series opener arrives. I, then, would have David Miller batting at six rather than, say, Stiaan van Zyl or Farhaan Behardien. Those are the three in contention, but I reckon Miller should get a go. His limited-overs game aside, he can become a very good Test cricketer.
For the spinning berth, they must go with Imran Tahir at this stage. The West Indies will be vulnerable against a spinner with a lot of variations, rather than the orthodox off-spinner. Yes, Dane Piedt and Robin Peterson are there and thereabouts – but at this stage it must be Tahir. We should not have a problem against the West Indies. They have come on well in ODI and T20I cricket, but they are limited at Test match level. We will get the better of them.