Sean McPartlin - Put Your Bats Out
Cricket Scotland blogger Sean McPartlin blogs on the tragic death of Phillip Hughes, which has shocked the cricketing community.
This is not a blog I would have wanted to write. Indeed, before this week’s tragic news from Australia, I had submitted one of my usual pieces – with its combination of attempted humour and a sprinkling of nostalgia.
Ironically, it focussed on my first ever bat – and the picture I provided for the blog has now been posted on twitter as part of the worldwide cricket community’s tribute #putoutyourbats to Phillip Hughes.
I was never a good cricketer, hardly ever troubling a club first eleven, so it is perhaps an impertinence to even write about the game at international level when I can’t really share the feelings, the approach, the mettle of a top class player.
All of us in the cricket family play or watch the game because we love it. And, because of that, we feel close to the players who often carry our dreams or ambitions – or simply bring us the joy of a perfect stroke, a dazzling piece of fielding, or an unplayable Yorker.
I wouldn’t really look twice if a professional footballer walked past me – but a cricketer – even a county second eleven player – earns my attention, respect, and admiration. I feel like those who play cricket at a good level are the embodiment of the grace, skill, intelligence and tradition which make cricket the game it is.
In recent years, we have had the pleasure of welcoming Australia and Australia ‘A’ to the Grange. It always seems to me whenever I watch Australian cricketers, especially at close quarters as is possible in Edinburgh, that they bring something extra to the game. It’s something to do with athleticism, competitiveness, and sheer immersion in the game for its own sake. They radiate energy, and play with a commitment which can be quite breathtaking.
So, though I never saw Phillip Hughes play live, I feel like I know a little about his impact – on players and spectators alike: power, fun, youth, impudent talent and ambition-driven hard work and focus.
These are the attributes of youth, the launchpads that should lead to further learning, the polish of experience, mature reflection, and old time memories. They are about beginnings, not endings, about potential not completion, and about hope not despair.
So for all of that to be lost in a tragic accidental moment is hard for us to comprehend, and, as part of the cricket family, we take it personally, and with a sense of shock and disbelief.
We grieve for Phil’s family and friends – who encouraged his cricketing skills, enjoyed his early sensational success, and supported him through it all. They will be bereft. We grieve too for all of his team mates – in Australia and in the English county game. They will all be recalling those special moments team mates share in dressing room, on tour, or on the field. There will always be an empty peg in the corner of the dressing room for them, for however long they play the game. And we grieve for the game of cricket, which, in a welter of statistics, now has a new, unwanted, addition. A little of the light has darkened, some of the simple enjoyment is inevitably dulled.
As cricketers in Scotland, we think of those Aussies who have graced our shores and all they have brought to our game. We remember most of all, perhaps, Paul Hoffman – a doughty performer for Cricket Scotland over many seasons. Hoffy is back home now and will be as distraught as the rest of the cricketing community out there. Our thoughts are with him – and also with the various youth and Wildcat players who are wintering Down Under in Australia and New Zealand. The news of Phil’s death is hard for all of us, but young folk away from home, and living and working in a cricketing environment, must be missing their families at a time like this. They should know that we are remembering them too.
Anyone who has ever bowlled a ball in any grade of cricket will have their heart go out to Sean Abbott. Like Phil, he was doing what he loved doing and to the best of his ability. He will inevitably be carrying a heavy load, but we can only hope that the understanding, love and support of the cricketing community will see him through, and bring the same comfort to his family as it will to Phil’s.
I have a son the same age as Phil, so I have some understanding of the dreams that have been lost, the hopes unfulfilled, for those who love him – but also of the deep joy he must have brought them as he blazed his way through their lives. Memories can’t replace a future but they can lighten the way as we move forward.
Let’s remember Phil for the manner of his arrival, not his leaving. Let’s talk of his hundreds, his debuts, his pride in the baggy green. Let’s renew our love of the game that made him happy, that drove his ambition.
Whether we play or watch, let’s keep reminding ourselves that it is only a game, it can never be bigger than life itself, but it can give so many people the satisfaction and joie de vivre that Phillip Hughes demonstrated whenever he had a bat in his hand or that cap on his head.
I’m sure he wouldn’t want it any other way.