Phil Hughes: 63* not forgotten

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I love summer. And summer means cricket. But what will this summer of cricket look like after this tragedy?

That morning at work I was keeping one eye on the Sheffield Shield scores. Not so much for the domestic competition (although I like to hear South Australia has had a win) but to see who would make runs and what impact that would have on Australia’s Test matches this summer. Particularly the question of who would get the coveted batsmen’s spot left vacant by injured Australian captain Michael Clarke? My money was on Phil Hughes. I hadn’t seen him play much as most of his success had been overseas. But he does play for South Australia, he had a great domestic record and by all reports was an exciting cricketer. And he was giving it a red-hot go.

There is no meaning in this. It was a freak accident, incredibly unlucky. The game was abandoned and Phil Hughes will remain on 63 not out forever.

The country lad with a cheeky smile, a love for bling and a fighter’s heart, the only thing he loved more than cricket was chatting about cattle with his Dad. Being dropped from the national side only seemed to strengthen his determination and he’d been firing in all forms of domestic cricket, ready it seemed to break back onto the world stage. At the SCG against his old side NSW, he reached his half century, looking solid and in good touch. It was his time.

Until that fateful ball. After Hughes went down, cricket lovers around the world held their breath. It was touch and go. His situation was critical but plenty of people who are declared critical recover, right? With today’s doctors and modern medicine, he was a better than 50/50 chance, wasn’t he?

And then came the terrible news. Phillip Hughes: dead at 25. On the pitch he made centuries effortlessly. In life, as they say in cricket, he “got a good start, but was out unexpectedly”.

There is no meaning in this. It was a freak accident, incredibly unlucky. The game was abandoned and Phil Hughes will remain on 63 not out forever.

Tributes poured in as the tears flowed. Prayers and well wishes flooded in as we as a nation tried to revive this young cricketer who had once been compared to “The Don”, the greatest batsmen of all time.

Former players expressed their shock and well wishes. Even athletes from other sports and politicians tweeted, Facebooked or stated how this had affected them. Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s comments caught my attention.

“Phillip Hughes was a young man living out his dreams,’’ Mr Abbott said in a statement. “The thought that a player in his prime should be killed playing our national game is shocking and sobering. We should be conscious of the risks that our sports people run to give us the pleasure that they do. What happened has touched millions of Australians. Australians’ thoughts and prayers are with the Hughes family.’’

A couple of things stand out to me from the prime minister’s statement. Firstly, that Phil was pursuing his dreams. At 25 he had already had international success representing his country and he died doing what he loved, what he’d dreamed of growing up practising hard in his Macksville backyard. He had made his dreams a reality. No one knows the day or the hour Jesus will return and many people don’t know the day or hour of their death. It sneaks up and strips the young of life. Am I living life to the full? Am I pursuing my dreams and making them come to life? Some of those dreams may be God-given. As a Christian, I know that death can kill and steal and destroy but that death has lost its sting. So I should conquer my fears, live life to the full and do the best I can with the time I’ve been given.

How am I impacting others? As Mr Abbott pointed out, Phil lost his life in bringing us, the sports-watching public, pleasure. Do I live life to bring others pleasure? Am I here to serve others or live for myself? I have a choice—to be entertaining or life-giving. To serve or to be served. To expect things to be given to me or to look for ways to give back.

To paraphrase Paul, my life is not my own, I’ve been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). It is up to me to choose how to spend it. If I realise my life is not mine, then it’s easier to give away. I don’t own it anyway. So I can spend every moment living for Christ, reaching others through his love and serving as he did.

I’m not perfect and I’m sure Phil Hughes wasn’t either. To be a world class batsmen you have to have a streak of determination and confidence, and the heart of a fighter. These aren’t necessarily fruits of the Spirit.

And yet, when we’ve “shuffled off this mortal coil” we will be remembered not just by acheivements we’ve made or the dreams we fulfilled but by the way we touched others, by the impact we’ve made on their lives and eternities. Phil Hughes is not just being remembered as a great batsman. His mates are paying tribute to a “great bloke”, “his cheeky smile”, the way he made them feel and the memories he gave them.  

As another year closes in on stumps and a new innings is soon to begin, it’s a good time to sit back and reflect. Have I achieved my resolutions for this year? Have I lived it for Christ to the full? Have I faced every ball life throws at me and faced it the best that I can, or are there regrets, missed opportunities or my own fear holding me back? Now is the time to live in the moment. Now is the time to make an impact on life. Tomorrow is fragile.

What will I be remembered for?
 


Jarrod Stackelroth is the associate editor of Adventist Record.