Essex coach pays tribute to Phil Hughes and gives his views on player safety

Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes - Credit: PA

Essex head coach Paul Grayson says cricketers know the potential dangers facing them during a game, and does not believe there will be a knee-jerk reaction, with regards to safety, following the death of Australia’s Phil Hughes.

Batsman Hughes was wearing a helmet when he was struck by a delivery from Sean Abbott, during a domestic game in Sydney, but was hit on the top of the neck and collapsed face first on the ground.

The 25-year-old never regained consciousness and the incident has sparked some calls for players to receive more protection whilst playing, despite safety design having improved in cricket.

Grayson, a veteran of First Class cricket for 24 years, as a player and coach, has been on the receiving end himself at the crease, but also acknowledged the intensity between a batsman and bowler was all part of the game.

“It’s a tragic day for everyone involved and it brings home the force of that red ball. Everyone at Essex sends their condolences to Phil’s family,” said Grayson, who also featured for Suffolk.

“I don’t think there will (be a knee-jerk reaction), it (Hughes’ death) was an isolated incident. The sport is quite dangerous but thankfully incidents like these have been few and far between.

“There is always going to be intensity in the game, it has happened for donkey’s years, having the ability as a bowler to unsettle a batsman and send him off to slip or short-leg is part of a fast bowler’s armoury.

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“When you are playing against a fast bowler, the adrenaline is pumping and you know you have to be on your guard.

“You can get hurt and I think Graham Gooch once said ‘No-one likes fast bowling, but some play it better than others’.

“Some batsmen don’t like the short bowl but often it’s not the delivery that gets them out, it’s the thought of having to face a bouncer.”

While cricket is often perceived as a slow game, top batsmen often face deliveries at speeds over 90mph and helmet technology has improved to try and ensure their safety.

However, accidents happen, as this week’s tragedy has showed.

“There is danger in all sports, whether it’s rugby or boxing, professional or amateur, you know there are going to be injuries,” added Grayson.

“You have to really feel for the bowler (Abbott), he’ll be having nightmares about the incident, but it’s not his fault. Bowlers never intend to hurt the batsman and it’s just part of the game.

“Cricket’s a tough game, played with a hard ball, and you usually damage your fingers or break ribs.

“Most players will have broken something during their careers.

“You get whacks on the head, but unfortunately the ball hit Phil where he wasn’t protected.”

The infamous Bodyline Series of the 1930s was probably the first example of how dangerous the sport can be, England’s bowlers targeting Australia’s batsmen at body-line height – Bert Oldfield collapsing, his skull fractured by a delivery.

Since then, there have been numerous rivalries, that have resulted in batsmen being hit by an aggressive delivery.

It’s not just the batsmen though, as Grayson continued.

“One area that does concern me is players fielding at short-leg,” he said.

“There has been an increased protection on the side of the helmet grill which protects the face and lower part of the players’ neck more.

“What frustrates me is when the crowd start moaning and shouting when short-leg fielders take time out to put on shin pads and helmets.”

“They say it slows the game down but it is done for a reason.”

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