Never in my life have I ever thought that someone could die on a cricket field. Not until November 27, 2014. That day changed everything for me. The way I look at sport, a fellow human and life itself.
But then, this is not about me. This letter is all about you, Phillip Joel Hughes. It has been five years already since we lost you to this cruel sport and we are poorer for it. What you meant to someone like me, who is from a small town in India, was not understood by this world until you were gone forever.
Let me be honest with you. I had not watched much of you until 2012. All I had heard about you was that you were a good guy, a country kid playing sport for the fun of it and a cheeky little bugger. I started following you closely only after you became the first Australian to score a hundred on One Day International debut. More than your century, the fact that no one else had done it before fascinated me.
I have to admit here that your shots through the square on the off-side are as sexy as they come. Be it the screaming square drive or the punch off the back-foot or the slashing square-cut or the slice that follows a cleared front leg to create enough room, it is a delight to watch you bat. The way you jumped while pulling a short ball off the back-foot was funny to watch. Little did we know that it will play a crucial role in separating us forever.
When you came to India in 2013, I badly wanted you to do well. Barring Michael Clarke and Moises Henriques, your entire team had a tragic tour. You especially, were all over the place while batting against spin. The delivery you received from Ravindra Jadeja in the second innings of the first Test at Chennai summed up the tour for you. Apart from that one innings in Mohali, where you huffed and puffed your way to a half-century, it was a disappointing tour.
But you came back like you always did. Although you were in and out of the team, the breakthrough was around the corner. You fought hard for everything you got in life. And you did it with a smile. I wanted you to make a comeback and play against India in the 2014 tour of Australia.
Ahead of the series, on November 25, 2014, you were batting on 63, and a national call-up was expected. Unfortunately, that pull shot against the short ball came back to make us suffer. Cricket is a cruel game. It took you away from us forever. Yet, we both love it, don’t we?
There was one other love that we shared in common. We both love Clarkey. We will always do. I couldn’t stand watching him address the media, right after you left us, and the eulogy he did for you. But, he made you proud that day, and you knew it as well. 9000 km away, I mourned for you and wasn’t able to control my tears throughout the funeral march.
I put out my bat and hat for you along with the cricketing fraternity. You were a symbolism of a humble, grounded guy who is happy in doing what he loved. You loved cattle, cricket and above all, you loved your family. Hughesy, you are a good son, brother and a humble human being.
WATCH: Phil Hughes’s funeral march
You wanted to bring people together and celebrate your love of life and people. In death, you brought the entire sporting world together, made them stop and show what the spirit of cricket is all about. You didn’t have to leave us to do that. But by doing so, you became the spirit of the sport and changed it forever.
Every time I think about cricket and the spirit of it, I think about you, Phil. Like I said in the beginning, you changed the way we look at cricket. I miss you Hughesy, that cheeky grin, the twinkle in your eye and your love of life. You will always remain not out at 63, mate.
Here’s a message I carry for you, from your best mate.
Phillip’s spirit, which is now part of our game forever, will act as a custodian of the sport we all love. We must listen to it. We must cherish it. We must learn from it. We must dig in and get through to tea. And we must play on. So rest in peace, my little brother. I’ll see you out in the middle.Michael Clarke