Everybody knows Phillip Hughes, there wasn’t a single major news source all over the globe that missed out on the story of his unfortunate death. It was the 25th of November, a sunny day at the Sydney Cricket Ground, a bouncer struck Phillip on the neck and he fell into a coma, 4 days later on the 27th of November he was pronounced dead after never being able to regain consciousness. What followed was a plethora of tributes, farewells and respect from cricket fans all over the world.
Cricket Australia abandoned all the matches being played in Australia on the 25th of November, the day after he was hit. After he died the Australian captain Michael Clarke read out a statement on behalf of his family. The Australian Prime Minister showered Phillip with praises and said that he was loved, admired and respected by his team-mates and by legions of cricket fans. The play between Pakistan and New Zealand in the second test match in the UAE was postponed as well as the Cricket Australia XI v India match. When the test match resumed, all New Zealand players had Phillip’s initials under their shirt numbers. The Border-Gavaskar trophy was postponed by 5 days in his honor. As an act of respect people from all over the world posted photos of their caps and bats on their social media accounts. On the insistence of Michael Clarke, Cricket Australia retired the shirt number ‘64’ which was used by Phillip. This meant that no other player could use the same shirt number. The pitch on which he was struck was retied for the entire 2014/2015 season and a feature was included in the museum inside the ground. His score in his last match was changed to ’63 – not out’ from ’63 – retired hurt’. In the first test match between Australia and India, there was a 63 second applause before the start of the match, Phil Hughes was named and listed as the ‘13th’ man’ for the Australian team in the match. His test cap number was sewn on the shirts of the entire Australian cricket team and was also painted on the ground. In the match when both David Warner and Steve Smith reached the score of 63, they raised their bats as a show of respect to Phillip. At his funeral, dignitaries from all over Australia were present including the Australian cricket captain and Prime Minister. In the fourth test match held at the Sydney cricket ground, when David Warner reached 63, he went to the pitch where Phillip died and kissed the ground. When Australia won the World Cup, Michael Clarke had this to say:
“(pointing to the black armband with PH sewn on it) As you can see it’s got PH on it. I’ll wear it every game I play for Australia.”
“We played this World Cup with 16 players and this is certainly dedicated to our little brother and team-mate Phillip Hughes. Hughesy used to party as good as any of them, so I’ll make sure we drink two at a time – one for Hughesy and one for us.”
The tributes and respect have not stopped from following, in fact next month a Phillip Hughes memorial match will be played between the sides of Australia A and Nepal.
It was the 18th of December, 2013. A hot day in Hyderabad, the first wicket had fallen and Zulfiqar Bhatti came down to bat at his usual one-down batting position. The secondly ball he faced was a vicious bouncer, he mistimed it and it hit him on the chest. He immediately signaled that he was fine but then fell to the ground and was rushed to the hospital and put on a ventilator. He never regained consciousness and died. The local district administration suspended sports activity for three days. The news never made an impact nationwide; no major news outlets filled any detailed reports on the incident. There were no suspended matches, no black armbands, no tributes and absolutely no mourning. As I remember that day, my team was scheduled to play a friendly match that day, but then the opposing captain phoned me and told me about the death. We immediately cancelled the match, not only because we loved the game and its spirit but because we had played with Zulfiqar before. We were nevertheless disappointed since matches were still played that day all around the country, apparently no one cared if a young promising cricketer had died while playing the game.
Eighteen year old Zeeshan Mohammed met the same fate, only this time around it was after Phillip had died. On the 26th of January 2015, Zeeshan died after he mistimed a pacer’s delivery and it struck him on the chest. This time again it failed to hit the major news outlets in Pakistan, let alone globally. There were no tributes and there was no mourning.
The fact of the matter is that by giving so much respect to Phillip Hughes, the Australians have shown their love for the game and its spirit. This might also be the reason why they have been world champions a record five times. Phillip deserved the respect he got, he died on the pitch and any cricket fan would sympathize with him and respect him. It also shows however, how Australians are united as a nation and how their national spirit kicks in when somebody suffers a misfortune, they stand up like a nation should. On the other hand the Pakistanis have proved that they don’t care if someone dies on a pitch while the game of cricket is being played by ignoring Zulfiqar and Zeeshan . Maybe this has something to do with how we suffer national tragedies almost every day, target killings, terrorist attacks and lawlessness. The fact however remains that Zulfiqar and Zeeshan did not get the respect that they deserved. These brave men are our heroes and they will forever remain so.
It’s still not too late. We can still get them recognition by employing the phenomenon of social media, we need to do what the mainstream media could not. The least we can do is tweet using the hashtags #Zulfiqar&Zeeshan and let the entire world know how we respect these two young men that gave their life playing the lovely game for which the hearts of millions beat.