NINE years on from his death, the cricketing world has paid tribute to the former Australian batter Phil Hughes who passed away after being struck by a bouncer during a game in Sydney.
The Observer’s Rob George remembers the likeable Australian who dazzled during his summer with Worcestershire in 2012.
YOU always remember where you were the moment a major news story broke, it seems ingrained in all of us.
The morning of November 27, 2014 speculation was rife Phil Hughes had left us, two days after the sickening blow below the helmet in a Sheffield Shield game in which he was 63 not out.
And so it was with a sense of foreboding I walked up the hill into work that fateful morning. One scroll through my social media confirmed the worst though – Phil Hughes was dead, three days short of his 26th birthday.
Nearly a decade on I still find it hard to type those words about a young man who burst onto the scene with century in only his second test match against the fearsome South African pace attack – after a fourth ball duck in the first.
After having his technique unpicked during the 2009 Ashes, Hughes was in and out of the Australian side but a summer with Worcestershire in 2012 showed the world the changes he’d made.
Changes which led him to follow the retiring Ricky Ponting as Australia’s number three.
One of the best memories is just days after Hughes arrived at New Road and the club arranged for a phone interview with their new signing.
After finishing what sounded to us in the office to be a warm, friendly interview, my former colleague thanked the batter for his time and wished him well, put the phone down and said to much amusement: “I think I woke him up when I rang!”
The truth was confirmed to both him and myself later in the summer, the likeable Aussie was just ‘that’ laid back even when he spoke.
My first game for the Observer came later that summer in Clydesdale Bank 40 over game at New Road with Essex the visitors.
In truth Essex were the better side on the day and posted a challenging 270 target for the Pears, a chase the home side were always behind in.
But in the Australian left-hander there was hope, that typical never-say-die mentality and his 68 from 75 balls certainly kept the visitors on their toes.
Flourishing swings of the blade with the occasional hint of raw power were the highlight of the innings, albeit in a losing cause.
Afterwards, beyond the boundary rope I waited for him to finish an interview with Sky Sports who were covering the game and stepped forward to ask him for a couple of minutes for the paper.
“Sure mate,” came the reply – confirming to me his laid-back demeanor.
He was generous with his answers, about life in Worcester and his hopes to kick on for his beloved Australia.
I couldn’t thank him enough as he shook hands and sidled away back to a dressing room which embraced him all summer long.
The tributes from his Pears team-mates on that day in November nine years ago reflected his nature and his popularity in the dressing room.
Cricket lost a wonderful talent, players and coaches lost an inspiring team-mate but most importantly a family lost a loving son and brother.
Sleep well Phil – 63 NotOutForever