ABC News Item, 10 October 2016, with title “
- Cricketer Phillip Hughes died after a freak accident during a 2014 cricket match
- Batting partner Tom Cooper says Hughes was targeted by short-pitched balls but seemed relaxed
- Cooper and umpire Ash Barrow deny there was sledging from the NSW team
A coronial inquest in Sydney is looking into the manner and cause of the death of 25-year-old Hughes, who was struck on the neck by a cricket ball while batting for South Australia against New South Wales in a Sheffield Shield match at the SCG on November 25, 2014. Hughes died after the injury to his neck caused a haemorrhage: in his brain.
Forensic pathologist Professor Johan Duflou, who carried out the postmortem examination on Hughes, said an artery in his neck had been severed — an injury more commonly seen in single punch attacks. Neurosurgeon Professor Brian Owler told the inquest the force of the ball and the angle at which it struck contributed to the injury, along with the angle at which the cricketer had been holding his head.
Former NSW cricket captain Brad Haddin and NSW player Doug Bollinger were questioned yesterday over concerns that the team were bowling more short balls at the batsmen. There was also an allegation that Bollinger said “I’m going to kill you” to Hughes. Fellow players deny sledging, ungentlemanly targeting. Both men denied there was a strategy to bowl more short balls and that any sledging or verbal intimidation happened.
“The game was played in a good spirit. It was just a normal game of cricket,” Haddin said. When questioned during the second day of the hearing, Hughes’s batting partner Cooper agreed that neither of them were sledged and that Bollinger never said “I’m going to kill you” to Hughes. “If he had said that I would have remembered it,” he said. “I am confident it didn’t happen.”
Australian cricketer David Warner, appearing via video link from South Africa where he is currently on tour with the Australian cricket team, said he had not been sledged on the day he was fatally injured. He said Hughes had been a close friend. They were playing on opposing teams when Hughes was injured.
Warner denied suggestions from the Hughes family the batsman had been subjected to abusive and intimidating comments and disagreed with suggestions he had been targeted in an ungentlemanly way.
Cooper said Hughes had been targeted by short-pitched deliveries, but he was comfortable and relaxed at the crease and seemed to be coping well. He said there was a “noticeable” increase of short-pitched balls after the lunch break. Counsel assisting Kristina Stern SC asked if this was something he had discussed with Hughes. “Yes, he was on top and they were trying to stop him from scoring,” he said. “Did he express concern to you?” Ms Stern asked. “No, not at all,” Cooper replied.
He said bowling short bowls was a well-used tactic to put pressure on batsmen. “He had obviously been batting for quite a while, he was scoring runs at will, pretty much. It was obviously a tactic to stop that from happening,” he said. “He handled it with relative ease. There was [sic] no worries. I guess he was targeted, but I wouldn’t say it was in an ungentlemanly way. The tactic was used against him but it wasn’t for any other reason than to stop the run rate.”
Cooper was asked if he still had a memory of that day. “Unfortunately, yes,” he replied. Cooper left the inquest in tears.
Match umpire Mike Graham-Smith said he saw no reason to step in to stop the short-pitched bowling being directed at the batsman on the day — he did not regard the bowling on the day to be unfair or dangerous and he would expect a top-order first-class batsman such as Hughes to have the skill to handle fast short-pitched balls.
Greg Melick SC, representing the Hughes family, said that another player had been hit on the head earlier that day, and asked whether that would have influenced the umpire’s decision to allow the short-pitched bowling to continue. “No,” Mr Graham-Smith replied. He said he had no training in first aid or in the use of specific hand signals to call for help, and has not received any training in this since Hughes’ death.
Five time international umpire of the year Simon Taufel reviewed the match. He said there was nothing to suggest the umpires should have intervened because the play was competitive but within the rules of cricket. He recommended Australian umpires be given training in first aid and trauma. Fellow umpire Ash Barrow said he did not remember any sledging between the two teams during the game either, and the bowling during the match was “not unusual”.
The inquest continues until Friday.