Death of cricketer was 'inevitable', says inquiry

SYDNEY • The death of Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes was "inevitable" after he was struck by a ball, an inquest heard yesterday as it raised concerns about on-field sledging and short, fast deliveries.

Hughes, who played 26 Tests, died from brain bleeding in November 2014 after being hit on the neck by a rising ball while batting for South Australia in a domestic match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

"Quite clearly the death was a terrible accident," coroner Michael Barnes said at the five-day inquest's opening. "But that does not mean that cricket cannot be made safer."

The death of the 25-year-old, who had risen through the ranks to play for his country, stunned Australia and the world cricket community, sparking an outpouring of grief.

Kristina Stern, the counsel assisting the coroner, noted that the first person to call for an ambulance was unaware of the severity of the injury and that it took about an hour to get Hughes to hospital.

But she said none of that seemed to have had an effect on his death which "appears to have been inevitable from the point of impact".

Nor did there appear to be any defect in the helmet he was wearing, given that the area in which he was hit was unprotected.

Hughes underwent scans and surgery but died two days later on Nov 27.

Stern said that concerns had been raised about the number of short balls delivered by fast bowlers to Hughes that day but the players involved did not believe he had been unfairly targeted.

Under questioning, bowler Doug Bollinger did not recall telling Hughes or his batting partner that, "I'm going to kill you", as suggested by the counsel for Hughes' family Greg Melick.

"I know in my heart I didn't say that," Bollinger said, The Australian newspaper reported.

Former Australia wicket-keeper Brad Haddin, who was captaining New South Wales that day, said that, while he did not see where the ball hit Hughes, the event was "something I've never witnessed before in my life".

Barnes is examining the manner and cause of Hughes' death and also has jurisdiction to make recommendations, particularly in the interest of public health and safety.

The findings may come on Friday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2016, with the headline 'Death of cricketer was 'inevitable', says inquiry'. Print Edition | Subscribe