Alastair Cook and his England team are in a state of shock at the plight of Australia batsman Phil Hughes, as they prepare for the start of their one-day international series against Sri Lanka.
The stricken Hughes has undergone emergency surgery and is an induced coma and a critical condition after being felled by a bouncer during a Sheffield Shield match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Cook’s tourists woke up to the grim news in Colombo, where they are due to face their hosts in the first of seven ODIs today.
Messages of concern, support and hope that the 25-year-old Hughes – who was struck just below the line of the helmet on the back of his head as he swivelled to try to hook a Sean Abbott delivery – will make a full recovery have been communicated throughout the cricket world. At Cook’s press conference, he expressed those same sentiments.
Previously pressing issues such as the captain’s form, and England’s need to begin their World Cup winter with some more convincing performances, were largely set aside as Cook instead spoke for his team in wishing and praying Hughes’ condition improves.
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Cook said: “Since we woke up this morning, the whole team have been in a bit of shock all day. All our thoughts and prayers are with Phillip.”
Most of the England team have played against Hughes at some time, and three have been county colleagues in his stints at Middlesex and Worcestershire.
“It’s a really saddening incident,” added Cook. “Fingers crossed, he can show the same fight he’s shown throughout his whole career and he can pull through.”
The battling opener was desperately unlucky, it seems, to have been hit on an unprotected part of his head in an era when helmets have made serious injuries of this nature so rare. Cook was reluctant to discuss the issue of whether any improvements in equipment need to be made.
“It’s probably not the time and place to be talking about that in this moment in time. The whole dressing room is just massively concerned for Phillip. As for player safety [and equipment], at the moment it’s kind of irrelevant. It’s all about him, and his family and friends. We send him our best from here. This is just something very unexpected. For that tragedy to happen on a cricket field, I’d never heard of anything [like it].”
By cruel coincidence, Pakistan batsman Ahmed Shehzad was struck on the head in a Test match earlier this month and suffered a fractured skull – an injury which, thankfully, does not appear to have been as bad as it might have been.
“Thankfully, they are rare,” said Cook. “It does make you aware that when a guy is bowling 90mph it is a dangerous game. But we hope it is an isolated incident.”
England, along with millions of others, will be waiting to hear of Hughes’ medical progress in the coming hours and days – but they must also put their minds to the impending action at the Premadasa Stadium.
“We will have to concentrate on our cricket,” added Cook, who is set to open with Moeen Ali. “We have this chunk of one-day cricket, which certainly I’ve never had – six months of it leading up to the World Cup. I hope we can make some really big improvements in a short space of time.”
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