Inquest opens into death of Australian cricketer Hughes
SYDNEY (AP) The captain of the team that was playing against Phillip Hughes when the Australian cricketer was fatally struck by a ball has described the lead up to the tragic delivery as normal.
Brad Haddin, who was captain of the New South Wales team, on Monday told an inquest into Hughes' death that there was nothing unusual about the domestic first-class match against South Australia in Sydney in November 2014, until Hughes was hit on the side of the head by a short-pitch ball.
The match ended abruptly when Hughes suddenly collapsed on the pitch. He was taken to a nearby hospital but died two days later from a brain hemorrhage caused by a torn vertebral artery.
Counsel for the Hughes family said the family had raised concerns about the number of bouncers - deliveries which typically land mid-pitch and rise quickly to head or shoulder height - bowled to Hughes in the match as well as some of the verbal abuse, commonly known in cricket as `sledging.'
Asked about the period of play leading up to Hughes' injury, Haddin said ''It was just a normal game of cricket.''
It was alleged that one of the New South Wales fast bowlers, Doug Bollinger, had told the South Australia batsman ''I'm going to kill you'' - a claim that three witnesses rejected on the first day of the inquest.
''I don't recall saying that,'' Bollinger told the inquest. ''I may have but I don't think so.''
Haddin told the inquest he didn't hear the alleged comments and dismissed complaints about the number of short-pitched balls that were bowled at Hughes, saying ''the game was played in a good spirit.''
The inquest, convened by New South Wales state coroner Michael Barnes, is expected to take five days.
The coronial court viewed video of the incident which showed Hughes leaning forward with his hands on his knees after being struck on the left side of the neck before suddenly falling to the ground.
Hughes' family - his father Greg, mother Virginia, brother Jason and sister Megan - left the court before the footage was shown. Several players involved in the match asked not to be shown the footage.
Giving evidence, Haddin described the moment Hughes was struck by the ball, bowled by Shaun Abbott.
''It was like something I've never, ever witnessed before in my life when he fell down,'' he said. ''It was the noise that he let out, the groan, and the way that he fell straight down motionless, without trying to break his fall.''
Barnes will examine the various circumstances surrounding Hughes' death, including whether the nature of play exacerbated the risk of injury, whether the response to his injury was appropriate and whether a different type of batting helmet would have reduced the likelihood of death.
Barnes said the purpose of the inquest was ''not to lay blame.''
Hughes' ''death was a terrible accident, but it doesn't mean cricket can't be made safer.''
James Henderson, Hughes' former manager, said the inquest would be ''very difficult'' for the Hughes family.
''They are hoping that perhaps there will be a positive outcome out of Phil's death as we go through this next five days inside the coroners' court,'' he said.
Hughes' death sent shockwaves around the cricket world, and resulting in increased safety precautions for players at all levels in Australia.
''We never want to see a tragedy like this happen on the cricket field,'' Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said. ''To that end, we have the utmost respect for the coronial inquest and the process we all need to go through this week.''