Over a decade ago I was at the Sydney Cricket Ground with my son. South Africa were playing a tour game against NSW and in a break in the play we took a walk. A couple of the South Africans not playing in the match were practicing in the nets and we watched at close quarters.
Makaya Ntini, yet to become the fast bowling legend, was sending a few down. We stood behind the net just a yard or two from the single stump that Ntini was trying to hit — just a few strands of cotton mesh between us and the ball travelling at 140+ kph.
Now I had played cricket a lot and my son was about to start on his cricketing odyssey so this was quite a treat. Imagining yourself trying to protect that stump and send the ball to all parts with just willow in your hand.
I remember the sound. The ball goes fast enough to whistle through the air. And I remember that it was crazy quick. Unless you watched with your whole body and responded with cat like reflexes, the ball was gone.
It was a pure moment. I realised then that in any human endeavour the very best are so much better at what they do than the rest of us.
On Tuesday at the same ground a cricket ball fatally injured one of the very best. Philip Hughes was good enough to dispatch those whistling fastballs to all parts of cricket grounds from Sydney to Durban, in a flash notching 26 first class centuries and over 9,000 runs.
Tragically one delivery that was slower than he thought hit him. It stuck in the wicket and he had played it before it arrived. Fate then played cruelly.
All cricket lovers are grieving the loss of a great talent. We feel it deeply for only a gifted few have the ability to stand and play balls delivered at such great pace without a care.
Phillip Hughes was one of the very best.