63 Not Out: What Phil Hughes' Death Taught Us About Sport

It’s been four heartbreaking years since the tragic passing of Phil Hughes, a day that changed cricket forever.

At the age of 25, the wildly talented cricketer was struck in the neck by a bouncer in a freakish accident while batting for South Australia in a Sheffield Shield match against NSW, his former team, at the SCG.

Hughes was 63 not out at the crease as he pushed for selection for the First Test of the 2014-15 summer. He later died in hospital, three days before his 26th birthday.

Image: Getty.

The sport had never seen an outpouring of emotion like what Hughes’ passing evoked in November four years ago; the popular, likeable country kid had an impact wherever he went and on whomever he met both at home and abroad.

Sport should never be a matter of life and death. And while Hughes may be gone, he will never be forgotten.

The country lad with that magnificent cut shot burst onto the world cricket scene with a record-breaking performance against South Africa in 2009. At just 20 years and 96 days, he became the youngster batsman in history to score a century in both innings of a Test match. Against a world-class Proteas attack, if you don’t mind.

His nickname wasn't Swashbuckler. But perhaps it should have been. Image: Getty.

But it wasn’t all runs and tons for Hughes, who would go on to experience the ups and downs of elite level cricket and battle with technique and form.

A move from NSW to South Australia proved to energise and reinvigorate the left-hander, who went on to make his mark in limited overs cricket, becoming the first Aussie to craft a century on One-Day International debut.

In 2014 Hughes set yet another record when he became the first Australian male cricketer to post a double century in a List A match, smashing a six off the final ball against, you guessed it, South Africa in Darwin.

Taken too young, the lovable larrikin only scraped the surface of his potential as a batsman and as a human making his way in the world.

While Hughes will forever live on in the hearts and minds of his family and friends, his legacy, too, will continue in the sport he loved and the tight-knit communities he was a part of.

His death prompted the creation of a Concussion and Head Trauma policy, which features a concussion substitute rule, in the wake of recommendations made by the Curtain Report -- an independent investigation commissioned by Cricket Australia.

Image: Getty

The NSW rural town of Macksville, where Hughes was born and bred, has poured emotion, time and money into recognising and immortalising their favourite son.

Last year, a new bridge was named in Hughes’ honour, while Thistle Park cricket oval has undergone a $331,000 redevelopment, jointly funded by Nambucca Shire Council and the NSW government, and been re-named the Phillip Hughes Oval.

Hughes regularly returned to his hometown to present juniors with their awards at cricket presentation days, and now his memory around town will continue to inspire young local cricketers.

Phil Hughes. Forever 63 not out.

As he heads out to bat at the SCG, David Warner touches a bronze plaque tributing Phillip Hughes. Image: Getty.