Sydney - A "minuscule misjudgement" by Australian
batsman Phillip Hughes when facing a bouncer led to his death, a coroner ruled
on Friday, saying neither the bowler nor anyone else was to blame for the
Hughes, who played 26 Tests, died from bleeding on the brain
in November 2014 after being hit on the neck by a rising ball from Sean Abbott
while batting in a domestic match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The death of the popular 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.
"A minuscule misjudgement or a slight error of
execution caused him to miss the ball which crashed into his neck with fatal
consequences," said New South Wales coroner Michael Barnes in long-awaited
"There was no suggestion the ball was bowled with
malicious intent. Neither the bowler nor anyone else was to blame for the
Barnes added that his death would not have been prevented
even if he was wearing more modern head protection, and that a quicker medical
response would also have made no difference to the "unsurvivable"
"Phillip wasn't wearing the most up-to-date safety
helmet when he was struck and the rules that then applied didn't require him to
do so," he said.
"However, had he even been wearing that most modern
equipment then available, it would not have protected the area of his body
where the fatal blow landed."
At the time, Hughes was wearing a helmet which was not
compliant with the more recent, and stringent, British Standard, which extends
the grille protecting the face further to the rear of the helmet.
Since the incident, Cricket Australia has recommended all
first-class cricketers in Australia wear helmets made to British safety
standards while batting against medium or fast bowling, in nets and games.
During the inquest concerns had been raised by Hughes'
family about on-field sledging, or verbal abuse, including threats against him,
and the amount of short, fast deliveries he faced which they felt the umpires
could have stopped.
But Barnes said neither affected Hughes' composure, and he
was comfortably dealing with the short-pitched balls "because of his very
high level of skill and competence".
"I conclude no failure to enforce the laws of the game
contributed to his death," he said, but recommended the laws around
dangerous and unfair bowling be reviewed by Cricket Australia to clear up any
ambiguity in their wording.
He also recommended authorities continue working with sports
equipment manufacturers to develop a neck guard that is comfortable and
provides better protection with the view to it becoming mandatory.
He made no finding on whether sledging occurred, but expressed
hope that the focus on this "unsavoury aspect" of the game might
cause players to think again before abusing opponents.
After Hughes was hit, fellow cricketers and medical staff
raced to help him but the first person to call for an ambulance was unaware of
the severity of the injury and it took about an hour to get him to hospital.
Barnes commended the response as "to the best of their
abilities" but said emergency procedures at grounds at the time of his
death were concerning.
He said umpires should be better trained to deal with such
situations and that Cricket NSW should implement a daily medical briefing to
ensure everyone was aware of what to do in an emergency.