Former England fast bowler David Lawrence fears Sean Abbott may never play cricket again after Phillip Hughes died from injuries sustained facing him in a Sheffield Shield match.
Hughes was hit on the neck, in an area unprotected by his helmet, after trying to hook a bouncer from Abbott.
Lawrence is uniquely qualified to empathise with 22-year-old Abbott. He was just 24 when he bowled to Phil Simmons – who was not wearing a helmet – and struck him on the temple in a tour match, resulting in a serious injury from which the West Indies batsman thankfully made a full recovery.
Simmons went on to play for his country again many more times, but Lawrence still vividly remembers that day at Bristol, when Simmons’s heart stopped and he required emergency brain surgery.
“He collapsed. They rushed him to hospital, and were able to save his life and take a blood clot off his brain – and he subsequently went on to play again,” recalled Lawrence, whose own experience was tellingly different to that of the unfortunate Abbott.
Lawrence added: “What gave me comfort was I was able to see Phil Simmons 48 hours after, and he was able to tell me it wasn’t my fault.
“The bowler in this instance in Australia would not have been able to do that. Hughes didn’t make a recovery, wasn’t able to talk to him.
“So my thoughts go out to him as well – because whether he will come back from this or not, personally I don’t think he’ll play cricket again.”
Even so, Lawrence, whose own England Test career was subsequently cut short by a horrific knee injury, would not want to see bowlers prevented from using the bouncer as a wicket-taking tactic.
“I don’t think any fast bowler walks out there looking to inflict danger on someone – or for them to end up in hospital, and lose their life,” he said.
“It’s a part of the game.
“You use it to ‘rough up’ a batsman, make him feel unsettled, and then you look possibly to pitch the ball up.
“I wouldn’t like to see that taken away from the game.”