Phillip Huhghes' death:This is a real tragic accident: Alastair Cook
England captian Alastair Cook said Phillip Hughes' death is a real tragic accident but we should not change the way cricket is played. ‘I don't think that's the right way to go about it. If you're going to play a game, you've got to do it properly.'
Hughes died on Thursday, two days after being struck in a domestic game in Sydney by a bouncer on an unprotected part of his neck below the left ear.
Asked if it had been difficult to focus, Cook replied: ‘Yeah, it has. Yesterday was a tragic day for cricket.
‘It was an incredibly sad changing room for us, and all our thoughts are with Hughes's family and friends, and those Australian players who knew him so well.'
Cook said the intensity of the game would be affected, but baulked at the idea that fast bowlers might think twice about bowling bouncers.
Would the England captain, who's always scored runs with the pull and the hook - even if bowlers these days are less inclined to drop short to him - change his own style of play?
‘It won't change the way I play,' he said. ‘It's a natural thing, the way I play - you can't have those doubts when you walk out to bat. This is a real reminder to everyone how lucky we are to be playing cricket, and how precious life is.
‘It's also a real reminder about how dangerous the game can be.'
For once, the cliche about sport being put in perspective feels appropriate - and the thought had, inevitably, occurred to Cook.
‘What's happened in the last three days has certainly clarified in my mind that's it just a game of sport,' he said. 'We are incredibly lucky to play the game. And we have a massive responsibility to play it the right way.
‘It's really hard to talk about, because we don't know how the game's going to go on, but it's a real reminder to me that we have a responsibility. We play it hard, yes, because you're representing your country, but there's certainly a right way to do it.'
Cook spoke warmly about Hughes the human being, saying the pair had picked each other's brains after the 2013 Ashes about being left-handed opening batsmen - ‘though we probably went about things in a different way' - and of their mutual love of farming.
‘There was no doubt in my mind that he would have been a fantastic player for Australia. To be cut short is an absolute tragedy.'
Cook called for the authorities and helmet manufacturers to keep improving player safety following the Phillip Hughes tragedy.
Speaking ahead of Saturday's second one-day international against Sri Lanka in Colombo, where both sides will observe a two-minute silence and wear black armbands in Hughes's memory, a sombre-looking Cook said: ‘We should keep working as hard as we can, through the manufacturers and the authorities, to make cricket as safe as possible.
‘This is a real reminder to everyone that we can't take anything for granted. We've got to keep improving player safety, even though improvements since I started playing cricket have gone through the roof, especially with helmets.'
The England captain said the two teams had discussed postponing Saturday's match at the R Premadasa Stadium in the Sri Lankan capital, but decided to go ahead as a mark of respect.
‘We came close enough to calling it off to have some serious discussions about it,' he said. ‘We thought showing respect and playing the game in his honour was probably the right thing to do.'
The preparations for Saturday's game here have taken place in an air of unreality.
Three members of the England squad who have played with Hughes at county level - Worcestershire's Moeen Ali, and Eoin Morgan and Steven Finn of Middlesex - will be allowed to decide whether or not they take part.
Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews said he and his team were ‘deeply shocked' by Hughes's death. ‘It was the first thing I heard when I woke up yesterday, and it was a very tough day.
‘It will be very hard to get over this - for all of us, not just Australian cricket. He was a humble guy and a gentleman.'