We’ve all wanted our time again. A mulligan. A do-over. Call it what you will.
Unlucky for all of us, we so rarely get the chance. Unless we’re Gwyneth Paltrow, that is.
In the 1998 rom-com/pile-of-shit-chick-flick, Sliding Doors, Paltrow – through the character she played – got the chance to take two. And we got to see just how vulnerable we all are to blind fate.
For those of you who’ve banished the ultra-schmoltzy film from your memory – and god knows we’ve all tried – it employs a rather nifty cinematic technique known as ‘allohistory’, a device by which the filmmaker is able to present an alternative take on events as they are presented in the film
Confused? Refer to the rather brilliant Back To The Future franchise as a refresher.
In the less brilliant Sliding Doors, Paltrow’s character has a rather unfortunate existence.
On the day she’s fired from her job she misses her regular train home, has her bag snatched jostling for a cab and smashes her head on the ground in the process.
Due to her brief trip to the hospital she’s too late home to catch her philandering boyfriend on the job and goes on suffering away until she eventually falls down a flight of stairs, losing the illegitimate child sired by Mr Cheater.
Rather perversely, losing the child turns out to be a better outcome for her than dying – which is what happened in the alternate ‘reality’ where she’d managed to catch the train on the day she was fired.
In that world, she met a rather dashing chap and disposed of the cheating partner when she arrived home on time, catching him red-faced and in bed with his ex-girlfriend.
Newly single, she strikes up a mouth-vomitingly romantic relationship with the new guy, despite some rather worrying confusion over his marital status, and declares her undying love for him moments before walking absent-minded into traffic and being run down, dying soon after in her lover’s arms.
Yowch *reaches for Kleenex*.
Of course, in the film, thanks to the dual plot-line, we’re spirited through to the final credits on the back of a ‘happily ever after’ twist that allows the down-and-out Gwyneth to meet the dreamboat guy in an entirely different set of circumstances, upon which they strike up a relationship that is presumably fulfilling and life-long and doesn’t involve even a hint of a tragic road traffic accident.
My guess is there are and I’ll start by answering what seems the most obvious… Why is a crappy 1998 chick flick even being discussed?
My answer: Phillip Joel Hughes.
On the surface, the diminutive left-handed former Test opener couldn’t be further removed from the willowy blonde movie star. Surely not even Kevin Bacon could link the two, six degrees or otherwise.
But to my mind Hughes could be the pivotal character in a 2012 remake of Sliding Doors.
The title? Slicing Fours.
Hughes’ emergence on the international scene is fabled and fantastical. The 20-year-old famously plundered South Africa’s fearsome pace attack for twin centuries in just his second Test, becoming the youngest player ever to achieve the rare feat.
The intervening 36-months since his debut have been far from smooth sailing and the now 23-year-old finds himself on the outer, grafting away for New South Wales, still desperately short of runs and unlikely to be donning his baggy green cap any time soon.
His trials against world class fast bowling are infamous. First the English worked him out and worked him over, but everyone took notice.
He lost his place in the national outfit after the 2009 Ashes, regained it momentarily, lost it again, got it back and made a ton against Sri Lanka last winter.
But Hughes couldn’t repeat his heroics on a second trip to South Africa ahead of this Australian summer and suffered a crushing blow when dropped after a dismal two-Test series against New Zealand.
It all culminated with two meek dismissals in Hobart. After both innings of a lost match, Hughes' name sat alongside the same line in the paper: c. Guptill b. Martin
Almost absurdly, it had been exactly the same the previous week in Brisbane.
Four times Hughes lost his wicket in exactly the same way, dabbing outside off-stump and providing catching practice for the slips cordon.
And so he returned to Hobart this week, playing for his State and not his country, in his first domestic outing since being dumped from the Test team.
He even top-scored in the second innings for NSW, albeit with 36-runs as the Blues battled to a shabby total of just 150 against Sheffield Shield powerhouse, Tasmania.
But imagine if Martin Guptill had been fielding at cover, not slip, when Hughes set about his work alongside David Warner against the Black Caps in December.
Or if he had let the ball pass harmlessly by outside off stump.
Perhaps he’d have gone on to make a few, kept his spot in the side and may have filled his boots against the insipid Indian attack for the rest of the summer.
He might have come back to Hobart a Test hero and plundered a massive ton, his inimitable technique seeing him cut and carve through gully and over point with reckless abandon.
That’s the way it would probably have played out if Hollywood had anything to do with the machinations of international cricket.
But as it doesn’t, Hughes looks to have a good few years of grinding away at first-class level developing a more robust technique, one more suited to the rigours of cricket at the highest level.
As it stands now, the Sliding Doors of national selection are firmly closed to Hughes and no amount of wishing and wanting can give him his time again. He'll just have to wait for another chance like the rest of us.
If only he owned a DeLorean.
Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images AsiaPac