The global cricket community has today rallied around the family of Australian batsman Phil Hughes, who tragically passed away in the early hours (GMT) of Thursday morning.
Hughes was hit on the top of his neck by a bouncer bowled by Sean Abbott at the Sydney Cricket Ground during the state match between Hughes’ South Australia and Abbott’s New South Wales. Hughes appeared dazed in the immediate aftermath, bent double with his hands on his knees, and as the NSW players (including international team mates) approached him to check he was okay, he collapsed to the floor, not using his hands to break his fall.
As players and officials rushed to Hughes’ aid, it was clear the severity of the situation. Hughes was carried from the field by the SCG ground staff, and was kept on the field whilst the doctors from both teams carried out CPR and mouth to mouth resuscitation whilst waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Both an ambulance and helicopter arrived at the SCG, and Hughes was rushed to St Vincent’s hospital in Sydney, where he underwent emergency surgery in an attempt to relieve the swelling on his brain.
A steady stream of domestic and international team mates, including Australian Test captain and close friend of Hughes, Michael Clarke, arrived at the hospital to be at his bedside.
Little was heard in the 24 hours immediately after the surgery. Cricket Australia team doctor Peter Brukner could only say that Hughes was in a medically induced coma, in critical condition.
Then, in the early hours of Thursday morning (UK time), the devastating news filtered through that Phil Hughes had sadly passed away. His death was confirmed in a statement, read by Peter Brukner.
“It is my sad duty to inform you that a short time ago Phillip Hughes passed away, he never regained consciousness following his injury on Tuesday. He was not in pain before he passed and was surrounded by his family and close friends. As a cricket community, we mourn his loss and extend our deepest sympathies to Phillip’s family and friends at this incredibly sad time.”
Speaking at a news conference later on, Brukner explained that Hughes had died as a result of “vertebral artery dissection”, where the artery had been compressed, leading it to split and cause massive internal bleeding. This type of injury is incredibly rare, with only 100 cases ever having been reported, of which 1 was caused by a cricket ball.
Tributes and messages of love and support for Phil and the Hughes family have poured in from all over the globe.
Cricket Australia on Twitter: “The strength of the cricket family is more important than ever on this incredibly sad day. Please keep Sean Abbott in your thoughts.”
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott: “Phillip Hughes was a young man living out his dreams. For a young life to be cut short playing our national game seems a shocking aberration. He was loved, admired and respected by his team-mates and by legions of cricket fans.”
The England team released a statement on Twitter, saying: “Our deepest sympathies go out to Phil Hughes’ family, friends and teammates at this incredibly sad time. Phil was admired and respected by all he played with and against and will never be forgotten by the cricket community.”
England bowler Jimmy Anderson on Twitter: “Can’t quite believe the news. Devastating. My thoughts go out to Phil Hughes’ family and friends. Thoughts also with Sean Abbott.”
Former England batsman Kevin Pietersen on Twitter: “NO NO NO NO NO. RIP, Hughsey #63notout”
The India team currently touring Australia also released a joint statement which read: “The touring Indian team joins the cricketing fraternity across the world in offering condolences to the family of Phillip Hughes, who has departed from our midst. In this moment of grief, we pray that they are bestowed with divine strength to overcome this unfortunate tragedy. As fellow cricketers we cherish the memories of playing along with him and deeply respect his contribution to the game of cricket.”
Australia all-rounder Steve Smith via Twitter: “Rest in peace Hughesy. I am really going to miss you. You were one of the great blokes and I will never forget you. #408 will live on forever.”
Australia batsman David Warner on Instagram: “RIP my little man. You will always be with me when I walk out onto the field. Not just a mate but a loved one to us all big man. Forever in my heart brother for life. Miss you buddy.”
As devastating and tragic as this is, it must also be remembered that this was a complete accident, a “freak” accident. Please spare a thought for poor Sean Abbott. Anyone who knows anything about the game of cricket knows that absolutely no blame can be placed at his feet. He will have bowled that same ball, and Hughes will have faced that ball thousands of times before. Abbott will have taken wickets with that ball, and Hughes will have smashed 4s and 6s, ducked and weaved out of the way, or taken the blow to the helmet, replaced the helmet, and carried on his merry, unorthodox, thrilling way.
It has been a devastating few days for the cricket community as a whole. Rivalry becomes nothing when something like this happens. Rivalries disappear. He was a hugely talented Australian, destined to play many more times for his country on the international stage. He was one of them, but he’ll always be one of us.