Australia cricket international Phil Hughes has died after being hit in the head by a ball on Tuesday.
The 25-year old, who had been hoping to regain his place in the team for next week’s Test match against India, passed away on Thursday after failing to recover from an induced coma at a hospital in Sydney.
The South Australia batsman, who would have turned 26 on Sunday, was fatally injured when hit by a “bouncer,” a short ball that bounces up towards the batsman’s torso, near his left ear — the ball somehow evading the cricketer’s helmet as he swiveled to play a shot.
Australian team doctor Peter Brukner told a press conference Thursday that Hughes suffered a “massive bleed into his brain” during the game on Tuesday afternoon.
He said the ball hit the side of his neck and, “as a result of that blow, his vertebral artery was compressed by the ball. That caused the artery to split and for bleeding to go up into the brain. And he had a massive bleed into his brain. This is frequently fatal at the time.”
But he said doctors on the scene, including a specialist who had been in the crowd, managed to resuscitate him. He was later taken to hospital where they made “an intervention” to release pressure on his brain. He was then put in an induced coma but failed to recover.
At the same press conference, James Sutherland, the CEO of Cricket Australia, paid tribute to the young cricketer. “Without doubt he was a rising star, with his best cricket ahead of him,” he said.
“He was a hero to kids around the nation and particularly those around his home grounds of New South Wales.”
Michael Clarke, Australia’s Test captain, then read a short statement on behalf of Hughes’ family.
“We are devastated by the loss of our much-loved son and brother.”
“It’s been a very difficult few days. We appreciate all the support we’ve received from family, friends, players, Cricket Australia and the general public.
Cricket was Phillip’s life, and we as a family shared that love of the game with him.
We would like to thank all of the medical and nursing staff at St Vincent’s Hospital, and Cricket NSW medical staff for their great efforts with Phillip, we love you.”
Outpouring of emotion
His death has triggered an outpouring of emotion in Australia and among cricket enthusiasts the world over.
A statement from the office of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott read: “Phillip Hughes was a young man living out his dreams.
“His death is a very sad day for cricket and a heartbreaking day for his family. What happened has touched millions of Australians.
“For a young life to be cut short playing our national game seems a shocking aberration.
“He was loved, admired and respected by his teammates and by legions of cricket fans.
“Australians’ thoughts and prayers are with the Hughes family.”
Former England international Nick Compton told CNN his former friend had lived “life to the full.”
Born in Macksville, New South Wales, Hughes was a talented sportsman who counted both cricket and rugby league among his attributes as a teenager.
However, it was cricket that won out — with the left-handed batsman going on to represent Australia in 26 Tests, the highest standard of the game after making his debut in 2009 at the age of 20.
Along the way, he would beat a mark set by his compatriot Donald Bradman, considered by many to have been the best cricketer to have ever played the game.
For Hughes was just 20 years and 96 days when he hit his first Test century, so beating Don Bradman’s mark by 28 days and becoming the fourth youngest Australian to do so in the process.
It was not the only one of the legendary Don’s records that Hughes would eclipse, after the left hander hit 574 runs (including three centuries) in his first five innings during a spell in English cricket, a total that beat Bradman’s 566 runs in his first five England-based innings in 1930.
Burgeoning talent at a young age was a feature of Hughes’ earliest forays into professional cricket and in 2009, he became the youngest cricketer to score back-to-back centuries in a Test match, a feat he achieved in Durban against South Africa.
Despite the bright start, his technique and form were occasionally put under real pressure — meaning he was dropped from Australia’s squad midway through the Ashes tour in England in 2009.
Hughes would be in and out of the side afterwards but enjoyed his most productive spell in 2012, while one of his most famous performances came against England last year.
Along with teammate Ashton Agar, the duo shared a record 10th-wicket partnership of 163 runs during the celebrates Ashes series.
Hughes’ sickening injury on Tuesday came under the watchful gaze of Australia selector Mark Waugh.
Putting together a calm 63 runs off 161 balls, Hughes seemed to be playing his way into Australia’s Test squad for next week’s opening match of the Test series against India — especially with captain Clarke himself injured.
But then, tragedy struck in the shape of a cricket ball hurled down the wicket by New South Wales bowler Sean Abbott during a Sheffield Shield match.
After crouching over to try to absorb the blow, Hughes simply dropped to the ground — his wholesale failure to try to break his fall sparking immediate fears.
The game was abandoned soon after.
Abbott is in no way blamed by anyone for his role in Hughes’ death and there are genuine fears among those involved in Australian cricket for his well-being.
The bowler was one of the first to attend to Hughes, a close friend, following an incident that has led calls for greater protective gear for the world’s top cricketers.