By Neil Frankland
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MELBOURNE, Australia _ David Warner left the hospital in tears, the pain of losing teammate and friend Phillip Hughes shattering his usually brash and cavalier exterior. Warner was in the field two days earlier when Hughes was hit in the head by a cricket ball, and rushed to help when the opening batsman collapsed with what would later be revealed as a fatal bleeding in the brain.
Australia captain Michael Clarke held back tears as he read a statement on behalf of the Hughes family, composing himself for long enough until he could make a hurried exit from a nationally televised news conference.
Jim Maxwell, the veteran commentator who has been the voice of cricket radio broadcasts in Australia for decades, cried as he broke the news of Hughes’ death in a live afternoon drive program for the national broadcaster.
The overwhelming reaction to the death of the 25-year-old Australian cricketer has been shock and sadness. Messages of condolence have flooded in from around the world.
Hughes, who played 26 tests for Australia, died at St. Vincent’s Hospital on Thursday, two days after he was struck on the head by a short-pitch ball during a match at the nearby Sydney Cricket Ground.
The Pakistan and New Zealand cricket boards called off the second day of their deciding test match in the United Arab Emirates as a mark of respect. India’s tour match in Australia, due to start Friday, was cancelled after consultation with players from both sides.
Sachin Tendulkar, the greatest batsman in the modern era, was quick to express the grief shared by past and present players, posting on Twitter: “Sad day for cricket. Deepest condolences to family, friends and well-wishers. RIP”
International Cricket Council Chairman Narayanaswami Srinivasan said followers of the sport were “shocked and saddened.”
“On behalf of the entire cricket community, I would like to extend my sincere condolences to his family and friends,” Srinivasan said in a statement.
Hughes never regained consciousness after collapsing on the field when he was hit behind the left ear by a cricket ball during a Sheffield Shield match between his South Australia lineup and New South Wales, his former provincial team. Doctors said the impact of the ball damaged an artery leading to a vertebral artery dissection, or massive bleeding on the brain.
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said Hughes was immensely talented and dearly loved: “Without doubt, he was a rising star whose best cricket was still ahead of him.”
“The word tragedy gets used too often in sport, but this freak accident is real life tragedy,” Sutherland said. “Just days short of his 26th birthday, Phillip has been taken away from us too soon.”
England cricket great Ian Botham said the death was a “very sad day for the world of cricket,” but also urged people to “spare a thought for Sean Abbott,” the young New South Wales paceman who bowled the fateful delivery. Abbott has been receiving counselling from Cricket Australia and the players’ union, and support of his teammates and ex-players.
Australian spin bowling legend Shane Warne described the episode as “an absolute tragedy”.
“He was such an awesome young man, RIP buddy, shattered…” Warne said on Instagram.
Hughes played for three English counties at various times, as well as a team in the Indian Premier League and for two Australian state teams.
“He was an extremely popular and hugely respected cricketer in England and Wales, not only as a successful tourist with various Australian teams, but also as a wonderfully talented county player with Hampshire, Middlesex and Worcestershire,” England and Wales Cricket Board official Giles Clarke said. “He will be missed throughout the world of cricket and today our thoughts are with his family and all those involved in Australian cricket.”
Ex-England allrounder Paul Collingwood echoed the sentiment, tweeting; “Cricket has lost a super talented cricketer but most of all a lovely, lovely man. All our thoughts with his family.”
After deciding to abandon the second day of their third test, Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Shaharyar Khan released a statement saying: “Pakistan’s cricketing fraternity is saddened by Hughes’ passing away, all our thoughts and prayers are with Phil and his family.”
New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White said many people were feeling pain because “cricket is a family.”
“Quite apart from its super-competitive edge, it is a game of kinship, mateship and friendship; of camaraderie and community,” White said.
The Pakistan-New Zealand test will resume on Friday _ to be considered as the second day’s play _ after both cricket boards decided to extend the series by one day.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews offered prayers for Hughes and his Australian teammates.
“Hughes was a terrific young player, and we found him to be a very cheerful and friendly person,” Mathews said. “This is indeed a great tragedy, and we share in the grief of his family and our Aussie … mates. We pray that he will Rest in Peace, Let the Turf rest gently on him.”
The tributes for Hughes were not contained to the cricket fraternity, with Australia’s Olympic committee, football, rugby league, rugby union and Australian rules governing bodies all offering condolences.
Top-ranked golfer Rory McIlroy and 2013 Masters winner Adam Scott will join the rest of the Australian Open field in wearing black ribbons Friday to “honour their fellow sportsman.”
“Nothing on the course matters when things like that happen,” Scott said.
AP Sports Writers John Pye, C.Rajshekhar Rao, Rizwan Ali and Associated Press writer Krishan Francis contributed to this report.