SYDNEY: World sport mourned the death of Australian batsman Phillip Hughes on Thursday with former greats, politicians and even Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, from a country with little cricket culture, paying tribute.
Ripples from the demise of Hughes, two days after he was knocked unconscious by a cricket ball, quickly spread across the planet and beyond cricket’s boundaries as the game reeled from a rare death in competition.
The South Australia shotmaker collapsed on the field, despite wearing a batting helmet, after being struck by a bouncer from New South Wales paceman Sean Abbott during a Sheffield Shield match in Sydney.
Hughes underwent emergency surgery, but he never regained consciousness.
On a day where cricketers past and present paid tribute to Hughes, the impact of his passing also extended to other sports, with tennis stars Andy Murray and Nadal, regular visitors to Melbourne for the Australian Open, taking to Twitter to extend their condolences.
“Phillip Hughes Death is so incredibly tragic… Thoughts go out to his family and to Sean Abbott in this very difficult time for them all,” Murray tweeted.
Cricket has little following in Spain but Nadal, one of the country’s greatest sportsmen, wrote: “Shocked about the news of Oz’s cricketer Phil Hughes. My thoughts with the family and the cricket fans.”
Meanwhile West Indies Cricket Board President Dave Cameron said a minute’s silence would be observed during all matches in the third round of the WICB Professional Cricket League as a mark of respect.
Earlier, play was called off on the second day of the third Test between Pakistan and New Zealand in Sharjah.
An image of a smiling Hughes adorned the electronic scoreboard in the empty stadium in the United Arab Emirates, where the 25-year-old recently played for Australia.
At the Adelaide Oval, South Australia’s home ground, the heart-wrenching message “Vale Phillip Hughes 1988-2014” was posted on an otherwise empty scoreboard.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said 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.”
Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath were among the Australian greats to send condolences along with national coach Darren Lehmann, who tweeted: “RIP you little champ, we are all going to miss you!”
And Indian superstar Sachin Tendulkar led a wave of sympathy from abroad as he saluted Hughes, his former team-mate in the Indian Premier League.
“Shocked to hear about Phil. Sad day for cricket,” Tendulkar said.
International Cricket Council chief executive David Richardson, the former South Africa wicketkeeper, said: “All those who play, have played or are in any way connected to the game are devastated by the news.”
Former England captain Andrew Strauss, who played alongside Hughes at Middlesex, led British tributes, describing the news as “sickening”.
“The most sickening aspect of all of this is that he was a guy in the best years of his life and that was extinguished out of the blue,” Strauss told Sky Sports News.
Middlesex announced that flags at Lord’s would be lowered in Hughes’s memory, while fans left flowers at the ground’s Grace Gates.
“Absolutely devastated to hear that Phil has passed away. Thoughts and prayers with his family and friends,” tweeted England batsman Ian Bell.
Meanwhile the Australian rugby union team, in London to play England, said they planned to wear black armbands as a mark of respect to Hughes during Saturday’s international at Twickenham.