He was not in pain before he passed and was surrounded by his family and close friends. He never regained consciousness following his injury. —Australian national team doctor Peter Brukner
SYDNEY — Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes has died after he was hit by a ball while batting, becoming one of only a handful of professional players to suffer a fatal head injury on the field within the last century. He was 25.
He died in Sydney's St. Vincent's Hospital, where he had been placed in an induced coma following surgery to relieve compression on the brain, Tony Grabs, a surgeon at the hospital, said at a press conference Thursday.
Hughes, who was wearing a helmet, was hit two days ago at Sydney Cricket Ground as he tried to strike a bouncer while playing a state match for South Australia against New South Wales. The bouncer -- a ball delivered at speed that rises sharply off the ground -- struck him on the neck and split an artery that caused bleeding in his brain, Peter Brukner, the Australian team's doctor, said in a statement.
"He was not in pain before he passed and was surrounded by his family and close friends," Brukner said. "He never regained consciousness following his injury."
Sean Abbott, 22, who bowled the bouncer, and Hughes were members of the Australian squad that played Pakistan in a 20-over game in Dubai on Oct. 5. Other elite cricketers were shocked by Hughes's death.
"No no no no no," former Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist said in a Twitter posting, and urged Abbott to "stay strong."
The ball compressed Hughes's vertebral artery, causing it to split and leading to a "massive bleed" into his brain, Brukner told reporters at the hospital news conference.
Such an injury was "incredibly rare," with only about 100 cases ever reported and only one previously the result of a cricket ball, Brukner said.
Masuri Group Ltd., the closely held maker of the helmet Hughes was wearing, said in an e-mailed statement this week that cricket players can't avoid injuries wearing head protection that allows movement.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott paid tribute to Hughes, saying he was a "young man living out his dreams."
"For a young life to be cut short playing our national game seems a shocking aberration," Abbott said in an e-mailed statement. "He was loved, admired and respected by his teammates and by legions of cricket fans."
"RIP you little champ, we are all going to miss you," Australian team coach Darren Lehmann said on Twitter, while former Australian bowler Glenn McGrath expressed his "deepest sympathies" to Hughes's family.
Hughes was a "naturally gifted player who entertained many with his attacking approach to the game," International Cricket Council Chief Executive David Richardson said in a statement. "All those who play, have played or are in any way connected to the game are devastated by the news."
Play was suspended for the day in a Test match taking place in the United Arab Emirates between Pakistan and New Zealand, espncricinfo.com reported. Cricket Australia Chief Executive Officer James Sutherland told reporters that authorities hadn't decided whether a Test match between Australia and India would go ahead next week.
Hughes, who was in line to replace injured Australian captain Michael Clarke in that match starting Dec. 4, was 63 not out when he was struck.
Phillip Joel Hughes was born Nov. 30, 1988, in Macksville, a town on the North coast of New South Wales, to parents Virginia and Greg, a banana farmer. He moved to Sydney to play in the city's grade cricket competition for Western Suburbs District Cricket Club and attend Homebush Boys High School.
He made his first-class cricketing debut for New South Wales in 2007 and scored a century in the final of Australia's interstate competition at just 19. He played for his home state until 2012 and subsequently switched to South Australia. He also played in the English county competition and the Indian Premier League.
The left-handed opening batsman and occasional wicketkeeper became the 408th player to receive a coveted Baggy Green cap when he was called up to the country's Test match team in 2009. He was dismissed for zero on his Test debut against South Africa, then in his second Test became the youngest man to score a century in each innings.
Hughes spent the next four years in and out of the Test team, playing his last Test match for Australia against England at Lords in 2013. He played 26 Test matches in all, scoring 1,535 runs at an average of 32.65 in cricket's five-day form, according to data on espncricinfo.com.
Australian captain Clarke read out a statement to reporters at the hospital on behalf of Hughes's parents, his sister Megan and his brother Jason.
"We are devastated by the loss of our much loved son and brother Phillip," he said. "Cricket was Phillip's life and we as a family shared that love of the game with him."
In 2013, South African former first-class cricketer Darryn Randall, 32, was struck on the side of the head as he attempted a pull shot during a match between Old Selbornians and Fort Hare University, according to espncricinfo.com. Although he had been wearing a helmet, he collapsed at the crease and hospital staff failed to revive him.
Former Indian Test cricketer Raman Lamba, 38, received a fatal head injury while fielding close to the batsman during a club match in Bangladesh in 1998, the site said.
_ With assistance from Peter Vercoe and Iain McDonald in Sydney.