Hughes was born in Macksville, New South Wales in 1988. He would have been twenty six on Sunday. A left handed, quick scoring opening bat he made his debut for NSW aged just eighteen, having been prolific in the school of Sydney grade cricket. He became the Blues youngest debutant since Michael Clarke. He was then selected for his country making his debut in Johannesburg replacing Matthew Hayden. Hughes' second Test was special though.
Not many people make a hundred in both innings of a Test match but Hughes did it at just twenty years of age as he tore the South Africans apart at Kingsmead in Durban. Added to this he had become the youngest man to score a hundred in the Pura Cup in Australia, as well as becoming the youngest Aussie since Dougie Walters to score a Test hundred. Strong through the off side, he was a fine cutter of the ball. As with a lot of young players, Hughes struggled after a fine start but to his credit, rather than chasing the bucks of the IPL, he knuckled down and spells with Middlesex and Worcestershire in England, where he could hone his technique in the longer format, beckoned. That shows the mark of class. His statistics will be all over the internet, but Hughes was about much more than figures.
And then sadly and suddenly, he was hit by a ball on Tuesday playing for his new state South Australia, ironically against New South Wales. Hit just behind the ear on the top of the neck, Hughes suffered verterbral artery dissection which led to a subarachnoid haemorrhage. This is where an artery is compressed and splits, leading to blood flowing into the brain area. Despite mouth to mouth resuscitation and an operation, Hughes passed away in the early hours of this morning. It was a freak injury.
I never had the privilege of interviewing Hughes. However, I have got to know a number of people that he shared a dressing room with and they are shocked and saddened by the passing of one of the most popular players in the game. Our thoughts are with the Hughes family who have lost a son, and also with Sean Abbott who bowled the ball. Thoughts should also be with not only Australian, Middlesex and Worcestershire cricket fans, but those worldwide where Hughes was always popular.
Hughes won't go down as one of the most graceful to play the game. He was a man who eked out his runs, and had his own idiosyncratic style. He personified grit, making the most out of what he had, and in Australia that is what they love. He will be remembered in my eyes for his work ethic, and trying his arse off. He was popular in every side he played in, with crowds, with team mates and that says it all. I just know that with people like that, he would have made the runs that he deserved, and now sadly he never will.
In North London, from his time at Middlesex Hughes was remembered as a great team mate, and a man who injected a lot of fun into the dressing room. His start to the 2009 season where he scored 574 runs at an average of 143 will not be forgotten either. The flags at Lord's are flying at half mast this morning and training for Middlesex has been cancelled for a few days as here we remember not only a classy bat but a class bloke too.
We can only pray and hope that Sean Abbott recovers from this horrific ordeal too, as do all of the players who were on the famous SCG on Tuesday. They need support too at this awful time.
Many of my friends have phoned me up this morning shocked at the news. As cricketers we don't expect for one of us to die. Yes, a cricket ball is a dangerous object and can kill you, even from a slow bowler should it hit you in the wrong place. The game has always had the dangerous aspect to it, yet you just don't believe it could happen to you. Personally I feel sick to the stomach that a twenty five year old has lost his life. Even writing this, and I never knew him, tears fill my eyes. Yet, the accolades and tributes pouring in goes to show what a close knit community the cricket world is, and that is why we play the game. The camaraderie within the sport is better than any game that I know, and I am sure the worldwide family of those who live this way of life, will all pull together.
All we can do is pray and thoughts lie with the Hughes family. Today the cricket family has lost one of our own, as Phil Hughes remains forever 63 not out, but the Hughes family have lost a son.
May you rest in peace.