SYDNEY - The Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes, who died on Thursday after being hit in the head by a ball, will be honoured with a state memorial service. The service will take place at the Sydney Cricket Ground next week, the same stadium where he suffered the horrific injury on Tuesday.
State memorials are normally reserved for political figures but the New South Wales Premier Mike Baird announced on Friday that Hughes, whose death has triggered a global outpouring of grief would also be afforded the honour. "This service has been arranged in consultation with Phillip's family, and it will be an opportunity for the entire community to pay their respects to a much-loved Australian and New South Welshman," Baird said in a statement.
Hughes' death dominated Australia's major newspapers on Friday, with sombre eulogies for the boy raised on a banana plantation whose life ended three days before his 26th birthday. "Nation shares the agony of an innings cut short," The Australian's front-page headline read above a picture of Hughes gazing above with an Australian flag in the background.
Sydney's Daily Telegraph blacked out its entire back page, except for a picture of Hughes, in his honour. Government flags were at half-mast across the cricket-mad country and floral tributes were placed outside the entrance to the SCG. Local cricket clubs were painting 408 into the turf of their grounds, the number on Hughes' national 'baggy green' cap signifying his status as the country's 408th test player, while black armbands would be worn and a minute's silence observed before games on the weekend. Junior cricketers would also retire their innings at 63, instead of the usual 50, to commemorate Hughes' final score.
Meanwhile, World sport mourned the death of Australian batsman Hughes 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.
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. 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. "We'll be thinking of him and his family," said Australia captain Michael Hooper. "It's the kind of news you never want to wake up to."