Cricket scoreboards around the world carried tributes to Australian batsman Phillip Hughes on Friday, while condolence messages flooded social media as the sporting world reacted to an untimely death not experienced since Ayrton Senna's in 1994.The 25-year-old died on Thursday, two days after he suffered a horrendous and 'freak' injury when he was struck in the neck by a short-pitched ball from New South Wales bowler Sean Abbott in a first-class game at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Condolences for Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes who died after a injury to his head are displayed on a screen during the fourth ODI match between Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in Dhaka. (AFP Photo)
Flags in Australia were flying at half-mast while the lefthander's death dominated newspapers and media bulletins in the country, where the sport is the only truly national game and enjoys massive support.
The story also resonated throughout the cricketing world, particularly in India, who play Australia in a four-match test series starting next week, but also made headlines in places like the United States, where cricket would normally barely rate a mention.
"It is surprising, the level of interest (in his death)," Marc Wilson, Associate Professor of Psychology at Victoria University in Wellington, told Reuters of the global reaction.
"But by and large, people do not die playing cricket.
"If he had had a car accident, for example, that would still have been a tragedy but... it has taken a particularly coincidental combination of factors (for it to happen) and... we have a pretty intuitive sense this is unusual."The death of Hughes was greeted with disbelief amongst his fellow players, while tributes were paid across the cricketing world from international players to club teams in India, who lined up on opposite sides of the pitch with heads bowed.
New Zealand cricketer Daniel Vettori walks past bats and caps placed outside the New Zealand dressing room to match the campaign #putoutyourbats" launched in respect of Phillip Hughes, at the Sharjah cricket stadium in Sharjah. (AFP Photo)
The closeness of the professional cricketing community was also evident, with the New Zealand team the latest to join a social media tribute with the team's caps placed on top of their bats leaning against an advertising board in Sharjah, where they are playing their third test against Pakistan.
"A lot of international and first class cricketers know each other so they will be affected quite a lot," Rod Corban, a senior psychologist with High Performance Sport New Zealand, told Reuters.
"There is a lot of camaraderie in the sport, probably because there is a quite a small group of players and they play against each other a lot. "There will be a lot of disbelief."