SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes, who died on Thursday after being hit in the head by a ball, will be honored 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 honor.
“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 somber 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 honor.
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.
The tragedy touched the country’s other top sports, with the national Wallabies rugby team to wear black armbands in Saturday’s match against England in London.
A social media tribute with the hashtag #putoutyourbats saw cricketers from around the world post pictures of their bats outside their doors.
Support also rang out for Sean Abbott, the 22-year-old all-rounder whose rising delivery struck Hughes.
Hughes’ family and Australia cricket captain Michael Clarke spent time with Abbott during the week and Cricket Australia (CA) boss James Sutherland said he was “holding up” well.
“I had a chat to him last night and I was incredibly impressed by the way he was holding himself and his maturity,” Sutherland added.
CA will launch an “immediate” review into player safety in the wake of Hughes’ death, while the fate of next week’s first test against India remained in limbo.
Sutherland said the board would work with manufacturers and regulators to look into safety standards and seek improvements after Hughes was killed despite wearing a helmet.
“Statistics say it is clearly a freak incident, but one freak incident is one freak incident too many, so that of course puts us in a position of looking into that,” Sutherland said.
Hughes was set to replace the injured Clarke in the Australia team for the first test against India next week, according to selector Mark Waugh, but the debate has turned to whether the match should go ahead at all.
Sutherland declined to confirm the Dec. 4-8 match in Brisbane, saying Hughes’ team mates needed time to grieve.
“I know for many people, seven days doesn’t seem too far away but in other ways it is a million miles away. We will get there when we can,” he said.
Writing by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by John O'Brien