Melbourne: As the global cricket community prays for Australia cricketer Phillip Hughes` recovery from a severe head injury, fast bowlers rushed to the defence of Sean Abbott, whose short-pitched ball struck the batsman and left him fighting for his life.
Abbott and his New South Wales team mates received counselling on Wednesday, while Hughes lay in an induced coma at St. Vincent`s Hospital in Sydney after having surgery to relieve pressure on his brain.
Abbott had been one of the first to rush to Hughes` aid at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Tuesday, cradling the 25-year-old before he was rushed to hospital by ambulance.
"It says a lot about Sean, doesn`t it?" Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland told reporters on Wednesday.
"Sean will have all the support he needs around him.
"I`m sure his team mates and everyone don`t feel in any way ill of him for what happened ... It`s a freak, freak incident that`s happened."
Fast-bowling all rounder Abbott celebrated a personal milestone last month when he was picked for his debut international, a Twenty20 match against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
He played another two T20s and made his one-day international debut against Pakistan, raising his hopes of a dream spot in Australia`s squad for the World Cup, cricket`s quadrennial showpiece which will be held in February and March.
Though Abbott`s best years may lie ahead, he will inevitably be recorded as the bowler whose delivery put Hughes in hospital, much as England paceman David Lawrence is remembered for hitting West Indies batsman Phil Simmons in the head in 1988.
"It`s a serious effect, no bowler wants to be in that situation," Brian Lara, the West Indies batting great, told Reuters in Sydney of Abbott`s situation.
"You want to go out there and give your full commitment and test the batsman in all different ways.
"But that sort of result is not what you aim for. He will be devastated."
West Indies batsman Simmons, now Ireland coach, made a full recovery after life-saving brain surgery and resumed his international career the following year.
The short ball, known in cricket parlance as a `bouncer` or more graphically a `throat ball` in Australia, is a celebrated part of the sport, defying cricket`s traditional image as a `gentleman`s game` and stoking debate about ethics and sportsmanship.
Australia paceman Mitchell Johnson drew criticism from some pundits for peppering England`s lower order batsmen with `chin music` during the Ashes in Australia in 2013/14.
The intimidating tactic was also acknowledged as a key weapon in the hosts` 5-0 defeat of England in the test series.
Former Australia fast bowler Stuart Clark said Abbott had simply been doing his job as a paceman.
"As a fast bowler you’ve got to intimidate. That’s part of the game," Clark told local broadcaster Fox Sports.
"It’s been a part of the game for a long period of time now and I hope it always will be.
"You just worry that this could jeopardise Sean Abbott and his cricket career and we don’t want that. We want Sean Abbott to have the best possible career he can.”
England fast bowler Stuart Broad had his nose broken in two places when a ball from India`s Varun Aaron smashed through the visor on his helmet in August.
He said his "heart sank" when he heard the news of Hughes` injury, but he was also concerned for Abbott`s wellbeing.
"You’ve got to feel sorry for the lad who bowled the bouncer but he can’t feel any guilt that he bowled a bouncer," he told British media. "That’s part of a bowler’s armoury. He’s done nothing wrong."