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|David Hookes in coma after being assaulted |
Monday, January 19 2004 12:12 Hrs (IST)
In a country where cricket is national passion, Hookes, 48, has been a celebrity for three decades, first as tenacious middle-order batsman, then as a coach, a cricket commentator and always as one of the characters of the game.
Police said Hookes suffered a major head injury when he was assaulted outside a pub in the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda where he had been celebrating a win by Victoria over South Australia on Sunday.
Paramedics worked on him for half an hour to resuscitate him after his heart stopped beating, then he was taken to Alfred Hospital, where a spokeswoman said on Monday that Hookes was still in a critical condition in a coma and on life support with his family by his bedside.
Tributes and expressions of sympathy flowed as a man arrested over the incident appeared before Melbourne Magistrates Court on a charge of assault.
Hotel bouncer Zdravco Micevic, 21, was granted bail on condition he surrender his passport, report to police three times a week and reappear for committal on April 13. The incident cast a gloom over the Australian cricketing community.
Former Test captains Greg Chappell and Ian Chappell, who played with Hookes, said they were devastated.
Current Test captain, Ricky Ponting, said, "Everybody's in a state of shock and no-one can believe what's really happened. It's hit everyone pretty hard."
With Australia's number one cricket fan, Prime Minister John Howard, on holiday, the acting premier John Anderson extended the sympathy of the nation to Hookes and his family.
"I know that I would speak for all Australians when I extend that sympathy to them," he said.
Eyewitnesses told how they had heard a sickening thud as Hookes' head hit the ground after he was punched.
A St Kilda resident, who asked to identified only as Joseph, said he heard female voices yelling "Stop it, leave him alone" then saw a man fall to the ground after being punched in the face.
Joseph told reporters he saw a man throw a left hook at Hookes's face. "I heard a really loud cracking sound when this happened, the guy that was hurt then just fell backwards and smashed the back of his head on the road."
Another eyewitness to the incident, Roman Longer, told ABC radio that more than a dozen people were involved in the melee.
"There was a group of maybe 14 people involved, two groups, a security fellow who was sort of trying to step between the two groups, women screaming and it was at that time that we decided to ring police," he said.
Hookes has been one of Australia's most successful coaches after a celebrated career playing first for South Australia, then for the Australian Test and One-day teams. His Victorian state side is currently leading the national Sheffield Shield competition.
Hookes played 23 Tests for Australia between 1977 and 1986 scoring 1,306 runs at an average of 34.36 and played 39 One-day Internationals for 826 runs.
The South Australian left-handed batsman debuted for Australia in the 1977 Centenary Test against England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and scored a dashing half-century which included five boundaries off one over from England all-rounder Tony Greig.