New Road assistant coach Matt Mason said Australian batsman Phil Hughes, who is in a critical condition after being hit by a bouncer at the Sydney Cricket Ground, is "one of the most popular overseas professionals to ever have played for Worcestershire"

The South Australia left-hander, who played at New Road during the 2012 campaign, collapsed after a delivery from New South Wales bowler Sean Abbott struck his helmet.

Hughes was carried off on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to hospital where he has undergone surgery.

Fellow Australian Mason said: "Phil Hughes is one of the most popular overseas professionals to ever have played for Worcestershire.

"He loved the club and vowed to return one day. I know many of the lads will be stunned by what has happened.

"All at Worcestershire wish Phil a complete and speedy recovery and our thoughts go out to his family, friends and teammates.

"We would like nothing more than to see Phil Hughes back at New Road in the near future."

Worcestershire Director of Cricket Steve Rhodes, who was instrumental in signing Hughes, said: "It was a terrible shock. It was the first thing I heard on the radio when I woke up this morning, this very sad news.

"For Phil's family to see him go down while watching on the field of play must have been a terrible event for everyone.

"Everyone at Worcestershire is devastated and our thoughts are very much with Phil and his family. Phil was very popular in our dressing room.

"Phil is a real battler and he'll need those battling qualities now and I'm sure he will show them."

Worcestershire players, many of whom are currently playing grade cricket in Australia, took to social networking to give their support to Hughes.

Keeper Ben Cox wrote: "Thoughts are with you and your family Pip. Be strong and pull through bud. Keep fighting little man."

Spinner Brett D'Oliveira wrote: "Thoughts with Hughesy and family today. Top player and bloke. Get well soon mate."

All-rounder Ross Whiteley wrote: "Thoughts are with friends and family of Phil Hughes after such a devastating accident. Hope he can pull through."

Spinner Shaaiq Choudhry wrote: "Thoughts and prayers with Hughesy and his family. Terrible news, wishing you a speedy recovery."

Paceman Chris Russell wrote: "Thoughts are with Phil Hughes and his family after the horrific news coming from Sydney."

South Australian Cricket's manager Tim Nielsen said "the outcome is unlikely to be known for 24-48 hours".

Players and officials rushed to help Hughes as he fell to the ground After being hit by the ball, Hughes put his hands on his knees before falling face first on to the pitch.

He was immediately surrounded by opposition players and umpires, who called for help. The Sheffield Shield match was abandoned.

Australia Cricket team doctor Peter Brukner said: "Phil Hughes has suffered a severe head injury while batting today for South Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

"He underwent surgery and is now in a critical condition in the hospital's intensive care unit. He is in the best possible medical hands."

Cricket Australia chief executive officer James Sutherland said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Phil Hughes. We are also thinking of his family, team-mates and friends in the Australian cricket family.

"His welfare is our highest priority. We're also naturally concerned about all of those involved in today's game and will be giving them our utmost support."

Australia coach Darren Lehmann wrote on Twitter: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Phil and his family. He is a great fighter and a great young man."

Hughes enjoyed a successful spell at New Road, particularly in white ball cricket and he averaged 100 in the T20 competition and 83 in the CB 40 Over League.

He later claimed his time at Worcestershire was key to him regaining his spot in the Australian squad for the 2013 Ashes – a move which ended the possibility of him returning to New Road that summer.