On Monday, 27 November - the brief final day of the opening Ashes Test in Brisbane - the cricketing and wider world mourned the three-year anniversary of the passing of Phillip Hughes. On that date in 2014, Hughes, who had been unconscious in hospital for two days already, died of the injuries sustained when he was struck in the neck by a bouncer in a Sheffield Shield game in his native Australia. Phillip Joel Hughes was 25.

In the three years subsequently, it seems an appropriate time to ask: how did Hughes' death affect cricket? Bowlers still bowl bouncers.

Players still sledge their opponents. Batsmen still get hit on the head - Joe Root being the most recent, during the aforementioned Brisbane Test. The actual game itself has not necessarily changed in the way it is played. But its' spirit, and the general attitude towards it, have never been the same since. Phillip Hughes left a hole in cricket that has never been filled.

Now is not the time to discuss such things as possible rule changes, or players' moral codes, and other weightier issues within the game. That is for the experts to solve. For now, as we remember the loss of a young man three years on from his passing, I would like to focus on something else. Something simpler. This piece is designed to thank Phillip Hughes for the memories he gave and to illustrate how his death affected the casual cricket fan.

'His records and achievements were remarkable'

First, some facts need to be made clear. I am not formally involved in cricket in any capacity. I am not a professional, or even semi-professional, player, coach, physio or any other form of staff. I play league and friendly cricket for my local club side and follow the game avidly as a fan.

I have no connection to Australian cricket, to the Hughes family, nor the Australian national team. I never met Phillip Hughes. But his life, and death had an impact on me and many others like me.

It goes without saying that, apart from Phillip himself, the biggest victims of the tragic incident were the Hughes family. His parents, Greg and Virginia, his brother Jason and sister Megan suffered a loss that, in truth, they will never fully recover from.

One hopes that even a fraction of their pain has eased in the last three years and that they have come to some sort of peace with Phillip's passing.

There is a tendency with the premature passing of sportsmen and women to exaggerate their achievements, to embellish their careers, something I will try not to do with Phillip. The truth is, however, that some of his records and achievements in the game are remarkable. They include, but are in no way limited to; the youngest player ever to score twin centuries in a Test match, the first Australia ever to score a century on ODI debut, the first Australian ever to score a List A double-hundred, and a share in the then-Test record for the highest ever last-wicket partnership.

All that before he turned 25.

'What stood out was the smile'

I hope that the Hughes family are aware of the weight of Phillip's achievements within his short career in the game - from what I understand they are not a family of avid cricket fans - but more importantly, I hope they understand something far less quantifiable. I hope they understand the feeling Phillip brought to people like myself, the average fan with no connection to the man.

Like most people not directly involved in the game, my first memory of Hughes is his staggering debut Test series in South Africa in 2009. Following up a second-innings 70 in his maiden Test, Hughes smashed 115 and 160 in his second Test in Durban, aged just 20, in his own idiosyncratic and encapsulating style.

But what stood out was the smile. He played that series with the broadest grin imaginable and, in the five years of his career that followed, I don't think I ever saw that smile leave his face.

And that is the true legacy of Phillip Joel Hughes. A legacy of a man who played the game not for records, averages or statistics, but simply for fun. He loved the game, and the game loved him. It is easy to love-to-hate the most gifted among your rivals - for example, Virat Kohli is admired and respected worldwide, but is he truly loved and adored outside India? - but Phillip Hughes wasn't like that. His natural talent and hand-eye coordination were as impressive as any, but he felt like just another guy.

Nothing flash, nothing arrogant, no sense of divine right to greatness. He was just a bloke, from Macksville, having a laugh with his mates.

I hope his family know this. I hope they have a grasp of his impact. For myself, as with thousands upon thousands of cricket fans worldwide who never met the man, he was a friend. I never met a cricket fan, before or after his death, that didn't like Phillip Joel Hughes. Amidst the pain of the last three years, I hope his family find comfort in that.

RIP Phillip.