Hookes, 47, suffered major head injuries in the attack, which happened in suburban St Kilda shortly before midnight on Sunday. He had been celebrating a team victory.

Witnesses said he had to be revived by ambulance paramedics after he had technically died.

He was taken to the Alfred Hospital, where a hospital spokeswoman said Hookes was in a critical condition and still in a coma in the intensive care unit.

Clark Forbes, the programme director at Melbourne radio station 3AW, where Hookes is a member of the on-air team, said the attack was so brutal that ambulance paramedics had to work to revive Hookes for half an hour.

"Technically he died -- he was revived on the footpath outside the hotel concerned, which is a St Kilda late-night pub where the Victorian state cricket team had been celebrating yesterday's win over South Australia," Forbes said on air.

"He was there with a number of team-mates. They were all having a very pleasant evening and he was involved in this incident."

Likely brain damage

Forbes said Hookes was in a coma and there was concern about him having sustained brain damage. "I have to say he's not in a good way," he added.

"I think that's all our fears -- when you've been out that long you've got to wonder what kind of effect it will have on a person."

Forbes said he did not know what sparked the attack.

A witness to the incident, Roman Longer, told ABC radio there 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.

Police said they were questioning a 22-year-old man over the assault.