Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes was laid to rest in his hometown of Macksville, New South Wales, on Wednesday in an emotional memorial service that was attended by the entire Australian cricket squad and the visiting Indian team.
Hundreds more gathered at large screens set up in various parts of Australia, with the ceremony broadcast at major cricket stadiums including the Sydney Cricket Ground and the Adelaide Oval, as well as the local school stadium in Macksville, Fox Sports reported.
“Cricket’s heart has been pierced by pain,” said Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland in his address to the gathering. “But it will never stop beating.”
Hughes died in hospital last Thursday after being hit below the left ear by a cricket ball during a domestic match two days earlier. His death renewed safety concerns for batsmen who regularly face cricket balls — which are heavier and harder than baseballs — bowled at a speed that turns them into potentially lethal projectiles.
The passing of the 25-year-old rising star sent waves of shock and sadness across the cricket world, with thousands of tributes pouring in during the days that followed.
Wednesday was no different.
The funeral opened with an acoustic rendition of the Alphaville hit “Forever Young” and concluded with the Elton John ballad “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” Hughes’ coffin was carried by family, friends and teammates including his father Greg, his brother Jason and Australian captain Michael Clarke.
“Phillip’s spirit, which is now part of our game forever, will act as a custodian of the sport we all love,” said Clarke, choking back tears during an emotional homage to his teammate and friend. “We must cherish it. We must learn from it … and we must play on,” he added. “Rest in peace my little brother, I’ll see you out in the middle.”
Clarke’s eulogy came soon after heartfelt words from Hughes’s close friends and family, all of whom spoke about his zest for life, kindness and compassion.
“Each individual in this room has different memories that involve Phillip. And that’s what we can take from this,” said Hughes’s younger sister Megan. “He had an impact on so many lives and it shows someone that always took care of himself, still had time to worry about others.”
The Australian side will take to the field against India in Adelaide next week, with the memory and legacy of Phillip Hughes still fresh in their minds.