'RIP, my little brother. I'll see you out in the middle'
CRICKETING greats bid an emotional farewell to Phillip Hughes at a funeral service in his home town yesterday, as Australia remembered the batsman whose death from a freak injury sent shockwaves through the sport.
A lone cricket bat rested against the coffin in front of his heartbroken parents, family and friends, and a shattered Australian Test team at a packed service in his former high-school hall in Macksville on the New South Wales coast.
Macksville, with a population of just 2,500, welcomed the sport's greats such as Shane Warne; Glenn McGrath; Hughes' first Test skipper, Ricky Ponting; West Indian Brian Lara and India's Virat Kohli.
Sean Abbott, the young man who bowled the fast ball which struck Hughes, also attended, supported by his parents, as did Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
"Taken from the game, his family and loved ones at the age of just 25, left a mark on our game that needs no embellishment," tearful captain Michael Clarke told mourners. "I don't know about you, but I keep looking for him."
Hughes, who had played 26 Tests, died last Thursday after being hit on the base of the skull by a rising ball during a domestic match.
His vertebral artery split when hit by the ball, leading to massive bleeding in his brain.
His tragic death stunned Australia, where cricket is considered the national game, and prompted a rescheduling of the upcoming India Test series, while fans around the world placed bats outside their front doors as a mark of respect.
In his moving tribute, Clarke said the tributes offered by sports stars and fans across the globe had sustained him.
"This is what makes our game the greatest game in the world. We must dig in and get through to tea. And we must play on," he added. "So rest in peace, my little brother. I will see you out in the middle."