Eyes welled up all around and mourners, including Australian skipper Michael Clarke, broke down while reading out heart-rending tributes to the late Phillip Hughes, who was laid to rest in his home town here today.
In a funeral attended by thousands and televised live, friends, family and teammates paid their tributes to the young batsman, who died after being hit on the head by a bouncer during a domestic game last week.
The Indian team, which is here for a Test and limited-overs series, was represented by captain Virat Kohli, batsman Rohit Sharma and Team Director Ravi Shastri during an emotional goodbye to the player, who would have turned 26 the previous Sunday.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also joined the world in bidding farewell to Hughes, sending out a tweet to pay his last respects.
“Heart-rending funeral in Australia. Phil Hughes, we will miss you. Your game & exuberance won you fans all over! RIP,” Modi tweeted.
Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” filled the air as Hughes’ coffin was led out after the tribute ceremony for a procession around the streets of Macksville to allow people to pay their last respects. The singer had paid tribute to Hughes at his concert in Munich last Thursday.
The procession moved through the streets with players and other mourners walking behind. The Australian players later formed a guard of honour and the hearse and the funeral procession moved past them en route to the burial.
The coffin was carried from the prayer hall of the Macksville High School by pallbearers — Phillip’s father Greg and brother Jason, along with Michael Clarke, Mitchell Lonergan, Matthew Day, Aaron Finch and Tom Cooper, who was the departed player’s housemate in Adelaide and was batting with him when he was struck by the fatal delivery.
The prayer service at the school was led by Father Michael Alcock and mourners were left wiping tears as touching tributes were read out by Hughes’ siblings, friends and Clarke.
“I don’t know about you, but I keep looking for him. I know it is crazy but I expect any minute to take a call from him or to see his face pop around the corner. Is this what we call the spirit? If so, then his spirit is still with me. And I hope it never leaves,” a choked Clarke said.