ADELAIDE: Players and fans stood and applauded in unison for a symbolic 63 seconds as cricket paid a moving tribute to the life of Phillip Hughes at the Adelaide Oval on Tuesday.
The Australian and Indian teams, both sporting black arm bands, lined up before the start of the first Test in respect for the well-liked batsman, who tragically died after being struck by a short-pitched ball late last month.
Hughes’ smiling face, wearing his baggy green cap, appeared everywhere, including on a moving video tribute watched intently by both sides before the game got under way.
Prominent broadcaster and former Australia captain Richie Benaud narrated the emotional clip shown on the ground’s big screen, finishing with a poignant “forever, rest in peace, son.”
Under blue skies, his friends and colleagues said goodbye to a man whose death struck a nerve globally, triggering an outpouring of grief throughout Australia and the cricketing world.
Australian skipper Michael Clarke, who was shattered by the death of his close friend, said after winning the toss: “What I know my little buddy (Hughes) would want is going out and playing cricket.”
The Adelaide Oval crowd, some wiping tears from their eyes, warmly applauded Clarke’s sentiments in recognition of the leading role he has played in the grieving process, during which he comforted Hughes’ family, delivered a tribute at his funeral and acted as a pallbearer.
Many of those flocking to the match stopped at a makeshift memorial outside the ground, adorned with flowers and loving cards, numerous cricket bats lined up in a row.
India captain Virat Kohli was also close to Hughes and said: “I knew Phillip, he was one of the guys I spoke to more than most. He asked for my bat in a home game in Jaipur and I wish I’d given it to him.”
The Australian players wore Hughes’s Test cap number 408 on their shirts for the match and both teams stood in reflection before a large 408 painted on the oval’s playing surface.
Following the video tribute the teams and spectators stood and applauded for 63 seconds in recognition of Hughes’s final unbeaten score while batting for South Australia against New South Wales when he was hit by the ball and collapsed.
The rescheduled Adelaide Test comes just days after the players gathered for his heart-wrenching funeral at his home town of Macksville in northern New South Wales.
The popular 25-year-old died on November 27 from bleeding on the brain, two days after being knocked unconscious by a bouncer in Sydney.
His freakish death stunned Australia, where cricket is considered the national game, and prompted a rescheduling of the India series with Adelaide becoming the first Test ahead of the traditional series opener in Brisbane.
Fans around the world have also placed bats outside their front doors as a mark of respect.