Cricket Stars Pay Tribute at Funeral of Australia’s Hughes

International cricket stars joined thousands of fans to pay tribute at the funeral today of Australian batsman Phillip Hughes, who died last week from injuries sustained when he was hit by a ball.

Australian captain Michael Clarke, former West Indian batsman Brian Lara and New Zealand’s Richard Hadlee were among 700 family members, friends and team mates who attended the service at Hughes’s former high school in his rural hometown of Macksville, while hundreds more watched big screens outside.

The service was broadcast live on national television and beamed to crowds gathered in cricketing ovals across the country, including the Gabba in Brisbane and the Sydney Cricket Ground where Hughes, 25, received his fatal injury on Nov. 25.

“His spirit has brought us closer together,” said Clarke, who choked back tears as he delivered a tribute to the player he regarded as a little brother. “From the little girl in Karachi holding a candelight tribute to masters of the game like Tendulkar, Warne and Lara, showing their grief to the world. The spirit of cricket bonds us all together.”

Hughes’s death shocked cricket fans worldwide and caused an outpouring of grief and tributes on social media, with people leaving bats outside their homes as a mark of respect. He was playing for South Australia in an interstate game against New South Wales when a delivery from fast bowler Sean Abbott, 22, struck him on the neck and split an artery that caused bleeding in his brain. Hughes never regained consciousness and died two days later in a Sydney hospital.

‘My Hero’

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and opposition leader Bill Shorten traveled to Macksville in New South Wales state for the service, which was also broadcast live by international news networks including the BBC and CNN.

Hughes’s sister, Megan, gave a eulogy to her brother, calling him “my best friend and my hero.”

Clarke was among the pall bearers who carried the casket bedecked with white flowers from the school hall, as Elton John’s “Don’t let the sun go down on me” was played as the song of farewell.

Australia has rescheduled its cricket series against India, and the first Test will start Dec. 9 at Adelaide Oval.

Hughes, a left-handed opening batsman, became the 408th player to receive a coveted Baggy Green cap when he was called up to the country’s Test match team in 2009. He was dismissed for zero on debut against South Africa, then in his second Test became the youngest man to score a century in each innings.

He spent the next four years in and out of the Test team, playing his last Test match for Australia against England at Lords in 2013. He played 26 Test matches in all, scoring 1,535 runs at an average of 32.65 in cricket’s five-day form, according to data on espncricinfo.com.

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