Australia’s cricket team made an emotional return to the Sydney Cricket Ground on Tuesday, where former test batsman Phillip Hughes was fatally injured during a domestic match in November.
Five members of Australia’s test line-up playing on Tuesday — Shane Watson, Nathan Lyon, Brad Haddin, David Warner and Mitchell Starc — were playing in the Sheffield Shield match between New South Wales and South Australia when Hughes playing for South Australia was struck by a short-pitched delivery and slumped to the ground. He died two days later in hospital. The ongoing test series between Australia and India had to be rescheduled to allow players to mourn their former state and national teammate.
Prior to the start of the fourth test against India, a video tribute was played on screens around the stadium followed by an on-field oration to celebrate the short career of the 25 year-old Hughes.
“I was quite emotional at the singing of the anthems,” said Warner, who scored 101 in Australia’s first innings on Tuesday. “The tributes put those memories back in place and seeing that little smile up on the screen before going out to bat and singing the national anthem was quite hard.”
A permanent memorial plaque for Hughes was also unveiled in the Members Stand at the players’ entrance to the arena, along with a display of 63 bats to mark Hughes’ score when he was felled in the members pavilion recording key moments of his career.
“I had a tear in my eye this morning when I walked out to warm up and I saw Greg (Phil Hughes’ father) up in the stands and Megs,” said Warner. “It’s fantastic for them to be here. The hurt and the pain that they’ve gone through and how much it would have hurt them to come back today.”
During play, on reaching his 63rd run, Warner removed his helmet and kissed the ground near the spot where Hughes was fatally injured, when on 63 not out. Warner was fielding nearby for New South Wales that day and immediately tried to render assistance when his close friend collapsed to the ground.
“It’s always going to be in the back of my mind and I’m always going to pay tribute to my little mate,” said Warner. “It was in the back of mind the whole time whether I was on 63 or 100, I thought it through that I wanted to pay tribute to my mate and how to do that was I how I did that today.”
“Every time I play here I will definitely be doing that.”