‘63 not out forever’: Aussies remember ‘little mate’
Brad Haddin cast an eye at a grief-stricken David Warner during the national anthem and sensed he might not be capable of taking the field 15 minutes later.
That was how it was on the morning of December 9, 2014 at Adelaide Oval.
The first Test match played after the tragic death of Phillip Hughes, whose five-year anniversary is being remembered by the Australian team and cricketers around the world.
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It was the most emotion-charged Test imaginable, one where Warner, Steve Smith and Michael Clarke somehow overcame their raw grief to make extraordinary hundreds to honour their little mate.
Yet, Smith remembers that in a funny way, it felt "emotionless", and "irrelevant."
Haddin says it was Darren Lehmann's finest hour as coach, the way he managed a broken team through the most traumatic of weeks.
"There is no plan - everyone deals with tragedy differently,'' Haddin told Fox Sports Back Page.
"I remember (coach) Darren Lehmann at the first training session we had after Phil's passing said, 'I have no idea how every one is going to react'.
"Some guys could get through training. Others couldn't.
"Come game day (Lehmann) said the same thing; 'I don't know whether we will have 11 players but I don't care ... this is bigger than the game. If you walk out and do the anthem and can't play this is OK.'
"I thought it was one of his best moments as a coach. We didn't even know whether some players might not be able to go back into the nets.
"He did not try and coach us. He did not say this is the recovery period. This is when you should be feeling this.
"He said 'we will put everything around you that we can but it is up to you.'"
Haddin recalls players not being able to face up to bowling in the nets that week, and moments before play started, the then vice-captain had no idea whether Australia's opener would be able to bat.
"Some guys walked out of the nets. David Warner did not bat for the week and went out and scored an amazing 100," said Haddin.
"I watched him in the anthem and I did not think he was going to play the game."
Five years on, Haddin says "The game has lost a bit of its innocence.''
Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts paid tribute to the Hughes family on behalf of the wider cricket community.
"Phillip Hughes was the very best of Australian cricket: a man dedicated to his family, a loyal friend, a popular teammate and a prodigiously talented cricketer," the statement read.
"There hasn't been a single day over these last five years when Phillip's loss hasn't been felt acutely by the Australian Cricket Family. He remains in the hearts of players, coaches, staff, volunteers and fans across Australia and around the world. He always will.
"Our thoughts are with the Hughes family, and the Macksville community that Phillip called home.
"From the bottom of our hearts, we thank the Hughes family for everything Phillip gave to cricket and send to them our heartfelt condolences on this most solemn of days."
Smith said Hughes is always in the team's thoughts, and will be again this week.
The batting star remembers his score that day five years ago - 162 - and how he went to the No.408 marked in the outfield in honour of Hughes' Test number.
But Smith says what has truly stayed with him was the feeling that the cricket just didn't matter.
"It was sort of like, this is actually almost irrelevant in a way," said Smith.
"We were just going out and doing what we were doing and we actually played really well. But it was literally like we were just playing because that's what we're here to do. There wasn't really any sort of emotion around our performances and how we wanted to play if that makes sense.
"Some of the boys here were pretty close to Phil. I dare say some of the boys will reflect and think about our little mate that's for sure.
"You have little moments that come up every now and then, things that remind you of him."