Clarke goes above and beyond
Phillip Hughes' ambulance had barely left the ground when the call came through to the SCG press box.
Michael Clarke wanted to know where his great friend was bound, and had set out to meet him, wherever that may be.
Within minutes, Hughes had reached St Vincent's Hospital in nearby Darlinghurst, and not long afterwards Clarke arrived, ready to offer whatever support was needed. What he found was Hughes in bed, in an induced coma, and on life support. It is difficult to imagine how that must have felt.
Clarke had been in the news, for his recovery from a recurring hamstring problem, and his doubtful status for the first Test against India. It had been a notable episode, of the kind usually spoken of in melodramatic terms by sports journalists, as though it actually matters as much as life itself.
But Hughes' mortal wounding put that all to one side, and Clarke was reacting not as the Australian cricket captain but as a man and a friend. Apart from a few fretful hours attempting to sleep over the past two nights, he did not leave the side of Hughes, nor of his father Greg, mother Virginia, sister Megan and brother Jason.
A trickle of visitors to Hughes' bedside turned into a stream as news of his poor condition filtered around Australian cricket. Daniel Smith, David Warner, Brad Haddin, Steven Smith, Moises Henriques, Mitchell Starc, Simon Katich and Shane Watson converged from around Sydney. Interstate travellers included Darren Lehmann, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting, Aaron Finch, Matthew Wade, George Bailey, Peter Siddle, Peter Forrest, Pat Howard and James Sutherland.
Through it all, Clarke was a constant presence, fighting his own grief but equally doing his best to comfort and console, when little of either could be found anywhere in these most maddening circumstances. When the time came to announce Hughes' death, it was Clarke who read the family's message to the world.
Sitting between the Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland and the team doctor Peter Brukner, who was another constant presence at the hospital from Tuesday night, Clarke looked understandably tired, wiping his eyes and face before starting out on the statement. His wife Kyly looked on from the side. Clarke did not look up as he read, keeping his eyes on the task.
"This statement is on behalf of Greg, Virginia, Jason and Megan Hughes. We're devastated by the loss of our much loved son and brother Phillip. It's been a very difficult few days, we appreciate all the support we've received from family, friends, players, Cricket Austrlaia, and the general public. Cricket was Phillip's life and we as a family shared that love of the game with him. We would like to thank all the medical and nursing staff at St Vincent's Hospital and Cricket NSW medical staff for their great efforts with Phillip. We love you."
With that, Clarke left his seat, and to a click-clack of countless cameras, left the room. The last word on his efforts this week were left to Brukner, who has watched Clarke evolve as a captain and leader over the past 18 months. What Brukner witnessed over the past 48 hours will not be forgotten, but nor will his memories of Clarke's effort fade.
"There's one person I'd like to pay particular tribute to, and that's our Australian captain Michael Clarke," Brukner said, choking back a tear or two. "Phil's always been like a little brother to Michael, and Michael's efforts over the last 48 hours to support the family ... the family were obviously going through a difficult time, but I'm not sure they would have coped without Michael's assistance.
"I was just enormously impressed at the work that he did, and the genuine care and love that he gave to the Hughes family. I think he deserves enormous credit."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig