Michael Clarke has marked what would have been Phillip Hughes' 26th birthday by writing an emotional tribute in his newspaper column. A clearly distraught Clarke spoke to the media on Saturday morning to express the grief of the players and their love for Hughes, and on Sunday Clarke's column appeared in the Sunday Telegraph.
Clarke wrote that Hughes was loyal to a fault, eternally optimistic and kind-hearted, with a wicked sense of humour and a child-like verve for life. The two first met when Hughes was 17 and moved from the country town of Macksville to play club cricket in Sydney for Western Suburbs, the same club that Clarke represented.
"I was drawn to him instantly, falling for his cheeky grin and love of life," Clarke wrote. "Phillip truly was uncomplicated -- what you saw was what you got. I don't think in 12 years of playing cricket at the top level I have ever come across a more loyal or generous-hearted teammate.
"Whenever Hughesy suffered adversity -- if he was replaced in the team or if he wasn't scoring as many runs as he wanted -- he never dropped his head, never once complained. If he had a tough conversation with a selector he would nod, agree he needed to work harder, grin because he felt bad for the person delivering the message and then get on with it.
"You knew deep down he was shattered because playing cricket for his country meant everything to him. But his head wouldn't drop because he knew his teammates didn't need that -- he was honoured to be running drinks as 12th man for his mates and he went out of his way to show that. But Phillip's laid-back nature disguised something more important about the man. He was as mentally tough as they came."
From the time Hughes was taken to St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney on Tuesday after being struck in the neck by a bouncer during the Sheffield Shield match at the SCG, Clarke was a constant presence at the hospital visiting Hughes and spending time with his family, parents Greg and Virginia and siblings Jason and Megan.
"I don't have a blood brother, but I am very proud to have called Phillip my brother. I am a better man for having known him," Clarke wrote. "Vale Hugh Dog. I will miss you forever, but I will not forget. Happy birthday bro."
Clarke also expressed his strong support for Sean Abbott, the New South Wales bowler who delivered the bouncer to Hughes on Tuesday.
"No-one -- not one single person -- blames him in any way for what has happened," Clarke wrote. "He deserves our full support, he will absolutely have mine whenever he needs it, and I know that also goes for the entire Australian cricket community."
"Sean, when you feel like getting back on the horse mate, I promise you that I will be the first to strap on the pads and go stand up the end of the net to hit them back at you. It's exactly what Hugh Dog would want us both to do."