Making no mention of next week’s test match against India, Clarke battled to hold back tears as he read out a statement on behalf of the players at the Sydney Cricket Ground, where Hughes suffered his fatal injury on Tuesday.
Hughes, 25, died on Thursday as the result of a catastrophic injury he sustained when struck on the head by a ball during a domestic match, triggering a wave of mourning in Australia and around the world.
“Words cannot express the loss we feel as a team right now,” Clarke said. “We are going to miss that cheeky grin and that twinkle in his eye. He epitomised what the baggy green was about and what it means to us all.
“The world lost one of its great blokes this week and we are all poorer for it.”
Clarke, widely praised for the role he has played in comforting his friend and former team mate’s family, said the players had requested that Cricket Australia retire Hughes’s one-day international number, 64.
“They agreed. That means so much,” he added. “His legacy of trying to improve each and every day will drive us for the rest of our lives.
“Our dressing room will never be the same. We loved him and always will. Rest in peace bruzzy.”
Tributes continued to flood in from around the world for Hughes and indication of how deeply Hughes’s death has affected his fellow professionals came in the United Arab Emirates, where Pakistan are hosting New Zealand in a test series.
The second test had been postponed for a day after Hughes died and there was no celebration of wickets or centuries when it resumed on Friday.
“The game was irrelevant at that stage, that was just a natural reaction by a group of people whose mind was elsewhere,” New Zealand coach Mike Hesson told reporters in Sharjah.
“We didn’t bowl any bouncers and that was to show respect.”
Back in Australia, Hughes was not forgotten as Saturday morning cricket was played across the country in blazing sunshine as it has been for more than a century.
Cricket Australia has encouraged teams at all levels to remember Hughes and both the score he had accumulated when the fatal blow struck him, 63 not out, and his test number, 408, were in evidence on pitches around the country.
At a match between Sydney Boys and Shore schools in Centennial Park, just a stone’s throw from the SCG, a row of bats topped with cricket caps were lined up beside the pitch in tribute.
Cricket at the elite level has yet to resume with senior club matches cancelled in Sydney and Adelaide, where Hughes played his state cricket for South Australia for the last couple of years.
Hughes is to be honoured with a state memorial service at the SCG sometime next week and his funeral service is expected to take place in Macksville, New South Wales, where he grew up the son of a banana and beef farmer.
The fate of the first of four tests against India, which is scheduled to start in Brisbane on Thursday, remains in the balance.
Cricket Australia has suggested the players will ultimately make the decision and Clarke’s demeanour on Saturday indicated that the match may come too early for many of them.
Clarke’s predecessor as captain, Ricky Ponting, also paid tribute to Hughes in a newspaper column on Saturday and wrote that the test should probably not go ahead.
“It’s one thing to say Phillip Hughes would have wanted the four-test series against India to start as scheduled,” he wrote in The Australian.
“It’s another for 11 men to take the field at the Gabba a week after their close friend died.
“It’s been such a tragic week for the Hughes family and the cricket community and I can’t imagine how anybody can be expected to play test cricket on Thursday. In fact I don’t think it would be right.
“Even if the boys think they can play it would be a miracle if they find the right frame of mind needed for five days of cricket.” (Reuters)