Next week’s first Test between Australia and India has been postponed to allow players time to mourn the death of Phillip Hughes.
Cricket Australia confirmed on Saturday afternoon that the game will not start in Brisbane on Thursday as scheduled. Hughes’ funeral will take place at 2pm on Wednesday in the 25-year-old’s hometown of Macksville in northern NSW.
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said it was “out of the question” for players to be taking the field at the Gabba a day after the service at Macksville High School.
“These are extraordinary circumstances and we simply couldn’t or wouldn’t expect our players to be emotionally ready to start a Test match the day after farewelling one of their team-mates,” Sutherland said. “Their welfare is our absolute priority. They are grieving and to expect that they could play a high-pressured, five-day Test match the following day is out of the question.”
It hasn’t been determined whether the game will go ahead in Brisbane next week, with CA noting in a statement that “details around the Test match are still to be determined”. Ticket sales have been suspended.
“We hope to resolve all matters in the next few days and will let cricket fans and the game’s many important stakeholders know as a priority. We appreciate the incredible understanding and support of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. It has been nothing short of outstanding during these difficult times.”
Alistair Nicholson from the Australian Cricketers Association says the decision has been made after talking to the team. “After consulting with the players, we have communicated to Cricket Australia that the opportunity to farewell their team-mate is the priority, and the prospect of them playing the following day is simply too big an ask.
“The players are going through a grieving process and they must be afforded the opportunity to do so. As anyone can appreciate, this process doesn’t run according to a clock or a calendar. This is a unique situation and a unique response is required. We will continue to discuss options with the players and Cricket Australia over the coming days.”
Hughes’ funeral will be broadcast live by the Nine Network, ABC Local Radio and the Fairfax Radio Network. Qantas has scheduled two additional services between Sydney and Coffs Harbour on Wednesday to assist people wishing to attend the funeral.
“While we know that people from all around the nation want to pay their respects to Phillip, there will only be limited capacity in Macksville,” Sutherland said. “So the work of our broadcasters will help ensure people around the country can follow the service on TV, radio and online. The SCG Trust and Adelaide Oval will also screen Hughes’ funeral service on Wednesday.
Aside from abandoning the Gabba Test, one other option would be for day one to start later in the week. Even if the team decides playing the first Test has merit, finding 11 men mentally ready to take the field in Brisbane will be difficult. Test players David Warner, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin and Nathan Lyon were fielding at the SCG when Hughes was fatally struck.