Phillip Hughes’ extended family have given Cricket Australia their support to play the first Test next week, but the prospect of the match going ahead is likely to hinge on the welfare of Australia’s grieving players.
It could be several days before a decision is made on the staging of the Brisbane Test, which is scheduled to start on Thursday, as Australia’s Test squad comes to grips with this week’s tragic events.
Impromptu shrines and the simple mark of respect of putting a cricket bat on the front doorstep occurred at homes and cricket grounds around the country.
Around the world, the death of Hughes, announced on Friday after he was struck on the back of the neck by a cricket ball on Tuesday, was marked by a minute’s silence at cricket games in Pakistan, and wreaths were laid at the Grace Gate at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London.
On Friday NSW Premier Mike Baird said a State Memorial Service at Sydney Cricket Ground would pay tribute to Hughes, with the date yet to be set.
Hughes’ close friends and members of his extended family gathered in the late player’s hometown of Macksville on Thursday night and agreed the first Test should be played.
The group, however, had not discussed the topic with Hughes’ immediate family, who are believed to be returning home to Macksville on Saturday.
While some believe the match would be the ideal forum for the public to mourn Hughes’ sudden passing, there are serious concerns that several players may not be emotionally and mentally ready to play a five-day game.
The commercial interests of TV networks, sponsors and India will have to be considered, and CA chief James Sutherland has praised his Indian counterparts for their understanding.
Consideration is being given to pushing back the start of the first two Tests by a day to give players extra time.
But some close family friends felt the Test should go on.
“We all got together near Phillip’s home and spoke about that topic; we all said Phillip would want them to bat on,” said close family friend of the Hugheses, Anthony Miles.
“He would appreciate and be very humble for the respect everyone is showing and he would be flattered, but Phillip would be saying ‘come on, let’s bowl the next ball’.”
Mr Miles suggested one session could be abandoned, with Hughes’ bat and helmet left at the crease as a mark of respect, but he was happy for cricket authorities to make the decision.
“They’ve got a grieving process to go through just like we do. We said we’ve got to go back to work, and those cricketers’ jobs, they need to keep on moving because Phillip would want that,” Mr Miles said.
“He wouldn’t want them to stop and be mournful.”
While Cricket Australia is respectful of the family’s wishes, the organisation said it wanted to let the players grieve for their departed friend rather than think about a game of cricket.
The subject had not been broached, Mr Sutherland said on Friday morning, while Cricket Australia’s cricket boss Pat Howard said that Friday would be about grieving.
“We’re going to focus on people first rather than the cricket,” Mr Howard said.
Mr Sutherland said: “Phillip loved cricket more than anyone and he would want nothing more than for the game to continue, but the game will continue at Test level when we’re ready.”
Four of the 12 players selected in Australia’s Test squad – Brad Haddin, Shane Watson, David Warner and Nathan Lyon – played in the match where Hughes suffered his fatal injuries.
Dr Peter Brukner, Dr John Orchard and CA psychologist Dr Michael Lloyd spoke to the squad on Friday at the SCG about their approach to grieving.
“They’ve lost someone who is incredibly close to them. There’s enough we understand about grieving processes to know that it’s really important to give people time and people will respond in different ways to what they’re going through. It’s a time thing now for everyone,” Sutherland said.
“As I said, six or seven days is not a long time, but right now with where we all are it seems a million miles away.”