With the cricket world still mourning the tragic death of Phillip Hughes, the first Test between India and Australia next week was on Saturday put off to an unspecified date and might even be cancelled to pay homage to the batsman.
In a statement issued today, Cricket Australia announced that the first Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy — to be played in Brisbane from December 4 — has been postponed. The decision was taken in light of the fact that Hughes’ funeral will take place in his hometown of Macksville on Wednesday, December 3.
The entire Australian side and members of the Indian team and its support staff will be attending the funeral. The 25-year-old left-handed cricketer died on Thursday after being hit by a bouncer in a Sheffield Shield game two days prior, sparking nationwide outburst of emotion.
CA CEO James Sutherland stated: “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 (sic) one of their teammates. 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.”
“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,” he added. The announcement did not give any further details on when the Test match would be held. But it asked the ticket-holders for that game to hold onto their tickets.
Meanwhile, spokesperson for the travelling Indian team, Dr RN Baba said, “they have been informed of a one-day postponement of the first Test at the Gabba.” He further stated that the Test could begin on Friday, December 5, and will still be a five-day match.
However, it has been reliably learnt that given the solemn mood of Cricket Australia, its cricketers and the supporting public, the first Test could altogether be cancelled and a decision to this effect could be taken on Sunday.
Earlier, Australian skipper Michael Clarke held an emotional press conference in Sydney where he underlined the side’s grief over their mate’s demise and expressed solidarity with the Hughes family.
Clarke had broken down during the press conference held at the Sydney Cricket Ground, leading to questions, in particular by former captain Ricky Ponting, whether the Australian cricketers are indeed in any frame of mind to play the first Test.
The Indian team will fly out to Brisbane on Monday afternoon as scheduled. If the Test match doesn’t go ahead, it is understood that the visiting team will be afforded a practice game at Brisbane, in all probability a three-day match. The second Test at Adelaide then will go ahead as scheduled and the Border-Gavaskar Trophy will then be contested as a three-Test series.
Before the news came forth, the Indian team continued to prepare for the first Test. They got back to the grind with a full-day practice session at the Adelaide Oval on Saturday even as the rest of the country continued to mourn Hughes.
The Indian team’s two-day tour game against Cricket Australia XI, which was supposed to be played at the Adelaide Oval on Friday-Saturday had been cancelled, much like most prominent matches across the country.
Wearing black arm-bands, the visitors had practiced behind closed doors yesterday, not venturing onto the main ground as a mark of respect for their late colleague. Today though, they turned up to continue their preparations for the upcoming series. This session is the closest that the team has come to simulating proper practice ahead of the Test series.
And the intensity on this particular day came through, particularly from the senior-most bowler in the squad, Ishant Sharma.
The Delhi medium-pacer looked in good rhythm as he bowled at different top-order Indian batsmen, troubling them with sharp bounce. Despite the tragedy this past week, he had no qualms about bowling bouncers, indicating well that this delivery will continue to be part of cricket in the near future. In fact the batsmen too weren’t shying away with Rohit Sharma in particular looking to play the pull-shot as often as he could.