“We must play on,” Michael Clarke told mourners during his emotional eulogy for Phillip Hughes in Macksville on Wednesday. Now he intends to do just that, doing all he can to play in next week’s first Test against India in Adelaide.
Amid the emotional – and, dare we say, almost celebratory – scenes at the wake for Hughes at the Macksville Ex-Services Club, there was a strong feeling from his teammates and others that the Australian captain wants to play in the opening Test, which starts at Adelaide Oval on Tuesday.
On Thursday, Clarke attended a private cremation in Macksville with the Hughes family before heading back to Sydney late in the day. On Friday, he is expected to fly to Adelaide where he wants as much centre-square practice as possible before making a decision on whether he will play.
The question, of course, is whether he is up to it – mentally and physically. Since Hughes’ death, he has done absolutely no rehab on his troublesome left hamstring, which placed him in serious doubt for the scheduled first Test in Brisbane.
While he was doing all he could to play in Brisbane, those within the Cricket Australia hierarchy were adamant his hamstring would not be up to it. In fact, there had been growing tension between Clarke and his superiors about the issue. He believed he had earned the right to make the call, right up until the last minute.
And now? Australian cricket suits want Clarke to play as much as he does.
Whether Clarke or his teammates are in an adequate head space to play a sport that requires intense concentration for five days is the burning question.
The players I spoke to on Wednesday night said they simply didn’t know. They’d been back in the nets, but everything has changed, for bowlers and batsmen, because of Hughes’ death playing the game they all love.
That said, it would surprise ifthe entire side doesn’t take