The first Test between Australia and India that was scheduled to start in Brisbane next Thursday has been postponed until an unspecified date to allow the cricket world time to grieve over the death of Phillip Hughes.
With funeral arrangements for Hughes confirmed by his family today for his home town of Macksville – midway between Brisbane and Sydney – next Wednesday afternoon, Cricket Australia has announced that it was neither feasible nor fair to begin the Test as originally planned the next day.
Cricket Australia said it hoped to be able to make an announcement as to the details of the postponed Test “in the next few days”.
The life and achievements of Hughes, who would have turned 26 tomorrow, will be honoured and celebrated at a funeral service to be held in the Sports Hall at Macksville High School where Hughes was a student until his move to Sydney in 2006 to pursue his cricket dream.
The funeral will be telecast live throughout Australia on Channel Nine with provisions made for all other television networks, broadcast live by ABC Local Radio and the Fairfax Radio Network and streamed live on the cricket.com.au website and app.
In addition, Qantas is scheduling additional flights to nearby Coffs Harbour (45 minutes drive from Macksville) and with such a huge turn out expected, the service will be screened on large screens set up at overflow areas on Macksville High School’s two ovals.
The service will also be shown live on the big screens at the Sydney Cricket Ground and the Adelaide Oval.
In releasing these details today, Cricket Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland said: “We are grateful to the Australian community for the overwhelming show of support it has extended to the Hughes family in recent days.
“The offers of assistance for Wednesday’s service have been remarkable.
“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, so the work of our broadcasters will help ensure people around the country can follow the service on TV, radio and online.”
The decision to postpone the Test until a date to be confirmed was made in close consultation with the players, the Australian Cricketers Association and officials in India.
Cricket Australia officials have maintained close contact with the Board of Control for Cricket in India since Hughes was critically injured last Tuesday and died two days later as a result of the injuries he received when struck by a ball while batting in a Sheffield Shield match at the SCG.
Sutherland said the BCCI, and the Indian Test squad which is currently in Adelaide where a scheduled two-day warm-up match to have been played yesterday and today was cancelled, have been understanding and supportive of the unprecedented circumstances.
“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 teammates,” he 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.
“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.
“We fully acknowledge the many groups who want to know when the Test will take place, particularly cricket fans in Queensland, Queensland Cricket and Stadiums Queensland.
“We just ask the cricket community for some patience as we work through a range of scenarios in full consultation with the players, the Indian Board, the ICC and our broadcasters.
“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.”
CA also announced that ticket sales for the postponed Test have been suspended.
“We know that there are many people who have purchased tickets to the Test match who will be wondering what happens next (and) once the situation has been resolved, we will advise them as a priority,” Sutherland said.
“Fans should simply hold onto their tickets until further notice.”
Australian Cricketers Association Chief Executive Alastair Nicholson said: “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.”
CA confirmed that a meeting will be held early next week to discuss arrangements for round five of the Bupa Sheffield Shield which is due to start on Friday 5 December.
The shock and sadness that has followed Hughes’ death has continued around the world, and was most visible at cricket matches, at spontaneous memorials established around the nation and the globe, and across social media.
At the SCG, where a public memorial service will be held at a date to be confirmed, Australian captain and Hughes’s close friend and teammate Michael Clarke battled to read a message on behalf of the stricken team to their fallen mate.
“Words cannot express the loss we all feel as a team right now,” Clarke said, stopping regularly to breathe deeply, gather his thoughts and attempt to will away the tears that have flowed in such volume since Hughes died at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital on Thursday afternoon.
“To Greg, Virginia, Jason and Megan (Hughes) we are sharing the deep pain that you are feeling.
“Apart from when he was home on the farm with his beloved cattle, Hughesy was at his happiest playing cricket for his country with his mates.
“Things were always put in perspective when Hughesy said: ‘Where else would you rather be, boys, but playing cricket for your country’.
“We’re going to miss that cheeky grin and the twinkle in his eye.
“He epitomised what the Baggy Green is 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.
“Our promise to Hughesy’s family is that we will do everything we can to honour his memory.
“Last night I asked Cricket Australia if Hughesy’s one-day international shirt number, 64, could be retired, to which they agreed.
“That means so much.
“His legacy of trying to improve each and every day will drive us for the rest of our lives.
“We’d like to thank everyone both here and overseas for the touching tributes to Hughesy in recent days.
“Our dressing-room will never be the same. We loved him and always will. Rest in peace, brussy”.