Test may come too soon for Australia players

A schoolgirl walks past a tribute to Phillip Hughes, who was due to be buried overnight UK time, days after his tragic death. Picture: Getty

A schoolgirl walks past a tribute to Phillip Hughes, who was due to be buried overnight UK time, days after his tragic death. Picture: Getty

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Cricket Australia will be understanding of players who feel uncomfortable about playing in the wake of the death of Phillip Hughes when the rescheduled India Test series starts next week, chief executive James Sutherland said yesterday.

Sutherland was speaking at Sydney Airport before his flight to Macksville, where Hughes was due to be buried overnight UK time, days after he died from a catastrophic injury caused by a ball striking him in the back of the head during a domestic match.

The reshuffle of the India series, which was originally scheduled to begin in Brisbane tomorrow, was announced on Monday with the Adelaide match now the first of the four tests and starting on Tuesday.

Admitting that the new arrangements were by no means “perfect”, Sutherland expressed his thanks to the understanding shown by all stakeholders but reiterated the welfare of the players was secondary only to that of the Hughes family.

“There’s a funeral tomorrow, let’s just understand that’s going to be difficult enough as it is,” he told reporters.

“I’d encourage everyone to give players their space and let them in their own way work through that. It’s absolutely up to the individual (whether they play), and any player that is not comfortable or doesn’t feel right, or there is medical advice that it is not quite right, we will obviously understand that.”

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Pace bowler Ryan Harris, who was included in the squad for the first Test despite being on his way back from knee surgery, later said he was not sure he would be emotionally ready to bowl in Adelaide.

“Tomorrow is the day we are thinking about. In the back of our mind is Tuesday and we have got to do what we can to try to prepare for that,” he said in Brisbane. “I’m still thinking about it and I’m not sure, see how we go tomorrow, I guess. But this is tough for some boys and it is going to be tough for me. I will have to work it out when I get to Adelaide and see how we all feel.

“The boys who were there who witnessed what happened I can’t speak for them because I can’t imagine what they are going through.”

Sutherland said consideration had been given to cancelling the Brisbane Test, which is worth some A$20 million to Cricket Australia and will now be squeezed between the Adelaide and Melbourne Tests from 17-21 December.

“To be honest it was close, there were only a few days in it, but in the end we’ve been able to get to a solution that I believe was optimal,” he said.

“I just hope everyone will understand the big picture here, these are tragic and extraordinary circumstances.”

Alistair Nicholson, chief executive of the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA), represented the players in the discussions about the rescheduling and said the solution satisfied their two main concerns.

Meanwhile, banning bouncers following the tragedy would be unfair on bowlers because batsmen always have the option of ducking under short-pitched deliveries, former India opener Virender Sehwag said yesterday.

Restricting Sehwag in full flow has been a very difficult task for bowlers over the years but the 36-year-old, who has scored two triple centuries in tests, feels there should be no clampdown on bouncers.

“It was very sad that Hughes died in such a way. But it’s part of cricket and injuries are part of any sport,” Sehwag said.

“You have an option to duck bouncers as a batsman. If you cut out the bouncers, then there is no fun left in the game and it’s already a batsman’s game. I have been hit on the helmet by quite a few bouncers. But it’s a weapon for the bowlers so they should not be robbed of it.”

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