SYDNEY (AFP) – The first Test match between Australia and India was postponed on Saturday following the death of batsman Phillip Hughes, with a shattered skipper Michael Clarke admitting the team were in “deep pain”.
Hughes, 25, died on Thursday from massive bleeding on the brain, two days after being knocked unconscious by a bouncer while batting at a domestic match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
His death has thrown the cricketing world into mourning with the first Test against India, due to start on Thursday in Brisbane, postponed to allow the players time to grieve, Cricket Australia said.
“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,” CA chief executive James Sutherland 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.”
Sutherland said CA appreciated the “incredible understanding and support” of the Board of Control for Cricket in India which had been “nothing short of outstanding during these difficult times”.
It is not yet known when the match will be rescheduled, but Sutherland said it would be done in full consultation with the players, the Indian Board, the International Cricket Council and broadcasters.
Earlier on Saturday a distraught Clarke had paid an emotional tribute to Hughes on behalf of the Australian cricket team and support staff.
Clarke spoke of Hughes’ parents and family and said: “We share in the deep pain that you’re feeling.
“Our dressing room will never be the same. We loved him and always will.”
Hughes’ death has reverberated around the country in which cricket is considered the national game, with flags flown at half-mast and cricket bats left outside front doors as a mark of respect, including at the Sydney residence of Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
“Words cannot express the loss we all feel as a team right now,” Clarke told a brief press conference in Sydney, in which he took no questions and battled to keep his composure.
“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,” Clarke said.
“Things were always put into perspective when Hughesy said: ‘Where else would you rather be boys than playing cricket for your country?’”
Clarke said Hughes, who had played 26 Tests since his 2009 debut and who had appeared ready for his next call up, had epitomised what the baggy green cap that Australian Test cricketers wear was all about.
He said he had asked Cricket Australia to retire Hughes’ one-day international number of 64, which they have agreed to do.
“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,” Clarke said.
“His legacy of trying to improve each and every day will drive us for the rest of our lives.”
Ahead of the postponement of the game, former captain Ricky Ponting had said playing the Test match would not have been right.
“It’s been such a tragic week for the Hughes family and the cricket community, I can’t imagine how anybody can be expected to play Test cricket on Thursday,” Ponting wrote in The Australian newspaper.
Test players David Warner, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin and Nathan Lyon were at the SCG when the popular Hughes suffered the fatal injury during a Sheffield Shield match. Many players visited the stricken player in hospital to pay their respects.
The tragic accident has deeply shaken the world cricket community and Clarke thanked fans for their touching tributes.
“We’re going to miss that cheeky grin and that twinkle in his eye,” Clarke said.