Gabba Test in doubt as players mourn
Doubts remain over whether the first Test between Australia and India will go ahead next week after the death of Phillip Hughes. The Test is scheduled to begin at the Gabba next Thursday but Cricket Australia's chief executive officer James Sutherland said that seemed "a million miles away" as the players continued to grieve for their friend and team-mate Hughes, who died on Thursday.
"Everyone wants to know about cricket and when it goes on, and what's happening," Sutherland said in Sydney on Friday morning. "We all love cricket and no one loved cricket more than Phillip. Cricket will go on, and it will go on when we're ready. To be honest, we haven't broached that subject with the players yet.
"We will in time. To be honest, they've got other things on their mind. I know for many people, seven days doesn't seem very far away, next Thursday, but in other ways it's a million miles away. We'll get there when we can."
Players and family and friends of Hughes met at the SCG on Thursday night to mourn and reflect on Hughes' life and the tragic accident, being hit in the neck by a bouncer during Tuesday's Sheffield Shield match in Sydney, that ended it. All of Australia's squad members for the first Test have also flown in and were gathered at the SCG on Friday.
There, they were spending time with team doctor Peter Brukner and Cricket NSW doctor John Orchard, who treated Hughes at the SCG on Tuesday, as well as team psychologist Michael Lloyd. Pat Howard, Cricket Australia's executive general manager of team performance, said the focus was simply on helping the players move forward day by day, and they were looking no further ahead.
"We're not going to talk about the first Test," Howard said. "We know it's there. What we're focused on is today. We've brought the whole team in. The Australian Test team [is] here. Today is about grieving, about dealing with the questions.
"We need to make sure the players are in the position where they can make strong choices, and that's not now. Any choices [will be made] with the Hughes family and where they are and involving them, and that's obviously not now either ... We'll do whatever we can, whatever the players need to deal and cope with this. We'll do whatever we can to help and support the Hughes family. We're going to focus on people first rather than the cricket."
It is impossible to imagine at this stage how the players would cope with walking out for a Test match less than a week after Hughes' death. Funeral details are also yet to be confirmed. Sutherland said he had spoken to Hughes' father Greg on Friday about how much the Hughes family loved cricket.
"I can remember just in the last few hours, conversations with Phillip's father, telling me just how much he and the family love cricket, and Phillip loved cricket more than anyone," Sutherland said. "He would want nothing more than for the game to continue, but as I said before, the game will continue at Test level, when we're ready."
India's tour match against a Cricket Australia XI in Adelaide, scheduled to be played on Friday and Saturday, was cancelled on Thursday night. Sutherland said the BCCI had been extremely supportive given the tragic circumstances.
"We've been in constant contact with the officials from the Indian cricket board and I've got to say that their understanding and empathy has been absolutely outstanding," Sutherland said. "They completely understand the situation. They're doing everything they can to do that.
"They'll prepare themselves in the best way possible. They understand that these are unique and extraordinary circumstances and I guess if the Test match goes ahead, both teams will have a very different sort of preparation."
There has been an outpouring of support from the international cricket community following Hughes' death, but also from the grassroots level. The Twitter hashtag #putoutyourbats has found support around the world, with people placing their cricket bats at their front doors or front gates in honour of Hughes.
Cricket Australia has also recommended that batsmen retire having scored 63 in junior cricket this weekend, instead of the traditional retirement score of 50. Hughes was on 63 for South Australia when he was struck by the bouncer on Tuesday.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale