Wed, Dec 03, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Clarke to lead tributes to Hughes

AFP, SYDNEY

Australia skipper Michael Clarke will be one of the pallbearers and will lead tributes at the funeral of his close friend Phillip Hughes today, Cricket Australia announced.

As the funeral details were revealed yesterday, Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said it was too early to say which players would be mentally ready to face the hastily rescheduled Tests against India.

The opening clash between the teams was due to start tomorrow at the Gabba in Brisbane, but was put off following Hughes death last week, with many fellow players left emotionally shattered.

The funeral in Hughes’ hometown of Macksville today will be attended by the Australia Test squad, as well as past and present luminaries of the game, including Mark Taylor, Sir Richard Hadlee, Brian Lara, Virat Kohli, Ravi Shastri, Shane Warne, Mike Hussey, Ricky Ponting, Brett Lee, Adam Gilchrist and Glenn McGrath.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is also due to attend the service at which Clarke, who was by Hughes’ bedside as he lay stricken in a Sydney hospital, will speak in tribute, joining family members and fellow Australia batsman Aaron Finch as pallbearers.

Hughes died on Thursday last week from bleeding on the brain, two days after being knocked unconscious by a bouncer in Sydney, throwing the cricketing world into mourning.

Given the funeral today, Cricket Australia late on Monday amended the Test dates after lengthy talks with the Board of Control for Cricket in India and other stakeholders.

Instead of starting on Friday next week — as the second Adelaide Test was originally scheduled — it will now begin on Wednesday next week and be the opening match of the series.

“There is nothing perfect about what we have come up with here, but we appreciate everyone’s support and understanding in these tragic and extraordinary circumstances,” Sutherland said.

The second Test will be played in Brisbane from Dec. 17 to Dec. 21, with the traditional Boxing Day clash in Melbourne remaining unchanged, while the Sydney Test has been pushed back three days and will now start on Jan. 6.

Whether the players will be ready for the Adelaide Test match remains to be seen.

David Warner, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin and Nathan Lyon were all on the field when Hughes was hit, while captain Michael Clarke was a close friend and his emotions have been raw.

“Any player that is not comfortable or doesn’t feel right, or there is medical advice to suggest they’re not quite right, then we will obviously understand that,” Sutherland said.

Veteran bowler Ryan Harris said he was not sure whether he would take the field in Adelaide.

“I am still thinking about it — I’m not sure,” Harris told reporters of his availability, but he added that returning to cricket helped him when he lost his mother to lung cancer in 2006.

“Every individual is different. I have lost my mother before, and I was pushed to play for my father and my brother, and it probably helped,” he said.

Cricket Australia announced late yesterday that two games in the one-day international tri-series between Australia, England and India had been swapped.

The changes move forward the one-day match between Australia and England in Sydney two days to Jan. 16, while the match between Australia and India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground will be on Jan. 18 instead of two days earlier.

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