Test cricket pauses to mourn Hughes
The postponement of the first cricket test between Australia and India after the death of Phillip Hughes may mark the first time that cricket’s rigid schedule has yielded to mourning the passing of one man.
Wars and terrorism, political upheaval and above all bad weather have made their mark on almost 140 years of test cricket, forcing matches or series to be deferred and abandoned.
But this time it’s different as the entire cricket world mourns Hughes.
Cricket Australia announced on Saturday that the first test at Brisbane, due to start next Thursday, would be postponed as Australian players continue to mourn Hughes’ death. The 25-year-old test batsman died on Thursday, two days after being struck by a bouncer while batting in a Sheffield Shield match between South Australia and New South Wales.
Hughes will be buried Wednesday in his home town of Macksville, between Sydney and Brisbane, and Cricket Australia said his national teammates would need time to grieve.
“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,” Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said in a statement Saturday.
“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.”
The encounter between Australia and India at Brisbane’s Gabba ground, if it goes ahead, will be the 2,148th test to be played since Australia faced England in 1877. In the intervening 137 years, test cricket has been suspended during two world wars and, in more recent times, disrupted by politics, terrorism and even disputes over pay.
This year’s scheduled test series between India and the West Indies, along with the fourth one-day international of the same tour, was abandoned after a pay dispute between West Indian players and their national cricket board. Earlier, the third one-day match at Visakhapatnam was cancelled because of Cyclone Hudhud.
Political and safety issues have been a much more regular cause of the abandonment of matches. Tests between India and Pakistan, first played in 1952, were suspended between 1962 and 1977 while the countries twice went to war. Test contacts between the countries were again interrupted in 1999 and after the 2008 terrorist attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai.
In 2009 the second test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka at Lahore was abandoned on the third day after a terrorist attack on the bus carrying the Sri Lanka team to the Gaddafi Stadium. Pakistan has since been forced to play “home” test matches at venues outside Pakistan, most recently in the United Arab Emirates.
South Africa was ostracized from test cricket between 1971 and 1992 over objections to its policies of racial separatism or apartheid.
More recently, scheduled tours to Zimbabwe by New Zealand and other teams have been abandoned because of political objections to the Zimbabwe regime or concerns over the quality of medical facilities.
Tests take place according to a future tours program overseen by the International Cricket Council which prescribes severe financial and other penalties when matches are postponed or cancelled without good cause.