The delayed test series between Australia and India will start in Adelaide next Tuesday, with dates and venues shuffled around in the wake of Phillip Hughes’ death.
Dates for all but one of the four tests have been shifted. The series, initially scheduled to start Thursday in Brisbane, will instead open in Adelaide on Dec. 9.
Adelaide was initially due to hold the second test from Dec. 12. Brisbane will now host the second test, starting Dec. 17, and the third test will start on schedule in the traditional Dec. 26 Boxing Day slot at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The fourth test in Sydney has been pushed back to start on Jan. 6.
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said it was not by design that the first test will be at Hughes’ adopted home ground at the Adelaide Oval, “but it will take on extra special significance.”
Hughes, 25, died last Thursday after being struck on the head or neck behind the left ear by a short-pitch ball during a Sheffield Shield match in Sydney. The funeral is due to be held Wednesday. A full round of Sheffield Shield matches and a two-day tour game between India and a Cricket Australia XI in Adelaide were cancelled, and the first test was postponed as players mourned their friend and teammate.
“Nobody should underestimate just what these players are going through right now,” Sutherland said. “These are difficult days and we need to support them in dealing with their grief.
“It’s very clear that playing a test right now is just too soon and we are reacting accordingly.”
Sutherland wouldn’t speculate Tuesday on which players would or would not play in the first test, saying “No one will feel ill of any player who doesn’t feel comfortable playing. We understand that and the public understands that.”
Sutherland said the revised schedule was far from perfect, but the Hughes family had been the priority. He said he was grateful to the Indian team and the Australian state cricket boards for accommodating the last-minute changes.
“A concern with these changes has been creating congestion within the cricket calendar by holding four test matches in 33 days,” he said. “We knew that if we started any later than Dec. 9, that congestion would only get worse.
“We looked at possibly holding the Brisbane test in the new year following Sydney but we felt that would only compromise the tri-series against England and India which is important preparation for our ICC Cricket World Cup campaign.”
Sutherland said a range of tributes will be prepared for Hughes, who played 26 tests for Australia.
Changes were on the cards when the India team stayed in Adelaide on Monday, rather than travel to Brisbane ahead of the scheduled first test. Stand-in captain Virat Kohli and a number of other Indian players and officials are expected to attend Hughes’ funeral in Macksville, on the New South Wales state mid-coast.
“The BCCI has shown great empathy and understanding which we truly appreciate,” Sutherland said. “They have put the cricket community’s concerns for the Hughes family well ahead of their own preparation.”