ADELAIDE (Reuters) - Australia’s summer of cricket resumes in earnest on Tuesday nearly two weeks after Phillip Hughes’ shocking death, but the grieving will continue in his adopted state long after the hosts and India wrap up the first test match at Adelaide Oval.
Hughes was lethally injured when struck by a ball at Sydney Cricket Ground and his funeral was attended by thousands in his home-town of Macksville, New South Wales.
However, the player’s loss has also hit South Australia’s tight-knit cricket community hard.
A country boy raised on a banana plantation, Hughes came to notice in the sprawling metropolis of Sydney, but it was in Adelaide, Australia’s genteel ‘City of Churches’, where the batsman took refuge in 2012 seeking to rebuild his career after being dropped from the national team.
A dry and mostly uninhabitable land, South Australia has produced a number of top cricketers, including the Chappell brothers and former test batsman Darren Lehmann, current coach of the team.
The state has also famously embraced a number of notable emigres from further east, including New Zealand-born spin bowler Clarrie Grimmett and New South Welshman Don Bradman, who captained the state’s Sheffield Shield side and lived out most of his 92 years in Adelaide.
Adelaide Oval will remember Hughes in a number of different ways on Tuesday but the idea of the pint-sized batsman no longer walking out to the crease is still raw for his local ‘Redbacks’ team mates.
“We’ve been shattered and devastated over Phillip’s loss,” South Australia Cricket Association (SACA) boss Keith Bradshaw told Reuters on Monday.
”He was someone that was truly loved by all of us.
“The grieving will last a very, very long time. He’s someone that will live on for all of us forever and I don’t say that lightly.”
Though boasting more than a million people, Adelaide is often described as an overgrown country town, a place tailor-made for cricketers seeking a fresh start.
Adelaide was supposed to be the second match of the four-test series but the Brisbane test was postponed to give players time to mourn.
That meant bringing the Adelaide test forward by three days, causing a scramble for staff and undoubtedly hurting SACA’s bottom line.
Bradshaw drew some solace that Hughes’ final home ground would be the venue where cricket could begin again after nearly two weeks of solemn introspection.
“(Tomorrow) will be very emotional for me, I‘m sure,” he said. “But I‘m sure it’ll be a moment that I’ll remember for the rest of my life as it will be for everyone that’s either here or watching it on television.”
Editing by John O'Brien