Australia v India ODI series: Cricket returns to SCG on sixth anniversary of Phil Hughes death

The two halves of the Aussie limited-overs squad will lay eyes on each other for the first time on Thursday ahead of the first ODI against India in Sydney.

The international game is emerging from its hibernation after a long winter.

It has been a strange preparation with half the team in quarantine in Western Sydney and the other half living it up in a hotel on the harbour, but six years ago things were even more difficult.

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David Warner touches the Phillip Hughes plaque as he heads out to bat.Source:News Corp Australia

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Then India waited in Adelaide for the Australians to show up for a first Test which was eventually postponed. Instead members of both teams made their way to Macksville to farewell Phillip Hughes. Everything was in a state of suspended animation, everybody lost in grief and seeking direction.

Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri were among the Indians who made their way to the northern NSW town to the following week to pay their last respects.

Having come to Australia for a cricket tour they found themselves in a school auditorium in a country town and an emotional place they never imagined.

Kohli, who had first played Hughes in under age cricket before they met again later in life, was adamant it was the right thing to do.

“The one thing that we have in common is the sport of cricket and that bonds us in a way; we do have rivalries and fights and arguments but the one thing that we have is cricket,” he said.

“We felt that we needed to be there not to show that we are concerned, but because we want to be there as fellow sportsmen. It is important for the world to know that we are united as a sport.”

On Friday the Indians and Australians find themselves on the same field on the anniversary of that wretched day Hughes was removed from life support.

The Phillip Hughes plaque at the SCG.Source:News Corp Australia

It has had an effect on all the players of that time and to the game.

Before November 2014 cricket winced when a player was hit in the head, after it held its breath in terror.

Witness the ball that Mitchell Johnson bowled to Kohli in that series which saw the bowler more shaken than the batsman. Witness the fear in the dressing rooms when Steve Smith fell face forward at Lord’s after being struck by Jofra Archer.

David Warner, who held Hughes that day, can be seen in The Test documentary saying to teammates that it looked like Smith had been hit in the same part of the neck. Smith’s first reaction was curious, he thought of his former teammate and was then struck by the unfairness that he was OK and Hughes was no longer with us.

Many who were there that day will be there for the first ODI. They will sit on the balcony of the dressing room at the SCG next to a plaque that commemorates their mate.

Nathan Lyon, who is not in the ODI squad, spoke recently on Neroli Meadows’ award-winning podcast Ordineroli Speaking about the day and the years since.

“It was a weird part of my life,” he said.

Dean Jones was a significant figure in Australian-Indian cricket.Source:Supplied

“Miller was born about three weeks before, so I had the joy of that, but then also losing your best mate.

“You soon realise that we’re just playing a game.

“There’s so many people who’d love to be in our shoes any day of the week, but the worst moment on a cricket field was when Phil Hughes got hit, by a long way.”

Mitchell Starc played that day and will be in the starting line-up, Moises Henriques is a chance to play. Sean Abbott, who was bowling, is in the squad but unlikely to play.

Friday is also the first chance both sides get to pay tribute to Dean Jones who died while covering the IPL from India in September.

Jones was a significant figure in Australian-Indian cricket, larger than life courtesy of his double century at Madras — now Chennai — in 1986. His star shone brighter in the past decade as a commentator and coach on the subcontinent than it did at home.

Shastri, now the Indian coach, was batting in the last over of that famous Test match and shared that bond players have which was evident when Hughes died.

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“With him around, there was electricity,” he said at the time of Jones passing.

“All the time I‘ve known him, he was a livewire. I’m 58, he was 59, and I’ve known him since 1986 — that’s almost 35 years. I will never forget him hosting me at his home for the Christmas-day lunch during the 2003-04 India tour of Australia.”

Originally published asSad reminders as summer finally gets set for lift off

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