Aussies wrestle with emotions

Aussies wrestle with emotions

Aussies wrestle with emotions

On a hot and humid Saturday afternoon, the Australian players, minus the injured Mitchell Johnson, appeared to be in a lively mood.

Clad in their Test flannels with Pink Baggy — instead of the normal Green Baggy — covering their heads, they posed along with Glenn McGrath before slipping into their practice gears. The occasion was to announce the 10th anniversary plans of the McGrath Foundation, which raises funds to place Breast Care Nurses in communities across Australia. The banter and leg-pulling during the photo session seemed a conscious attempt to banish those haunting memories of this iconic venue.

It was at the Sydney Cricket Ground, which will host the fourth and final Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series, where Phillip Hughes was fatally struck on the back of his head five weeks ago and it will be hard for the Australian cricketers to keep their emotions in check. It will be particularly so for the quartet of Shane Watson, David Warner, Brad Haddin and Nathan Lyon who were all at the ground when the incident took place.

Tragic

Since that tragic occurrence Sheffield Shield and Big Bash matches have been played here and Sean Abbot, who bowled that bouncer to Hughes, has returned to the SCG, bowling New South Wales to victory over Queensland with figures of 6/14. All normal? Hardly.       

Warner had admitted in Adelaide that it will be a difficult moment to handle going into the Sydney Test. “For me personally I think the hardest thing is going to be the New Year's Test. I think walking out on the SCG where it all unfolded and happened is going to be the toughest task for me and probably the other guys who were there as well,” he had remarked after dedicating his first innings ton to Hughes.

After the Adelaide Test, the Australians could keep their focus on the game with the matches being played at Brisbane and Melbourne and cricket itself being competitive with tempers often running high between rival players. “When we get back to the SCG, training there and going out to the game it might bring a few feelings back, especially for the guys who were out there but for everyone in the team," said paceman Josh Hazlewood, who grew up in Tamworth near Hughes’ town Macksville.  

Watson, too, is returning to the venue for the first time after Hughes’ funeral and the all-rounder felt hopefully enough time has passed for him to deal with those painful memories. "It's the first time I've been back here since just before Phil's funeral,” Watson noted. “It was always a time that I wasn't really looking forward to, coming back to the ground. But in the end, enough time has sort of passed to be able to find my own personal way to be able to deal with what happened to Phil. I'm sure once I get out into the middle and playing those visions will be coming back.”

Not just emotionally, Watson, by his own admission, had become apprehensive of bouncers. He struggled against the short-pitched stuff that the Indian bowlers directed at him in the first two Tests and was shaken a bit when Pat Cummins struck him on the helmet with a bumper during a practice session ahead of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.  

"Melbourne was the first time that I started to feel comfortable or more comfortable again,” he said talking of his only half-century of the series in the third Test. “For the first couple of Test matches it was always in my mind, in the back of my mind obviously because of what I saw and trying to go through it and process what happened that day out here. Melbourne was the first time I really started to feel the confidence grow back in myself and my game to know that my instincts are going to be hopefully good enough to play the short ball well,” he offered.

Haddin struggled to put his thoughts into words when asked about his feelings of coming back to the SCG. "I think this is the greatest ground in the world to play at and I know all the Sydney guys feel the same way. We don't really know, to tell you the truth, until we step out there. I don't really know what to say.”

The SCG dressing room will have a plaque unveiled at the Members Pavilion and through the Test there will be many observances that will keep Hughes’ memory fresh.

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