December 02, 2014

MACKSVILLE, Australia (AP) Mourners are converging on this rural town for Wednesday's funeral for Phillip Hughes, with the cricketer's birthplace becoming the focus of a nation's attention.

Australia captain Michael Clarke arrived by helicopter Monday and will act as a pallbearer. The funeral will be attended by past and present cricketers from around the world as well as by politicians and other dignitaries. It will be televised live across Australia.

Hughes' former Australia test teammates will pay their respects. The team has been wracked with grief since the 25-year-old batsman died Thursday, two days after being hit behind the left ear by a short-pitch delivery during a domestic match at Sidney Cricket Ground.

More than 5,000 mourners are expected at the service in Macksville, which has a population of less than 3,000 and where Australia's sports colors of green and gold and large banners adorn stores and buildings around town.

The service will be at the recreation hall of Macksville High School, close to the banana plantation on which Hughes was raised. The Hughes family has invited the whole town to share in a celebration of his life.

On hand will be three former Australian captains and greats Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, Sir Richard Hadlee from New Zealand, India's stand-in captain Virat Kohli, team director Ravi Shastri and coach Duncan Fletcher.

Geographically and emotionally, the Australian players will be far removed from the Adelaide Oval, where the first match of a rescheduled four-test series against India is to begin Dec. 9.

The series was to start at Brisbane's Gabba ground Thursday, but was deferred and the scheduled second test at Adelaide was brought forward as Cricket Australia and the Board of Control for Cricket in India shuffled the schedule to give players time to mourn.

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said it was ''out of the question'' that the players should be expected to play a test match a day after the funeral of a respected teammate and treasured friend.

''Any player that is not comfortable or doesn't feel right, or there is medical advice to suggest they're not quite right, then we will obviously understand that,'' Sutherland said. ''I'm sure the broader public will understand that as well,'' he said.

Veteran fast bowler Ryan Harris became the first player to publicly express misgivings about playing a test match so soon after the death. He hadn't yet decided if he would take part.

Harris said Wednesday's service would be a trial for the Australian players and only after that could they address their thoughts to the test match.

''Let's get through that first. It's going to be pretty bloody hard,'' Harris said in Brisbane. ''It might be a bit of closure or it might take longer.''

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