Sydney: Sean Abbott, who delivered the ball that killed Australian batsman Phillip Hughes, is set to return to action after being named Monday in the New South Wales squad.
There were fears that the young fast bowler may have been too traumatised to play again after Hughes died from being hit by one of his bouncers at the Sydney Cricket Ground last month. But he was included in a 12-man squad to play Queensland in a Sheffield Shield fixture in Sydney from Tuesday.
Abbott attended Hughes's funeral last week and many people around the cricket world have expressed solidarity with the 22-year-old following the freak accident. "Brilliant News...The whole #cricketfamily are right behind you Sean...," said former England captain Michael Vaughan on Twitter in reaction to Abbott being selected. NSW captain Moises Henriques said the bowler was holding up well.
"He's coping pretty well," Henriques told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "I guess from our point of view as fellow players, we're trying to expel his name from the tragedy a little bit, because in my opinion I don't think he's any more at fault than any other fast bowler who's ever bowled a bouncer in his career.
"We're actually trying to remove his name from everything that's happened, and just treat him as another one of the players." Several of the New South Wales squad were on the field when Hughes collapsed, and coach Trevor Bayliss said the Queensland match was not about winning. "It's not about the result in this match, it's about getting the guys back on the paddock and looking after their future," he told reporters.
"This game is about getting back and doing the things they've done in the past and getting back into the groove of playing high-level cricket." Abbott's return coincides with Australia facing India in the delayed first Test at Adelaide, with a number of tributes planned. The Australian players will wear Hughes' Test cap number 408 on their shirts during the match, and black armbands in honour of their former team-mate.
Prior to the start of play on Tuesday, the Australian and Indian teams will stand before a large 408 painted on the playing surface as they observe a video tribute, narrated by former Australia Test captain and prominent commentator Richie Benaud. Hughes, 25, died on November 27 from bleeding on the brain, two days after being knocked unconscious by the Abbott bouncer, plunging the cricket world into mourning.