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Perth Stadium or WACA Ground? Time to rethink Perth's Test venue

John Townsend

The West Indies will be back to play another two-Test series next summer in a move Cricket Australia describes as a “scheduling quirk” but, more memorably by those few fans who attended last week’s first Test at Perth Stadium, as either “unbelievable” or “sheer madness”.

Still, Windies Wallop 2.0 might provide a valuable sighter to the future of Perth Stadium as a Test venue.

If Perth gets the West Indies rather than Pakistan again next summer, and that is a sizeable if with Hobart and Canberra pushing hard for a Test, there will be a significant question over the location of the match.

If not for the fact that the WACA Ground is likely to still be a building site, with growing doubts over the proposed $114 million redevelopment given that officials close to the action believe costs have blown out nearly $60 million, there would be a genuine case to shift the Test back over the river from Burswood.

It is estimated that the first Test in Perth in three years lost more than $2 million though the WACA does not wear any of that and CA is probably not that concerned given it achieved strong TV ratings in the eastern States at a time it is negotiating its next billion-dollar media rights deal.

Still, the issue is one that was bubbling five years ago and is starting to re-emerge in a post-COVID world.

In 2017, when delicate negotiations were underway to move international cricket to the new stadium with the sweetener for the WACA being State government funding for the redevelopment, there was a massive question over which matches should be played at the new 60,000-seater.

The issue even saw WA’s biggest cricket identity in Dennis Lillee quit as WACA president.

There was widespread recognition at the time that some teams would not draw big crowds and so low-profile matches, such as a West Indies Test match, were considered better suited to remain at the WACA Ground.

There was a clear formula in place to decide the issue.

“Anything under 15,000 (a day) for an international match will be played at the WACA,” a senior WACA official said at a press conference in 2017.

“That means (only) England, South Africa and India.”

It was a theme repeated plenty of times that year.

The 15,000 referred to the forecast Test crowd on each of the first four days with a minimum expected crowd of 60,000 required to fixture a game at the stadium.

Last week’s Test against the West Indies drew just 42,517 fans with not one day approaching 15,000.

Under the 2017 formula, the Test would have remained at the old WACA Ground which, hopefully, would have provided the atmosphere and lively pitch lacking last week.

Fourteen days of Test cricket have now been played at Perth Stadium with the crowd exceeding 15,000 on just six of them.

There has not been an Ashes Test there yet, with the earliest opportunity being the 2025-26 summer, but who knows if that century-old rivalry would draw crowds on a par with the numbers produced at AFL matches?

There is no simple solution to what is a complex issue but perhaps the WACA might be better off rethinking its proposal to build a boutique ground with a grandiose facility on the northern side and a white elephant masquerading as a swimming pool on the north-western corner?

Maybe a bigger ground capable of holding 20 to 25,000 people but with simpler facilities?

Maybe a ground that could host the West Indies or Sri Lanka or Pakistan, without cricket losing millions of dollars?

Maybe a ground that could host other events, such as a WAFL grand final?

Morris at the sharp end

Plenty of eastern Staters were flabbergasted when WA’s Lance Morris was called up to the second Test as cover for injured quick Pat Cummins. They should not have been.

Morris is one of the fastest bowlers in the country, is in splendid form, recently helped WA end their long Sheffield Shield drought and has history on his side.

There are 335 shield bowlers who have taken more than Morris’ 59 wickets but only one of them – NSW’s pre-World War I leggie Sid Emery – has done it at a better strike rate than his 41 balls a wicket.

Morris’ time has come.



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