Australia September 11; Perth is the major casualty of Australia’s truncated 2014-15 Test summer, stripped of its annual match for the first time since 1976-77. Only four Tests are scheduled for a season in which India will visit, due mainly to the fixturing squeeze created by the 2015 World Cup, and the nation’s two smallest and youngest major grounds in Perth and Hobart have been left off the Test calendar.
The decision has provoked an outraged response from the Western Australia Cricket Association, while the host broadcaster Channel Nine is also likely to be nonplussed about losing the one Test match of the summer it can screen in prime time to the populous eastern states, due to Perth’s more westerly time zone. However it was always likely that Perth would miss out on the match due to concerns about the ground’s facilities and size relative to its main rivals Brisbane and Adelaide.
While Bellerive Oval has never been a nailed-on venue, the WACA ground has invariably provided blood and thunder Test cricket, due to its uniquely fast and bouncy pitch. India were rounded up by an innings and 37 runs well inside three days in Perth in January 2012. Other considerations outlined by the CA chief executive James Sutherland included the strong claims of other grounds. Adelaide Oval’s $535 million redevelopment will be complete in time for the series, while the Gabba has traditionally been host to the first Test of the summer and has consistently drawn larger crowds to its matches than Perth.
The WACA’s size, a history of spotty attendances and facilities lagging behind other grounds have detracted from its standing among international venues, despite its lively pitch and a time zone more favourable to television audiences both in India and on the east coast of Australia. CA’s verdict also maintains a longstanding tradition of “last in, first out” among venues – Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane all boasting of longer Test traditions than Perth.
“Though a traditional Test match venue with a proud history, the WACA ground has the smallest capacity of the five mainland Test venues and has historically attracted lower attendances,” Sutherland said. “The WACA has been working hard to improve the facilities for its fans but it still requires significant improvements.
“Although the WACA has missed out on a Test match, they will play host to up to four limited-overs matches in the 2014-15 season that will see South Africa tour in a limited-overs series in November, as well as India and England competing in a tri-series in January prior to the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup.”
Christina Matthews, the WACA chief executive, expressed her deep disappointment at the WACA’s reduced allocation for 2014-15. “Whilst CA will provide additional limited-overs matches to replace the Test match, there is no compensation for losing a Test,” she said. “The on-going effect this loss will have on the WACA and cricket in Western Australia will be devastating. We will continue talks with CA and will be seeking an understanding from them of all the elements behind the decision.”
Apart from Adelaide and Brisbane, the other party most likely to be pleased by the decision are India’s cricketers. Save for a victory on an uncharacteristic WACA ground surface in 2008, India have struggled in Perth, and the green-tinged 2012 pitch is known to have been chief among the motivators for the retaliatory dustbowls prepared for Australia’s visit to India earlier this year.
“One goes back to the Perth Test where the wicket was green and we played to our strengths and won the Test in two and a half days,” Australia’s former coach Mickey Arthur said last month. “They clearly wanted retribution for that and produced some of the toughest conditions I’d ever seen. They went out of their way to prepare those conditions and I can’t argue with that.”