Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Hobart, 3rd day December 16, 2012

Slim crowds, critics raise chairman's ire


Tasmanian cricket's chairman Tony Harrison has scoffed at the suggestion that Hobart might be in any danger of losing its share of Australia's home Test matches. He also proffered a slogan in response to media criticism that seems likely to end up on a bumper sticker: "If you don't like Tasmania, don't come here."

Granted the opening match of the series in mid-December before the Boxing Day and New Year's Tests in Melbourne and Sydney, Bellerive Oval has been host to attendances of just 6221 on day one, 3810 on day two and 4388 on day three. This is against Cricket Tasmania's budget estimates of around 9000 on the first day and about 7000 on each of Saturday and Sunday.

Harrison admitted that 23 years after hosting its first Test, also against Sri Lanka in 1989, Tasmania was still to develop a strong "Test match culture", something not helped by the five-day game only making periodic visits to the island state's capital.

Among various mitigating circumstances for the slim turnouts, Harrison cited the fixture's close proximity to Christmas, ticket prices that outstripped those on offer for popular Twenty20 BBL matches at the ground, and Hobart's changeable weather, which was overcast on day one and caused rain breaks on each of days two and three. By way of a concession, Harrison said general admission tickets for Monday's fourth day would allow the bearer to sit in the southern stand, rather than simply to stand on the hill.

However he flatly rejected any potential for the state losing its share of Australia's home Test matches, typically receiving the sixth match of the summer when two touring teams make the journey down under.

"I think that's a ridiculous suggestion quite frankly," Harrison said. "I've heard that said, and that is nonsense. We are one of the owners of Cricket Australia and CA has a philosophy in its programming to spread the game around the country, and Test matches [in Hobart] are not in question, not in doubt.

"There are no guarantees, we don't know what the programme will look like in three, four, five years' time. But at the moment our philosophy is to share the game around the country, to give people around the country the opportunity to see Test cricket. Our job as Cricket Tasmania with CA is to promote the game and get more people to come along to it. That's problematic when you get a fixture so close to Christmas and the weather interferes."

Another issue for Tasmania and Western Australia in particular is the lack of a set position in the calendar for their Test matches. While residents of Melbourne and Sydney know instinctively when to clear room in their calendar for the annual Test, other states have less certainty, something commonly reflected in oscillating crowds depending on the time of year and the touring team.

"We can't always be certain when teams will come and play, but one year we've got a Test match in the second week in November, and the next week it's the third week in December," he said. "So it's not like Sydney and Melbourne where on Boxing Day you know its the Test, doesn't matter who plays, and it's an event. Similarly in Sydney you have the New Year's Test.

"Adelaide doesn't have it always, Perth doesn't have it, Brisbane gets the first Test of the summer but dates vary … so that's an issue too. We need to develop a Test match culture."

As for some unkind depictions of Tasmania on the ABC radio broadcast beamed live around Australia, Harrison was pugnacious. Happy with how the local media had promoted the fixture, he more or less raised the drawbridge to those not expressing great enthusiasm for being in Hobart.

"I should pay tribute to the local media because I don't think the promotion could have done anymore," Harrison said. "But I'm a bit disappointed at some of the comments I've heard on the radio in the last two days, not only critical of the crowds, but they're critical of Tasmania. What I'd say to the commentators who do that, if you don't like Tasmania, don't come here."

Unless Tasmania can find a way of developing a greater affinity for Test matches, there remains a chance that in future years they won't have to.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Prashan on December 18, 2012, 16:44 GMT

    @Narbavi, if DRS was used against Pakistan I agree they would have won 1 test match for sure, the rain hit 2nd test. Galle test we were clearly the best. Third test was not affected by umpiring and you cannot be a psychic to predict what would have happened. India simply did not know how to make use of the referral system in the 2008 tour of SL. In the England tour of 2011, well dont forget hawkeye was not there and DRS was too limited. DRS has improved the umpire correction rate and high time ICC makes it compulsory.

  • narbavi on December 18, 2012, 10:54 GMT

    @Drop_Thunder: Why do u say that? the money thing is being handled by the organisers, players still want to play test cricket, is it a sin if a team goes through a rough patch or its just that we have set high standards always that whenever we fail people come at us hard?

  • narbavi on December 18, 2012, 6:45 GMT

    @Sinhaya: Then why didnt srilanka use it against pakistan recently? why are u not mentioning the true fact that u won that series with so many decisions going against pakistan? and we all know what happened to india in 2008 with drs and again in 2011 in england, it didn't provide us the right results, decisions which should have gone our way went completely against us surprising everybody

  • Munad on December 17, 2012, 23:09 GMT

    @nrabe- fair point mate.... Cric AUS should look into it. @Sinhaya - Totally agree with ya. In terms of contribution to cricket, Srinlanka contributed a lot in short span of time compared to India and even Bangla will catch up soon. I think India is sort of pigion holed into the IPL hype. It's more about money than the love of the game.

  • Prashan on December 17, 2012, 16:04 GMT

    @Narbavi, DRS came in 2008 and after that it should have been used non stop in all international cricket games since then. But ICC is toothless to make it mandatory. All cricket games in the 60s, 70s and 80s were bound to have umpiring howlers but with poor media coverage back then, not much details are known. Hey going by your definition of minnow remember India never won a test match in Pakistan until 2004. We won test matches in Pakistan in 1995. So going on that logic, India was a minnow until 2004. Pakistan is one of the greatest test playing nations of all time and important to register test wins there too and we have 6 test wins there out of our overall 9 test wins against them. Remember Hobart tests wont attract crowds as shown by last year's test against NZ. When Wasim and Waqar starred in the 1999 Pak tour of Aus, not many came to watch it either.

  • Prashan on December 17, 2012, 15:53 GMT

    @Ranveerrsingh, haha we won both the test and ODI series against Pakistan held in June and July this year. Understand? I have answers always. Your memory is too short buddy HAHAHAHAHA! We also won the ODI tri series in August 2010 which featured SL, NZ and India. Research more please. We also won the bilateral ODI series against West Indies 2-0 which was held just before the 2011 world cup.

  • Prashan on December 17, 2012, 15:43 GMT

    @Chris_P, thanks a lot for your compliments and I simply enjoy your posts a lot on cricinfo. Even your fellow fan Meety is great too. I look forward to seeing more of your posts over the Aussie summer.

  • Prashan on December 17, 2012, 15:39 GMT, haha yeah as if India won their first ever test match in Australia. Keep dreaming non stop. I know you predicted a 3-0 whitewash last year for us in South Africa and all Indian fans were hiding after we won in Durban. So keep dreaming again. I know Aussies are very tough and I give my full respect for them. Our players will do all they can to avoid a whitewash as a way of stinging the Indian fans. Basically if we draw against Aussies in Sydney, we see it as a chance to have dig at Indians and nothing as such towards Aussies.

    And I was right in answering Batmanian by saying I want to keept talking about India when Indians trash talk about my team. I never opposed Indians coming. I have the right to respond to people like you indeed. I never said people of some nationalities cant post comments here.

  • Dummy4 on December 17, 2012, 12:28 GMT

    Cricket Australia must realise that the problem with cricket crowds in general is that there is way too much cricket. When there is too much of something, each game loses its novelty factor. The odi series in england after the windies tour is just one example of a pointless series. There are many. Another includes the T20 international this season against sri lanka. It is simply just a money making sheme. Furtheremore, why is SL playing a 3 test series, they have never won a test in Aus, they should be given a two test series.. Cricket Australia's marketing for this test was also rubbish. There were no adds igniting the Warne-Murali rivalry, the Ranatunga run-ins, the memeries of yester-year, Sangakarra's last innings in Hobart in what was almost a historic match. We saw none of that in the lead up to this test. Poor marketing by cricket Australia

  • John on December 17, 2012, 11:26 GMT

    @Matt O'Neill unless Hobart gets its act together might well be the stimulus that Hobart might need. Mr Pudd lots of good points it is hard to go to a test when you have to play on the same day. It is also amazing how the Top End series has gone by the wayside a good opportunity for Zimbwabe and Bangladesh and possibly throw Townsville in for the Third Test as a Two series is an insult to the visiting nation. (Would not consider NZ for the Top End as there is too much Rugby to be watched so they would not get the attention they deserve although the same weekend as a Bledisloe would make it interesting!) Further Popcorn has the right idea about scheduling as well. Maybe we could play the BBL in January and February and ensure that the first class and test matches are finished? Fixed scheduling would also help the fan who likes to go to other test grounds and allow us to take advantage of early bird packages? This might be too convenient for cricket fans for Cricket Australia to accept?

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