West Indies in Australia 2015-16 December 9, 2015

Ponting stands up for embattled Hobart


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' I'd like to see Hobart get a Test every year' - Ponting

Sturdy, strident and implacable, the graven image of Ricky Ponting now overlooks the nets at Bellerive Oval. His pull shot is frozen in time as it is in the minds of the millions who watched his storied Test career.

Sadly for Hobart, the place of its Test match in the Australian cricket calendar is nowhere near as certain, with a concerted push for other venues such as Canberra to forge ahead next summer. For Ponting, the unveiling of his statue was thus a moment of bittersweet duality - on one hand the acknowledgement of his many achievements and Tasmania's role in shaping them, on the other a very desperate battle to keep Hobart on the Test match roster.

It is some years since Ponting lived in Hobart. He relocated to Sydney at the height of his international playing days, and in retirement has shifted down to Melbourne, about an hour's flight away. But his memories of the Tasmanian capital, and also his hometown of Launceston in the north of the state, remain exceptionally fresh, and he is adamant that Bellerive should remain a part of Test match scheduling in future.

Moreover, he thinks the ground deserves a better allotment of matches than currently offered. Only then, Ponting thinks, can Hobart's cricket worth be truly measured.

"There will be Test cricket here as far as I'm concerned - I think some of the criticism has been a bit unfair," Ponting said. "What I would like to see is that Hobart and Tasmania get a Test match every year. It's pretty hard to make assumptions on Tasmanian cricket or people coming to watch Test cricket in Australia when there's no continuity about where the games are.

"The Tasmanian public are being judged on Test matches against lower-ranked teams. Let's have an Ashes Test match, let's have a Test match against South Africa, let's have a Test match against India here and then we can start making some judgements and comparisons with other venues around Australia. I've got my Tasmanian hat on obviously, but I think that's really fair. And hopefully the Hobart and Tasmanian public turn out over the next few days."

Part of Ponting's argument is that of the federalists who emanate from Australia's smaller states. Any purely economic argument about cricket scheduling will invariably settle on fixtures in New South Wales and Victoria. Ponting echoed nothing so much as those who argued successfully for each state to retain some sort of representation on the CA board in order to prevent a drain of cricket from Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland.

"I think that's vitally important in Australia," Ponting said. "One of the great things about playing Test cricket in Australia is that you get to sample different conditions in every state - every state has their wicket conditions and characteristics are all different and that's the great thing about the world game. It's the same when you go to India and South Africa, the different conditions in the states and provinces - you've got different pitch conditions everywhere.

"I hear the business side of it but as far as I'm concerned it's more than that, it's about the fabric of the game in our country. And we've got to do what we can to support the more traditional hosts, if you like, around our country. Let's do whatever we can to help them out along the way."

One of Ponting's wider suggestions was for greater consultation of what fans of the game desired in each state and country. "What we need to do is get out there to the public and ask them what they want out of a day's Test cricket. Have we actually done that?" he asked. "Have we been to India and asked them what they want and why they're not going to Test match cricket? I think that's a good starting point.

"We would love to see more people come to this game. And it's not like Tasmanians don't love their cricket, the Hurricanes' Big Bash games they have here are sold out every game. So once again let's get out and ask the public what they want out of a day's Test cricket. Is it lower ticket prices and cheaper food at the ground? Let's ask them what it is."

To that end, the Cricket Tasmania chief executive David Johnston outlined one of Hobart's major problems - unlike Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney in particular, it lacks a set place in the cricket calendar. So it is that Tasmania and Hobart have an ever greater number of tourists every year, but no sort of cricket pilgrimage tradition as enjoyed by many of the other states.

"In general terms, if we can get a consistent place in the Test match or international programme in November or December every year, we can plan around it," Johnston said. "The Big Bash is very successful, but it's a different market, young families, mothers and children, so Test matches are more for traditionalists, we want to give both markets what they're looking for."

One potential pathway forward is a day/night Test, something the state duelled for with South Australia before Adelaide Oval was awarded the honour. Ponting has been an arch traditionalist in many ways, but in the cause of retaining Test cricket at Bellerive, even his fixed ideas were more flexible about hosting floodlit matches at the ground.

"I think Hobart and Adelaide were the last two for the day/night Test match we've just played," Ponting said. "If that's what it's going to take down here then absolutely. We've heard from Cricket Australia the last few months about the right time, the right place for day/night Test cricket, and if attendances are down the next few days then it might be exactly what Hobart needs.

"We've got unbelievable facilities here now, it's world class with the stands, with the lights, it's what you'd expect for an international cricket venue, so why not?"

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Merv on December 10, 2015, 9:34 GMT

    Unfortunately it is all about the money , not the game. Sydney, Melbourne, the new Burswood Casino ground in WA replacing the WACA, all for the night games and day night games, especially the quickly forgettable T-Trash stuff. Vale Bellerive and Test cricket in Australia. Not that CA take a jot of notice. They only listen to the advertisers and the media.

  • Stephen on December 10, 2015, 8:01 GMT

    @drew foster - what makes you think you need to play all tests in the 90 days of summer. A Darwin/ Townsville fixture would be played may-sep. we already play several in November. We are only a few days into your 90 summer days and already we've played 3 and a bit tests.

  • Harold on December 10, 2015, 6:48 GMT

    I agree with Punter about giving Hobart a place in the calendar. Just not sure it should be test matches. The money angle is still important. Why not guarantee they get 3 high profile ODIs every year at a set time? That packs the ground, allows the day/night angle and 3 ODIs are usually about the same number of spectators as a full test.

  • Joe on December 10, 2015, 0:21 GMT

    Yes, Cricket Tasmania do need to consult more with the people of Tasmania. However, to do this all they need do is check the comments to their facebook posts! My friends and I have consistently commented year after year about teh failings of Bellerive oval. Over priced tickets, the food is BAD and EXPENSIVE, beer isn't even local and is BAD AND EXPENSIVE (mid strength carlton the last i was there, what a disgrace), parking is BAD but free (good work cricket Tas!), Public transport is BAD AND EXPENSIVE. I do realise that some of these are out of Cricket Tas control, especially the public transport. However, the catering, beer and how many people serving can be fixed over night. The ticket prices definitely need to change, Tasmania is a failing economy full of people who love cricket. Give to them and they'll give back. Also the damn MC's and commentators are truly embarrassing at big bash games. They need to be fired immediately.

  • Pete on December 9, 2015, 22:41 GMT

    @DREW FOSTER, of course I'm being idealistic, but the Top End/Canberra series could be in October (or March), the mid-rankers Nov and the first two Tests in December. It's a lot of real cricket, that's true. Plonk the Big Bash after Sydney and call some team back for three-five ODIs and two T20Is in Feb.

  • Heath on December 9, 2015, 21:38 GMT

    @Batmanian. Nice in theory but 9 test matches in a home season means up to a maximum of 45 days of cricket (highly unlikely but still it will be a lot for a season), and that does not include ODI and T20. Also to have three touring teams a year just for test cricket means a lot of travelling for touring teams (expensive). I like the system of two touring teams a year and everyone playing each other both home and away over roughly a four year period. So we will need to have one season in Australia without one of the big drawcards. Currently this is that season, however, NZ are a good side and it will be interesting to see Pakistan down here as well.

  • annoyed on December 9, 2015, 20:40 GMT

    @DOWNTHEORDER, Cricket Australia won't give them those opponents since no-one watches the test matches. In what universe do they deserve top class opposition?

  •   Drew Foster on December 9, 2015, 13:36 GMT

    @BATMANIAN 9 tests a year is absolutely infeasible. That would mean 45 days of test cricket scheduled over about 90 days of summer. Then try and fit in an ODI series. It's also not just up to Australia nor the countries willing to travel. The FTP could never accommodate such demand with so few countries available for cricket. I can see you put in some consideration to the concept, but it is not something that will work year in, year out. Sure, this year it would have been possible to invite Pakistan (actually the only team with availabity) for tests but that would mean no ODI matches are played during summer.

  • Pete on December 9, 2015, 12:04 GMT

    In Test cricket, Australia confronts three minnows (Bangladesh, West Indies, Zimbabwe), three excellent teams of mid-drawing power (Pakistan, SL and NZ), and three major draws/challenges (England, India, RSA).

    It would make a lot of sense to schedule 9 Tests a year - TWO of Canberra, Darwin and Townsville vs a minnow, THREE vs the mid-ranker at Hobart, Docklands D/N plus one of Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth (when online; perhaps Canberra could be used in the meantime), and FOUR Tests for the major draw: Boxing Day, New Year, and the other two of Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

    It's important to privilege Hobart over Canberra, as Tasmania is, you know, a state. It's also important to play at least four Tests against a major draw.