Gabba guaranteed international fixtures over next three years
Brisbane's slide down the pecking order of Australian Test venues has been slowed by the announcement of a deal to guarantee international cricket at the Gabba for the next three summers, meaning the national team can hope to maintain its enviable record in Queensland.
Starting with the day-night Test against Pakistan this December, the Gabba will retain its share of matches in the foreseeable future, despite having become increasingly vulnerable to competition for fixtures from other venues, including the redeveloped Adelaide Oval.
This vulnerability had been exacerbated by an apparent lack of interest from the former state government in lobbying for Queensland's share of international cricket, in direct contrast to South Australia in particular. This was hammered home by the Gabba's peripheral role in last year's World Cup, despite its reputation for having one of the fastest and truest cricket pitches in the world.
Elements of the venue and its surroundings have been targeted for upgrades, but the deal between Cricket Australia (CA), the state government and Brisbane City Council is understood to cover increased investment in marketing and promoting international cricket in the state. Poor crowds at recent non-Ashes matches have raised eyebrows around the country, and the local authorities have now acknowledged that more needs to be done to sell the game to fans.
Pat Howard, CA's manager of team performance, was understandably delighted to see the deal inked. Australia have not lost a Test match at the Gabba since 1988, so the safeguarding of the ground's international fixtures stands to help the side keep up their formidable recent home record.
"We've guaranteed international cricket here for the next three years," Howard said. "As we all know, the record here at the Gabba since 1988 - Australia hasn't lost here. So it's a place the team loves to come, loves to play, and it locks us in here for the next three years.
"On top of that, as we've seen, pink-ball Test this year, it's going to be an unbelievable occasion, a massive thing for the Queensland public and fans, and we know they're going to come in their droves. So from a whole-of-game perspective, it's going to be a wonderful thing for Australian cricket, Queensland cricket and I think for the Queensland fans."
Joe Burns, the Queensland and Australia opening batsman, explained what made the Gabba unique. "It's a great place to play cricket, the characteristics of the wicket, there's not too many wickets like it in world cricket anymore," he said. "The bounce of the ball going through is fantastic for spectators to see, the contest between bat and ball, and its fantastic news for the next three years going forward."
Next season Perth will upstage Brisbane in hosting the first Test of summer for the first time since 1993-94. However the Gabba is expected to return to the opening slot for the 2017-18 Ashes series. That contest is likely to feature a day-night Test for the very first time, but it is most likely to be held in Adelaide.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig