Australian cricket

Changing face of Ponting's Adelaide

Adelaide Oval is under reconstruction at present and it will look markedly different when the Ashes Test comes around next year. Ricky Ponting has mixed feelings about the changes

Daniel Brettig

November 21, 2012

Comments: 37 | Text size: A | A

A picturesque scene at Adelaide as Paul Collingwood departs for 206, Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, December 2, 2006
The view of St Peter's Cathedral will largely be lost after the renovation, but the old scoreboard won't © Getty Images
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Like any adult looking on as the family home is subject to major renovations, Ricky Ponting views Adelaide Oval's reinvention with a mixture of emotions. As roomy, convenient and "state of the art" as the new stadium will be, the old was a place of great beauty, history and charm, a cricket ground in the truest sense, and a second home for Ponting.

This week the world will see the ground in its state of reconstruction, offering players, spectators and television viewers one final lingering view of St Peter's Cathedral and the Adelaide skyline. By next summer's Ashes Test they will be blocked almost entirely out of sight by the encircling new stands designed to accommodate as many as 50,000 spectators for the AFL clubs set to call the oval home from 2014. Ponting will mourn this vanishing vista, for it has offered him his favourite atmosphere in which to play cricket over more than 20 years in the game.

"That's definitely something we'll notice when we come back in years to come," Ponting told ESPNcricinfo. "One thing that has always defined this ground and made it different from most around the world is what you actually get to see from the middle. A lot of the other places you go are like big concrete jungles.

"You see corporate boxes, dark windows, corporate logos and sponsors all over the place and that's something you haven't had to ever see much of at Adelaide Oval. They're doing their best to keep what they can, with the old scoreboard and the hill area and some fig trees down the back, but other than that it'll end up looking like most other grounds around Australia."

Ponting's affinity with Adelaide began when he was 15, in the first of two years as a precocious scholar at the Cricket Academy, then run by Rod Marsh. His cricket education and supply of pocket money were enhanced when he was one of two scholars to gain part-time work on the oval's ground staff, with duties including changing the nuts and bolts on the wooden benches that used to line the members' side of the ground.

"It wasn't easy work for us back then," Ponting said. "I think we were getting paid $40 a month when we were at the academy so you can imagine that doesn't go very far, so you tried to pick up some part-time work along the way. Simon Cook and I were the two who were working at Adelaide Oval that year, so we might've got $5 an hour for what we were doing there and we used to work around our training times. Well, I used to work, Cooky used to sleep in the grandstand most of the time, but they were good days.

"I was a 15-16 year-old boy living the dream really of being part of the cricket academy, training with better players, training with Rod Marsh, Ian Chappell, John Inverarity and those guys as coaches. It wasn't so much the work I did at Adelaide Oval that I look back on and cherish, but it was the time spent learning about cricket and learning about myself as a person and a player that were the really enjoyable times here in Adelaide."

Those times took place soon after the oval had begun a subtle process of modernisation by erecting the Sir Donald Bradman Stand at the southern end. As Ponting's career grew, so did the oval's capacity and capability, taking in permanent floodlights - after an abortive attempt at retractable towers - and the construction of the Chappell and Clem Hill stands. All these advances were designed to enhance the ground's capacity for hosting cricket matches, but the push for football to return to the city after years at the SANFL's West Lakes headquarters forced a far more dramatic recasting of the ground.

While Ponting loves football, as a lifelong North Melbourne supporter and the club's No. 1 ticket-holder, he speaks with some sadness at how the winter game has so encroached upon its summer equivalent. When Ponting's state career began, the Gabba was still a quaint ground encircled by a dog track, the MCG's pitches were permanent if not popular and Adelaide was intimate. Now he bats in stadia that need to be full to gain any sense of atmosphere, something more likely to happen for the 2.5 hours of an AFL fixture than the five days of a Test. While marvelling at some of the facilities now springing up in Adelaide and also at the SCG, Ponting concedes cricket has become "a small part of what these entertainment complexes have to offer".

"Most often grounds change for the better, but sometimes they change for the better of other sports," Ponting said. "When you look at our grounds now, all our grounds around Australia have always been cricket grounds but they've changed into football grounds more than anything these days, and cricket's trying to survive on football ovals.

"Footy's been encroaching more and more on cricket every year I think. Even with their longer seasons, and our season starting a little bit earlier now this season and will do in coming seasons as well, the seasons are nearly overlapping. We played our first game of the year on AFL grand final day, so the seasons are starting to overlap, that's had an effect on the SCG this year.

View of the south western side of Adelaide Oval under reconstruction, October 9, 2012
View of the south western side of Adelaide Oval under reconstruction © Getty Images

"The Swans making it to the grand final meant that the SCG was nowhere near its best for cricket for the early part of the season. Generally it happens at the Gabba and it can happen at the MCG as well with the change from footy to cricket. The AFL has certain demands as far as their surfaces are concerned, and unfortunately it affects us probably a little bit more than it does for them."

A drop-in pitch was first used in a Test match in Australia on Boxing Day 2000, when Steve Waugh's side faced West Indies at the MCG. In the 12 years since, the process has been refined considerably, though debate continues over whether or not Adelaide Oval truly needed them, given the square's healthy grass coverage and a history of hosting local football matches without a hint of irritation about the wicket. Nonetheless, this time next year an Ashes Test in Adelaide will be played on a drop-in, and Ponting is hopeful that the change will not detract too much from the ground's penchant for a surface that offers something to everyone.

"The characteristics of drop-in wickets are slow, low-bouncing sorts of tracks," Ponting said. "You'd have more of a concern if you take them out of somewhere like Brisbane, generally a fast, bouncy wicket and put drop-ins up there, you can understand it would be changing the character of the wicket too much. But in Adelaide I wouldn't think it'd be that different to tell you the truth.

"Technology these days, compared to when we first started using drop-in pitches around the place, is going to be vastly different as well, they'll have a better idea of how to make them well and more consistent. Ideally you'd like not to have drop-in wickets anywhere, but once again that's inevitable and we'll see how they do come up in Adelaide in coming years."

How many of those years will feature Ponting taking part as a Test batsman is a difficult question, but one thing is certain: his last Test at the ground as a player will not mean the end of the association. Ponting looks forward to coming back, and notes with a grin that the marquees and bars that sit conveniently behind the members' stand will not be affected by the oval's evolution from cricket ground to football stadium.

"If I had another place that was most like home for me it would be Adelaide," he said. "I've always said when I finish playing if I was to come back and watch a Test match it'd be at Adelaide Oval, just for everything about the city and everything about the ground. What you can do in the little bars and things around the ground, it's just a beautiful place to come and watch cricket. It's amazing how many of my friends even from Melbourne and Sydney will travel to Adelaide for the Test match. It's just one of those places that people want to come to."

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

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Posted by Massive_Allan_Border_Fan on (November 24, 2012, 2:14 GMT)

As an Adeladean who was an Adelaide Oval member in the mid-90's, I loved the old ground. As a South Australian non-member who attended Sheffield Shield games in the 00's, I loved the Chappell stands. I would hate the new plans if they involved losing the hills and the scoreboard. The southern hill has been lost. On balance though, with the northern hill and the scoreboard being retained, I'm a fan. It may yet be a big factor in the current state government losing power, but I'm a fan of the plan.

Posted by   on (November 23, 2012, 20:55 GMT)

Farewell to a beautiful ground, i remember as a backpacker living on Jeffcott St, moseying down for dollar day and the ODI's, drinking west end super, sitting on the grass and watching the mighty South Australians, fantastic people fantastic place, thanks for the memories.

Posted by   on (November 23, 2012, 6:27 GMT)

Ponting is an ordinary player always struggle against good bowlers. I remember SHOAIB AKHTAR clean bowled him many times in his career.

Posted by thenoostar on (November 22, 2012, 20:29 GMT)

A Disaster for cricket but these grounds have to pay their way. Its not like list A or first class games can draw a decent crowd. NZ has the same issue having to play cricket on rugby grounds with 50M boundaries. NZ has started moving tests to cricket grounds but please, please...... No more tests at rugby stadiums, also consider moving ODIs to cricket grounds. 10000 seems empty in a 30000 seat ground. better to have a full cricket ground holding 12000 than a half empty stadium. Save the stadiums for T20.

Posted by   on (November 22, 2012, 11:36 GMT)

Nice piece and some good quotes from Ponting. Seems to be mellowing in the twilight years of his career.

Posted by Meety on (November 22, 2012, 7:39 GMT)

@Rooboy on (November 21 2012, 23:37 PM GMT) plus the drop in pitches. I was dissappointed with the decision, & I am not an AFL fan, but wasn't it the cricket members who voted for the change?

Posted by c_Marsh_b_Lillee on (November 22, 2012, 6:26 GMT)

I agree with Barnsey. I think there are a lot of us South Australians that are annoyed the AFL corporation has taken over our cricket ground. Adelaide Oval could have been improved by increasing the amount of shade in the public areas and adding new padded benches. Our $550 million should have been used for teachers, nurses or other essential services. The greedies even took away our cricket nets in the parklands next door.

Posted by Meety on (November 22, 2012, 1:47 GMT)

Just on Punter, his dismissal loked ugly, very ugly! Good ball by Kallis, Punter made it look like the ball of the century delivered at 170kph!

Posted by getaclue on (November 22, 2012, 0:07 GMT)

Aami stadium is rubbish and way out of town. Hence the need for a big stadium in the heart of the city. This is a great move for footy and also lets more people go to the cricket. yes it loses some of its soul but its for the good of the city. At least we still have the WACA if you want old relics...

Posted by Rooboy on (November 21, 2012, 23:37 GMT)

@yorkshirematt - football has had its own ground for the last 40 odd years, but they want to move it to the city because 'fans' of one of the state's teams no longer turn up because they have to travel 20 minutes. So rather than build a purpose built football stadium near the city, they destroy a great ground in a 'half and half' solution. It's a joke. Absolute joke. They have been playing local SANFL football at Adelaide Oval for much of the last 40 years anyway, but it's not good enough for the national football comp. And port fans won't go to AO either once the novelty wears off and their team continues to lose. Total stuff up. It's what labor governments do. @peeeeeet - playing arena remains the same, it's just the seating, stands, facilities getting 'upgraded'

Posted by GregHowe on (November 21, 2012, 22:48 GMT)

A splendid article. What a terrible shame that Ponting didn't come out with these views during our unsuccessful campaign to stop this redevelopment. All the arguments we advanced are neatly captured in this piece. The Oval will become an amorphous football stadium, devoid of atmosphere for most cricket matches, with a bland pudding of a pitch, with cricket beholden to the all powerful football lobby, which amazingly is not contributing one of the 600 million dollars of taxpayers money, which has now bankrupted our State! The famous Oval, for which Adelaide is best known around the world, has been sacrificed on the altar of football and money. And don't get too excited about footy matches on Friday nights MrPud (above). That romantic notion that was peddled by proponents of this scheme, namely that Adelaide will come alive on Friday nights, is nonsense. The AFL will progam one, at best, two Friday night games a year at the Oval.

Posted by Scuderi on (November 21, 2012, 22:29 GMT)

It's good to remember the old ground, but the new stand members stand is fantastic. Why should the rest have to sit in discomfort

Posted by popcorn on (November 21, 2012, 21:49 GMT)

This is the second article in recent times that I am reading about Ricky Ponting reminiscing of the good old days- the first about the importance of Club Cricket at Mowbrays Cricket Club in Launceston, and this one at Adelaide. He is now turning out to be the elder statesman for grassroots cricket and passion for all that surrounds it.I thought Sydney was his second home - nice to know he loves Adelaide!

Posted by MrPud on (November 21, 2012, 21:09 GMT)

As a South Australian who visits Adelaide Oval nearly every year, the oval will be great for football and I look forward to football matches on a Friday night. The close proximity of bars, restaurants, live music as well as being the public transport hub of the city will rejuvenate the heart of Adelaide. However, the atmosphere of a Test match will never be the same again. If the play got a little slow, you could look over the city skyline, hear the Cathedral bells ring on a Sunday or even look for bushfires in the hills. Now all we will see is concrete. In the future, the most sought after ticket in the ground will be on the Hill in front of the dear old scoreboard where you can actually feel grass under your bare feet. Cricket at Adelaide Oval has sold its soul.

Posted by peeeeet on (November 21, 2012, 20:10 GMT)

Is the ground going to still have the short square boundaries?

Posted by PPD123 on (November 21, 2012, 16:43 GMT)

from the outside for neutral folks like us, Adelaide oval has always held a special charm along with cape town these two make for the 2 most picturesque grounds in he world. Hope that the new constructions do not take away the beauty of the stadium. Also i do not like the idea of a drop in pitch... it tends to make the game very homogeneous and tends to take away the peculiarity and aura that is associated with a particular place & pitch... anyways in today's world of commercialisation, it is money that will decide what we do and how... over a period of time we will get used to this...

Posted by jonesy2 on (November 21, 2012, 14:46 GMT)

i dont understand why they didnt just re-do aami stadium instead? why have both the power and crows at adelaide oval? on another note i seriously hope the waca gets a renovation soon.

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 14:06 GMT)

Can't see myself ever going to watch cricket at Adelaide Oval again, after these changes, and I doubt I am the only one thinking like that. Adelaide Oval was/is one of the most picturesque grounds in the world. After this it will be devoid of character. I don't live in Adelaide, so there's the rub: what SACA gain in AFL revenue, the city loses in tourism.

What's next - tearing down the Members Stand at the SCG?

Posted by meursault on (November 21, 2012, 13:38 GMT)

I dislike footy and it's influence on cricket as much as anyone, but you all seem to be forgetting that it's the footy dollars that allow us to have modern, high-capacity cricket stadia in Australia. This benefits local cricket fans (who can simply rock up at places like the MCG to get a seat) and helps provide capacity to welcome hordes of Poms to Australia for each Ashes series (with its knock-on effects for atmosphere, tourism etc).

Perhaps if we'd stuck with single-use stadia, we'd be left with terribly inadequate seating capacity like in England and have to put up with inflated prices. lotteries and overnight lines for seeing Test match cricket. I think I'd prefer a little less "character".

Posted by steve_mcking1 on (November 21, 2012, 13:31 GMT)

Seems to be a lot overreaction. This development will have a good balance between maintaining heritage and development for the future. Adelaide desperately needs this to have a buzz for more than one week of the year and lose its tag as a backwards town.

Posted by Lara4life501 on (November 21, 2012, 13:22 GMT)

Brian Lara called the Adelaide Oval,the most beautiful cricket ground in the world he was exactly right,as another pundit said.I cant understand Adelaide's need for 2 grounds of inexcess of 50'000 seating capacity??? And its a sad day when an international game like cricket, has to give into the demands being made of it by a game thats played by just one country...obviously like everything in this world, it all comes back to just one reason! MONEY and or PROFIT!!!.A sad day for cricket in SA and Australia

Posted by yorkshirematt on (November 21, 2012, 13:10 GMT)

Spot on from Ponting. The obvious question from us poms would be: Why don't the football teams build their own grounds so you have seperate grounds for football and cricket?

Posted by 158notout on (November 21, 2012, 12:42 GMT)

It is a real shame. I was in Adelaide last winter and wanted to catch a game at the oval. It wasn't possible though because some big rock band, Bruce Springsteen or someone, was playing. I snuck in during the day for a look at the ground though. I am hoping to get down there for the Ashes test next year, sad that the ground will look so different.

In the last two Ashes series down under the Adelaide Oval has produced such wonderful matches, with a win for both sides. A fitting end to its career perhaps.

Posted by redneck on (November 21, 2012, 11:32 GMT)

touching words from mr ponting on our quiet little city and its beloved oval. however Barnesy444 mate as another south australian tax payer we will only have one 50000 seat stadium, the other will be nothing more than the crows training ground in a few years time. its old outdated and past its use by date, quit the whinging and embrace the new look oval you mob! its just like the saca members not wanting the new members stand, funny how we dont hear any complaints about that anymore!!! as for the drop in pitch what ricky said is spot on, if it were the gabba or waca it would be an outrage. however its only the adelaide oval road!!!! a drop in pitch might give the bowlers something to look forward to when coming to adelaide.

Posted by jackiethepen on (November 21, 2012, 11:17 GMT)

I feel so lucky I was at Adelaide for the 2010 Ashes game. The ground is beautiful and so is the city. I am so surprised the citizens have allowed this to happen given that Adelaide is anything but a concrete modern city jungle but full of boulevards and beautiful trees. To sit all day to watch cricket the surroundings are really important. I wish the moguls would realise that. As one by one the old cricket grounds vanish we are really losing a flavour of the game. Lords was threatened by a terrible development of apartment towers at one end of the ground. Money was talking. However - despite the intervention of a former Tory Prime Minister to keep the development (one wonders why) - the MCC threw it out. Thank goodness. Sometimes it is really good to have some old diehards protecting what's traditional.

Posted by brusselslion on (November 21, 2012, 11:13 GMT)

It's a shame as the old ground was beautiful. Hopefully, the new ground will look a bit better than the Oval here in London.

Posted by RandyOZ on (November 21, 2012, 10:50 GMT)

It's a shame but being an Adelaidean I can assure you having the footy in the city will completely revitalise the entire city.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (November 21, 2012, 10:48 GMT)

Sad to see one of the most beautiful grounds ruined in this way. And why play a test vs SA here if it's a construction site? A pity that cricket is being affected by that strange Aussie game where men in 70s shorts kick balls in the air.

Posted by Barnesy4444 on (November 21, 2012, 9:14 GMT)

SACA were paranoid about damaging the skyline of Adelaide Oval hence the attempt at retracting lights, but as soon as money gets put in front of their faces from football................. As a South Australian my tax money is going into this. For a state with a small population as ours why do we need two 50 000 seat football stadiums? I'm sure we could find better things to spend our $550 million on and leave the second best cricket ground in the world (after Lords) as it was.

Posted by CricketMaan on (November 21, 2012, 9:02 GMT)

Chepauk, the new MAC Stadium was inspired by Adelaide (though both have thier own history). Those unique Chappell stands were wonderful sight. Two mordern day Indian cricketers that might remember Adelaide long in thier life is Dravid and Viru. RD hit that fantastic 200 and winning runs to end India's dry run in Aus and Viru palyed that 151 to save a Test.

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 8:51 GMT)

Pablo is spot on, the Adelaide oval will look bland now, the fig trees and scoreboard will only be an isolated reminder of better times. Seriously, the Gabba used to be great, but these days it's such a boring ground. Oh well.

Posted by sharidas on (November 21, 2012, 8:33 GMT)

It s sad, but something population and money necessitates, I guess. I am sure that for players who have played there, there is something that pulls at their heart strings when they view the picturesque surroundings.

Posted by unregisteredalien on (November 21, 2012, 8:31 GMT)

I'm enjoying how Punter seems to have become more insightful and articulate since giving up the captaincy. I guess he's freed up from a lot of his past worries and constraints, as well as maturing generally. This is a nice piece.

Posted by tickcric on (November 21, 2012, 8:29 GMT)

Australian cricket facing challenges - Concern... Such a beautiful ground Adelaide Oval. Anyways it was changing in its own pace. This fast forward bulldozer method is unfortunate. Hoping the seagulls won't deseart us ...

Posted by vj_gooner on (November 21, 2012, 7:41 GMT)

I wish Punter's career ends with a hundred at the Bellerive Oval!!!!

Posted by Pablo123 on (November 21, 2012, 6:56 GMT)

Good one Ricky - We all having a bit of the establishment blues. Seems beauty and history always make way for corporates and money. Hate it !

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 6:22 GMT)

Ricky is a Masterpiece & probably would go down as the best batsman to be ever produced next to Don Brad.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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