Third Test, Perth December 13, 2006

Perth - the (Mr) Cricket City

The WACA looks, frankly, shabby
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In a poll last year, readers of the Guardian and Observer declared Perth their favourite overseas city. English cricketers cannot have been overrepresented among the respondents. The thoroughfare into which one turns from Perth’s airport towards the CBD is Brearley Avenue. Mike deserves at least a street: he’s the only English captain to win a Test here.

The West Australian Cricket Association Ground had a wild and woolly wicket that season - MCC bowled the home state out for 52 and 78 in the tour match – and England sported perhaps its best pace attack of the modern era: Willis, Botham, Hendrick, Lever. What England would do for any one of these bowlers now. Otherwise, the WACA has been an Australian playground, and its name evocative of pace, bounce, heat, light and, of course, wind – the Fremantle Doctor was to Dennis Lillee what the Sussex sea fret was to Maurice Tate.

The name WACA also conveys something else, referring to both association and ground. Owning its own ground has been both a blessing and imposition for the WACA. It has had a valuable asset against which to secure borrowings, and survived the Great Depression by flogging off the adjacent land for a trotting track. The challenges of providing for the arena’s upkeep now, however, are acute: the WACA looks, frankly, shabby. The fifty-year-old scoreboard is not ancient enough to be historic and not charming enough to be venerable; the twenty-year-old lights, like vertical concrete spatulas, are simply ugly; the temporary seating looks it. Yet nothing much savours of tradition here. A majestic new cast of Lillee, WA’s favourite son and now the chairman of the association, is to be unveiled on 22 December – but outside the MCG, rather than his home sod.

Fortunately, there is a big difference between an empty and a full cricket ground, and Western Australians seem determined to enjoy themselves. Perth has been declared ‘Cricket City’ for ten days including the Test – a tribute to Michael Hussey, no doubt. He, Justin Langer and Adam Gilchrist provide the local content for fans. If Australia win it will be the first time the Ashes have been regained on this ground, and Ricky Ponting may be due to have a whole suburb named for him.

Gideon Haigh is a cricket historian and writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • tic on December 18, 2006, 2:04 GMT

    Timothy, your comments on the Gabba are ridiculous. It is a modern coluseum yet it is not too large. At 42000 capacity, every seat is built over the game with great sight lines and atmosphere. So what if it is a multi purpose stadium - that makes its upgrade viable. And what do you call the MCG - its also a multi purpose stadium, but it is simply too big for cricket. Adelaide oval is pretty, but I don't care for the discomfort of sitting on grass in the baking sun - if I'm paying substantial money for a ticket, I want the comfort of my own seat and not shoe-horned into a grassy suburban hill. As for the WACA - a shambles and a poor reflection on WA, but there is no money to upgrade as it is not multi purpose - see the irony Timothy.

  • Dean on December 15, 2006, 1:20 GMT

    Hank, your obviously a Victorain? Sour grapes on the footy I think :)

  • Bo on December 14, 2006, 21:37 GMT

    I left WA in 1980, age 12, but my fondest memories are still of going to the WACA to watch a Sheffield Shield or Test match. Watching Lillee and Alderman open the bowling, invading the pitch at the end of the day in a mad rush for autographs, urging every Kim Hughes pull shot to the boundary - just the greatest stuff! I don't know what it looks like now (living in the US for 25 years), but I hate to think it has lost its charm. I have nothing to contribute to this debate, except Long Live the WACA!

  • Cat on December 14, 2006, 16:46 GMT

    Hank, you have to learn to spell little boy, it is the WACA. Yes, rest of Australia, break away, please. All of a sudden, I become VERY wealthy being from here, as 35% of the countries wealth comes from Western Australia. Oh, if it smells, the future of a prosperous part of the world makes it that way I guess. The local cricket team also would end up in the top 6 of the world, especially with lots of money to develop the sport!

  • Liam on December 14, 2006, 13:26 GMT

    Now if only the federal gov would give WA money they got from our economy we might be able to improve the ground. Then again I'd rather us develop into an Adelaide than an MCG, SCG or Gabba.

  • Timmy Z on December 14, 2006, 13:15 GMT

    As a perth cricket fan, I think the WACA has improved considerably with the recent upgrade but still needs more. We can't keep putting up these dodgy looking temporary stands every time we get a half decent crowd. A couple more decent permanent stands close to the action would complete the ground nicely. As for naming them, how about the Tim Zoehrer Stand and the Get Rid of Ian Healy Stand? That has a nice ring to it.

  • Don on December 14, 2006, 7:08 GMT

    Phil, the hill around 25-30 years back was absolutely the best place for cricket. I guess it changed a lot in the late 80s, but cricket viewing has also changed a lot. By the way - I wasn't a member back then. I guess some of the enjoyment has gone out of watching with the sort of crowds coming to the cricket (and I really am generalizing here, because most of the crowd at the SCG is great). It still doesn't change my feeling that cricket grounds should be more traditional and individual, instead of these concrete monsters that lack any feeling.

  • marcus on December 14, 2006, 5:15 GMT

    Mike, I'd love for there to be a Damien Martyn Stand, if only he hadn't retired just this minute! Maybe in 5 years or so. Other names they could use are the McKenzie Stand, the Alderman Stand or the Meuleman Stand.

    Hank, I'd be perfectly happy for W.A to secede, if only to show people like you that we carry this country. The Australian economy would be nothing without us, so how about a little gratitude?

  • marcus on December 13, 2006, 23:13 GMT

    Brett and Don

    I think that the WACA as it is now is 90 metres on all sides from the centre of the pitch. If you were to make that 80 metres, it would still be a large ground-one of the largest in the world, I'm sure- but it would also make us as the spectators closer to the action. As it is now, if you sit in even the first tier of the Prindiville Stand, you can't even recognise the players, which is absurd, as with the distance the stand is from the edge, you're effectively sitting 120-150 metres from the action. On top of this, by bringing in the stands to a slightly smaller area you could also increase the capacity of the ground.

    And for the record, I love going to the WACA. It is in the perfect location, it's a wonderful atmosphere, and the burgers there are the best I've ever tasted. It just needs a bit of an upgrade, that's all. Unfortunately Mark's right- we can't rely on the government in the meantime, either for upgrading the WACA or building a new stadium.

  • Phil on December 13, 2006, 22:27 GMT

    Don, fairly easy to say you miss the hill at the SCG when you're a member. You also long to return to the feel of a "family outing" - well the SCG hill is the last place you would want your family to sit. I'm also an SCG member, but I've sat on the hill once and it was a disgrace, although it was for a one-day game and test match crowds are better behaved.

  • tic on December 18, 2006, 2:04 GMT

    Timothy, your comments on the Gabba are ridiculous. It is a modern coluseum yet it is not too large. At 42000 capacity, every seat is built over the game with great sight lines and atmosphere. So what if it is a multi purpose stadium - that makes its upgrade viable. And what do you call the MCG - its also a multi purpose stadium, but it is simply too big for cricket. Adelaide oval is pretty, but I don't care for the discomfort of sitting on grass in the baking sun - if I'm paying substantial money for a ticket, I want the comfort of my own seat and not shoe-horned into a grassy suburban hill. As for the WACA - a shambles and a poor reflection on WA, but there is no money to upgrade as it is not multi purpose - see the irony Timothy.

  • Dean on December 15, 2006, 1:20 GMT

    Hank, your obviously a Victorain? Sour grapes on the footy I think :)

  • Bo on December 14, 2006, 21:37 GMT

    I left WA in 1980, age 12, but my fondest memories are still of going to the WACA to watch a Sheffield Shield or Test match. Watching Lillee and Alderman open the bowling, invading the pitch at the end of the day in a mad rush for autographs, urging every Kim Hughes pull shot to the boundary - just the greatest stuff! I don't know what it looks like now (living in the US for 25 years), but I hate to think it has lost its charm. I have nothing to contribute to this debate, except Long Live the WACA!

  • Cat on December 14, 2006, 16:46 GMT

    Hank, you have to learn to spell little boy, it is the WACA. Yes, rest of Australia, break away, please. All of a sudden, I become VERY wealthy being from here, as 35% of the countries wealth comes from Western Australia. Oh, if it smells, the future of a prosperous part of the world makes it that way I guess. The local cricket team also would end up in the top 6 of the world, especially with lots of money to develop the sport!

  • Liam on December 14, 2006, 13:26 GMT

    Now if only the federal gov would give WA money they got from our economy we might be able to improve the ground. Then again I'd rather us develop into an Adelaide than an MCG, SCG or Gabba.

  • Timmy Z on December 14, 2006, 13:15 GMT

    As a perth cricket fan, I think the WACA has improved considerably with the recent upgrade but still needs more. We can't keep putting up these dodgy looking temporary stands every time we get a half decent crowd. A couple more decent permanent stands close to the action would complete the ground nicely. As for naming them, how about the Tim Zoehrer Stand and the Get Rid of Ian Healy Stand? That has a nice ring to it.

  • Don on December 14, 2006, 7:08 GMT

    Phil, the hill around 25-30 years back was absolutely the best place for cricket. I guess it changed a lot in the late 80s, but cricket viewing has also changed a lot. By the way - I wasn't a member back then. I guess some of the enjoyment has gone out of watching with the sort of crowds coming to the cricket (and I really am generalizing here, because most of the crowd at the SCG is great). It still doesn't change my feeling that cricket grounds should be more traditional and individual, instead of these concrete monsters that lack any feeling.

  • marcus on December 14, 2006, 5:15 GMT

    Mike, I'd love for there to be a Damien Martyn Stand, if only he hadn't retired just this minute! Maybe in 5 years or so. Other names they could use are the McKenzie Stand, the Alderman Stand or the Meuleman Stand.

    Hank, I'd be perfectly happy for W.A to secede, if only to show people like you that we carry this country. The Australian economy would be nothing without us, so how about a little gratitude?

  • marcus on December 13, 2006, 23:13 GMT

    Brett and Don

    I think that the WACA as it is now is 90 metres on all sides from the centre of the pitch. If you were to make that 80 metres, it would still be a large ground-one of the largest in the world, I'm sure- but it would also make us as the spectators closer to the action. As it is now, if you sit in even the first tier of the Prindiville Stand, you can't even recognise the players, which is absurd, as with the distance the stand is from the edge, you're effectively sitting 120-150 metres from the action. On top of this, by bringing in the stands to a slightly smaller area you could also increase the capacity of the ground.

    And for the record, I love going to the WACA. It is in the perfect location, it's a wonderful atmosphere, and the burgers there are the best I've ever tasted. It just needs a bit of an upgrade, that's all. Unfortunately Mark's right- we can't rely on the government in the meantime, either for upgrading the WACA or building a new stadium.

  • Phil on December 13, 2006, 22:27 GMT

    Don, fairly easy to say you miss the hill at the SCG when you're a member. You also long to return to the feel of a "family outing" - well the SCG hill is the last place you would want your family to sit. I'm also an SCG member, but I've sat on the hill once and it was a disgrace, although it was for a one-day game and test match crowds are better behaved.

  • Sundhar Ram on December 13, 2006, 20:57 GMT

    I read that the pitch is not as fast as it used to be. Each ground has its own induviduality and by making Perth slower, we are robbing it of its!

  • Hank on December 13, 2006, 20:39 GMT

    I think the WACCA sums up W.A. perfectly. It's ugly, outdated, smells funny and should be excluded from the rest of the country.

  • pb on December 13, 2006, 15:36 GMT

    I think all countries should emulate Australia in having one ground like the Telstra. All major finals and deciders can be played there negating possible effects from weather and the neuveauo villian "DEW".

  • Cat on December 13, 2006, 15:02 GMT

    Seems a lot of knocking the WACA?? There are some quality stands at each end of the pitch for perfect viewing, the location to the city and Swan River are perfect and some of the copuntires great cricketers of the past 40 years have come from here.

    I stood in the middle last year with one one there, it was truly an amazing sight. Sure, it is not Lords, but it certainly is not the contrete monster of Trinidad, Calcutta or the MCG. Also, what about Leeds or the Oval??

  • Don on December 13, 2006, 13:16 GMT

    I join the sentiment that the WACA must regain its own character. It must become the fast, bouncy ground it used to be. A wild Thommo bouncer going for six, anyone? Making a ground smaller in these days of tiny, modern grounds is totally out. If anything, I would like the grounds a little larger, so boundaries are harder to hit, outfielding returns to being a real art, all-run fours (and fives) make a comeback and only real six-hitters can dream of clearing the ropes. Can you imagine Bell even thinking of going for a six in the days the MCG ropes were the advertising boards? I understand there is a problem with the clay content that made the WACA less bouncy - and obviously the long dry hasn't helped. However that must be solved. At the Champions Trophy they turned to glue to help the pitch along. I'm sure there are technical solutions to this problem. Australia needs fast tracks to keep churning real fast bowlers. We need variety, so the WACA tests are interesting not just for being the third test, but for being totally different from the SCG. Last comment - the SCG is by far the greatest ground in the world (and I'm not just saying that because I'm a member). However, I still miss the hill, and I would be happy returning to the days of a 30,000-35,000 capacity in a cricket ground, and to retain the feeling of a family outing - something that sadly missing today.

  • Mike on December 13, 2006, 12:56 GMT

    So Marcus, what about the Damien Martyn Stand? :p

  • Brett on December 13, 2006, 12:15 GMT

    Hey marcus Very Good! Just one thing. You can' be serious about decreasing the size of the outfield. It's the fastest outfield in Oz. I mean, can they cut the grass any shorter!

    Timothy The MCG is huge, no doubt. it is also the most unpleasant place to try and watch a days cricket in Australia. I've been to the last three test series in Melbourne since I moved here but gave up this year as I couldn't stand the thought of spending another five days at the 'G'. I watched a One dayer at Telstra Dome last year. It was cold & tinny but the view was GREAT!

  • Mark on December 13, 2006, 11:45 GMT

    It's a real shame that we don't have a world class ground considering its in the perfect location within Perth. Tearing it down and starting over would be a great option but the government is too tight-fisted to make it happen. We love our cricket over here.

  • Timothy on December 13, 2006, 10:46 GMT

    Unfortunately true Gideon…

    Australia has three truly great grounds: The quaint beauty of the Adelaide Oval, The sheer size and magnificence of the MCG, and the old and new of the SCG. Bellerive situated on the Derwent and exposed to the elements should also rate a mention.

    The GABBA and the WACCA are a complete nightmare. The GABBA has that horrid term ‘multi purpose venue’ written all over it, and the WACCA is like the old Datsun in which you are unsure whether or not to send to the mechanic one more time for an overhaul or finally salvage the thing for something better. The real shame about it is that Perth has such great things going for it as a cricket city: It’s the right size for the carnival atmosphere, it has a great aesthetic of natural features, plenty of good wineries around, and a unique climate. If only they could rip down the whole stadium (including the pitch) and just start again.

  • jibril on December 13, 2006, 9:12 GMT

    *sarcasm* Do you still think that England will fight back? */sarcasm*

  • marcus on December 13, 2006, 7:32 GMT

    Six steps towards making the WACA a world-class venue: 1. Decrease the size of the outfield by at least ten metres. 2. Demolish the Inverarity Stand. 3. Move the Prindiville Stand right up against the boundary, and re-name it the Kim Hughes Stand. 4. Build two new stands on either side of the K.H Stand; the new Inverarity Stand and the Tom Moody Stand. 5. Pave the grassy bank opposite the scoreboard and build a pavilion on it, so the effect is similar to the Chappell Stands at Adelaide. 6. Would it kill them to put a permanent screen next to the scoreboard? They've got the frame already up, just going to waste.

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  • marcus on December 13, 2006, 7:32 GMT

    Six steps towards making the WACA a world-class venue: 1. Decrease the size of the outfield by at least ten metres. 2. Demolish the Inverarity Stand. 3. Move the Prindiville Stand right up against the boundary, and re-name it the Kim Hughes Stand. 4. Build two new stands on either side of the K.H Stand; the new Inverarity Stand and the Tom Moody Stand. 5. Pave the grassy bank opposite the scoreboard and build a pavilion on it, so the effect is similar to the Chappell Stands at Adelaide. 6. Would it kill them to put a permanent screen next to the scoreboard? They've got the frame already up, just going to waste.

  • jibril on December 13, 2006, 9:12 GMT

    *sarcasm* Do you still think that England will fight back? */sarcasm*

  • Timothy on December 13, 2006, 10:46 GMT

    Unfortunately true Gideon…

    Australia has three truly great grounds: The quaint beauty of the Adelaide Oval, The sheer size and magnificence of the MCG, and the old and new of the SCG. Bellerive situated on the Derwent and exposed to the elements should also rate a mention.

    The GABBA and the WACCA are a complete nightmare. The GABBA has that horrid term ‘multi purpose venue’ written all over it, and the WACCA is like the old Datsun in which you are unsure whether or not to send to the mechanic one more time for an overhaul or finally salvage the thing for something better. The real shame about it is that Perth has such great things going for it as a cricket city: It’s the right size for the carnival atmosphere, it has a great aesthetic of natural features, plenty of good wineries around, and a unique climate. If only they could rip down the whole stadium (including the pitch) and just start again.

  • Mark on December 13, 2006, 11:45 GMT

    It's a real shame that we don't have a world class ground considering its in the perfect location within Perth. Tearing it down and starting over would be a great option but the government is too tight-fisted to make it happen. We love our cricket over here.

  • Brett on December 13, 2006, 12:15 GMT

    Hey marcus Very Good! Just one thing. You can' be serious about decreasing the size of the outfield. It's the fastest outfield in Oz. I mean, can they cut the grass any shorter!

    Timothy The MCG is huge, no doubt. it is also the most unpleasant place to try and watch a days cricket in Australia. I've been to the last three test series in Melbourne since I moved here but gave up this year as I couldn't stand the thought of spending another five days at the 'G'. I watched a One dayer at Telstra Dome last year. It was cold & tinny but the view was GREAT!

  • Mike on December 13, 2006, 12:56 GMT

    So Marcus, what about the Damien Martyn Stand? :p

  • Don on December 13, 2006, 13:16 GMT

    I join the sentiment that the WACA must regain its own character. It must become the fast, bouncy ground it used to be. A wild Thommo bouncer going for six, anyone? Making a ground smaller in these days of tiny, modern grounds is totally out. If anything, I would like the grounds a little larger, so boundaries are harder to hit, outfielding returns to being a real art, all-run fours (and fives) make a comeback and only real six-hitters can dream of clearing the ropes. Can you imagine Bell even thinking of going for a six in the days the MCG ropes were the advertising boards? I understand there is a problem with the clay content that made the WACA less bouncy - and obviously the long dry hasn't helped. However that must be solved. At the Champions Trophy they turned to glue to help the pitch along. I'm sure there are technical solutions to this problem. Australia needs fast tracks to keep churning real fast bowlers. We need variety, so the WACA tests are interesting not just for being the third test, but for being totally different from the SCG. Last comment - the SCG is by far the greatest ground in the world (and I'm not just saying that because I'm a member). However, I still miss the hill, and I would be happy returning to the days of a 30,000-35,000 capacity in a cricket ground, and to retain the feeling of a family outing - something that sadly missing today.

  • Cat on December 13, 2006, 15:02 GMT

    Seems a lot of knocking the WACA?? There are some quality stands at each end of the pitch for perfect viewing, the location to the city and Swan River are perfect and some of the copuntires great cricketers of the past 40 years have come from here.

    I stood in the middle last year with one one there, it was truly an amazing sight. Sure, it is not Lords, but it certainly is not the contrete monster of Trinidad, Calcutta or the MCG. Also, what about Leeds or the Oval??

  • pb on December 13, 2006, 15:36 GMT

    I think all countries should emulate Australia in having one ground like the Telstra. All major finals and deciders can be played there negating possible effects from weather and the neuveauo villian "DEW".

  • Hank on December 13, 2006, 20:39 GMT

    I think the WACCA sums up W.A. perfectly. It's ugly, outdated, smells funny and should be excluded from the rest of the country.