Cairns, Darwin to become first cities outside capitals to host Test cricket
Darwin and Cairns will become the first Australian cities outside the nation's capitals to host Test matches after the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) today announced that Test and one-day international cricket will be played in Northern Australia during the winter of 2003.
ACB Chief Executive Officer, James Sutherland, said with the backing of the Northern Territory Government and the Cairns City Council the ACB had scheduled the Australia versus Bangladesh series for Darwin and Cairns between July and August 2003, subject to the final approval of the stadia by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
"With the international cricketing calendar becoming increasingly congested, the ACB has been searching for suitable facilities in Northern Australia," said Mr Sutherland.
"Marrara Oval in Darwin and Bundaberg Rum Stadium in Cairns were identified and with the works that are now committed to bring these grounds up to international standard the ACB is confident that they will meet ICC specifications."
The Northern Territory Government recently announced a multi-million dollar upgrade of Marrara Oval, while the Cairns City Council and the Cairns Australian Football League (Cairns AFL) are committed to the minor works identified by the ICC in order to bring the venue up to the required standard.
Northern Territory Chief Minister, Clare Martin, welcomed today's announcement.
"I am delighted international cricket is coming to the Northern Territory," said Ms Martin.
"Territorians love their sport and they will flock to see their cricket heroes perform on the local stage.
"This Government has worked tirelessly to secure this announcement and the upgrades to Marrara Oval.
"It is vital for us to encourage our young people to reap the benefits of a healthy, sporting lifestyle and the chance to see international cricket will help inspire them to participate in organised sport.
"It is also a vital ongoing opportunity to promote the unique appeal of the Northern Territory to the rest of Australia and the world.
"I congratulate and thank the ACB, my Sport and Recreation Minister John Ah Kit, local sports officials and everyone who helped make this a reality."
Cairns Mayor, Cr Kevin Byrne, was also enthusiastic about the decision.
"We welcome the decision of the Australian Cricket Board to bring Test cricket to regional Australia. I also wish to acknowledge the hard work and effort put in by the AFL organisation in Cairns, particularly Jeff Hopgood. His leadership and dynamic approach has been an inspiration to everyone," said Cr Byrne.
"In addition, the Cairns Cricket Association has been working hard to bring this result to fruition.
"The Cairns City Council has been involved since the advent of initial discussions that have resulted in today's decision. We will continue in that partnership role, to ensure the long term success of international cricket."
The matches are expected to inject $12 million into the local economies and will promote Cairns and Darwin widely through the telecast of the games both nationally and internationally.
Australian Test captain, Stephen Waugh, also welcomed the opportunity to take the Australian team to Northern Australia.
"To get the chance to play top level cricket in Darwin and Cairns is terrific. The team hasn't played in this part of the country before and it will be a great opportunity to take cricket up to Northern Australia where I know there is a lot of support for the Australian team," Waugh said.
In announcing the program, Mr Sutherland also confirmed that the ACB was looking to schedule more international cricket in Northern Australia beyond next year.
"Clearly with these two venues becoming available, the ACB will be looking to use them in the future," said Mr Sutherland.
"There are emerging opportunities over the coming years for both international cricket and matches involving Australia A to be programmed in these areas, but it is premature to confirm teams and dates beyond next year."
He also highlighted the willingness of the governments, the work of the Cairns Cricket Club, the Northern Territory Cricket Association, Queensland Cricket (QC), Cairns AFL and Events Cairns in securing international cricket for the area.
"When the ACB started investigating this issue it was immediately apparent that it would require the support of a number of people and organisations in both Cairns and Darwin to make this happen," said Mr Sutherland.
"Without the hard work of the cricket people in these cities and the efforts of governments and facilities owners to invest in their own assets this simply would not have been possible."
Exact dates are still to be finalised but the ACB confirmed that Darwin's Marrara Oval will host the First Test in early to mid-July before the teams move to Cairns for the Second Test and the first two one-day internationals in late July and early August. Both these games will be day/night fixtures.
The one-day international series will then return to Darwin for the final match, which will be a day game.
The up-grade at Marrara will see the ground resurfaced and the lighting, sight screens and scoreboards improved. A portable drop-in pitch will be prepared by Melbourne Cricket Club Arenas Manager, Tony Ware.
Bundaberg Rum Stadium will benefit from upgraded lighting, car parking, ticketing facilities, new seating areas and the installation of practice wickets.
Chief Executive of QC, Mr Graham Dixon, said that in addition to the facility in Cairns, QC and the State Government's Major Sports Facility Authority would make available the expertise of the curator of The Gabba, Kevin Mitchell Jnr, and QC's own curator, Ross Harris.
"Providing a suitable playing strip will be critical and in Kevin and Ross we have two of the best curators in Australia. Both of them will be made available to work with the ground staff in Cairns to produce a wicket that will stand up to the rigours of international cricket," said Mr Dixon.
It will be the first time international cricket has been played at Marrara Oval while Bundaberg Rum Stadium has hosted tour matches and state games, as well as Super 8s cricket.
In addition to the economic and promotional benefits international cricket will provide to Cairns and Darwin, having facilities in Northern Australia will provide a number of strategic advantages to Australian cricket, including:
- encouraging the growth of the national game by taking the Australian team to new areas;
- providing access to new audiences to view cricket live;
- ensuring Australia fulfills its commitment to play all other Test countries in a full series at least once home and away every five years;
- allowing Australia's traditional rivals England, India, South Africa and the West Indies to continue to tour on the current four year cycle; and
- helping manage the heavy workload on players by not overloading an already tight summer schedule.