World Cup 2015 March 2, 2015

The World Cup Brisbane forgot

Arguably the best and most distinctive pitch in the country has played host to very few of the world's best players at a tournament purporting to show how vibrant cricket can be when played down under
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After years of setting the pace, Brisbane has now been superseded in a few senses by the more recent improvements in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and even Hobart's Bellerive Oval © Getty Images

So that's it, then. Not even halfway into the World Cup and it has seen the last of Brisbane and the Gabba. Three matches scheduled, one washed out, around 15,000 spectators in total and two tightly-contested matches in conditions that were quintessentially Australian. Like Gabba's habitual place as the first Test of summer, it was over quickly. Unlike the Test schedule, it had nothing like the usual importance.

Brisbane's allocation was the bare minimum that could be expected of such a storied ground, worse than that granted to the embattled WACA Ground, which is in some doubt of even hosting Test matches in future. It was also identical to the number of matches assigned to the Gabba in the 1992 tournament. The rained-off encounter between Australia and Bangladesh was a shame for those spectators who had bought tickets - a crowd of nearly 30,000 was anticipated - but it also summed up the damp squib that the ground was dealt. 

Brisbane's more prominent place in the scheme of the regular Australian cricket season is assured for largely the same reason that Test cricket has for so long been enshrined as the pinnacle of the global game - the players want it that way. Heaven help any Australian administrator who dares to tell the national captain, whoever he is, that the Gabba will not be allocated a Test match early in the home summer. 

It is a venue the players love for its local advantages of pace and bounce, and a place where the arch aggression of the Australian team in excelsis can be given full vent. Try imagining Michael Clarke telling James Anderson to "get ready for a broken f***ing arm" in Adelaide or Hobart? Not so easy is it.

But the World Cup is a different event, not scheduled directly by Cricket Australia in conjunction with the states. Rather the process was a more multi-layered exercise taking in the ICC, the tournament's local organising committee, CA, the state associations and governments both federal and state-based. It was an ordeal more involved than is typical for each ground, and the allocation of sought-after matches required plenty of lobbying.

This was where the Gabba fell back in the order of preference. Whereas Melbourne and Sydney held obvious advantages in terms of population and centrality, Adelaide and the South Australian government pushed hard and at some length for a big ticket pool match - India versus Pakistan - and a place in the knockout round. By contrast, the austerity of the now departed Campbell Newman-led LNP government in Queensland left very little room for the Gabba to spruik its wares. It is believed that haggling went down even to issues like who would pay for the ground's security detail and catering, with a fledgling and budget conscious government showing very little interest in using the tournament to showcase their state's virtues.

There was perhaps also an element of complacency about things. Brisbane was the first venue outside Sydney and Melbourne to accede to major upgrade work in the mid-1990s. Driven largely by the move of the Brisbane Bears (now Lions) AFL club to the Gabba, this turned the ground into the most advanced stadium hosting Australian cricket matches 15 years ago, and at the head of the queue for most scheduling scraps left over after Melbourne and Sydney had taken the major share.

Other grounds around Australia were actually ushered towards their own upgrades by Brisbane's example. Adelaide Oval's change from a picturesque cricket ground into a gargantuan stadium with lights and a drop-in pitch can be traced largely to the fact that the Gabba's growth had begun to threaten the SACA's rights to the matches it expected. After years of setting the pace, Brisbane has now been superseded in a few senses, with the potpourri seats, press facilities and stadium amenities all starting to feel just a little dated next to more recent improvements in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and even Hobart's Bellerive Oval.

So when the World Cup schedule was announced in mid-2013, Brisbane lost out largely to Adelaide. This apparently came as quite a shock to the state government, even if little had been done to ensure the Gabba's primacy. The greatest pity of it all is not that Adelaide Oval has been allowed two showpiece days to Brisbane's zero, but that arguably the best and most distinctive pitch in the country has played host to very few of the world's best players at a tournament purporting to show how vibrant cricket can be when played down under.

Instead, five of the Cup's seven knockout matches are destined to be played on drop-in pitches both here and in New Zealand, a stark illustration that the preferences of the players come a distant second to commercial and corporate expedience when a global event is being knitted together. To watch Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz revel in the bounce and zip they could extract from the Gabba was to wish that all parties concerned had taken the liberty of thinking a little more about which venues were likely to produce vibrant cricket as well as fat revenues.

There has since been plenty of hand-wringing in Brisbane over the bidding - or lack thereof - for World Cup matches, and a far more concerted effort from the new Labor government is expected to pursue the next major trinket being handed out by CA, namely a historic day/night Test against the resurgent New Zealand in the first half of the 2015-16 summer. That contest will again be supported by the Gabba's greatest virtue, the 22 yards at its centre, and the national team's strong attachment to it.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Greg on March 4, 2015, 21:39 GMT

    Too much cricket, too little meteorology. The fact that Australia v Bangladesh was rained off is much more significant than you allow. A couple of years ago at this time of year Brisbane was under water. They give Brisbane the first Test of the season because the weather is more reliable then (though we can all remember some great storms), but at this time of year you just can't risk playing too many games in the eye of a cyclone.

  • Isiah on March 3, 2015, 21:25 GMT

    @TWENTY20SUCKS: the only games India playing at the WACA are against U.A.E and West Indies who got thrashed by Ireland and South Africa. You seriously think they would put a fight to India on any ground in the world? As for MCG, if you look at the commentary and expert opinion from the pool matches that are played there so far, you'd hear the pitch is extremely flat and almost a sub-continent like track. Reliance mobile and the MRF Tyres are indian based companies. Would they and or BCCI want india to be bundled out for 160-170 against a quality bowling attack at the Gabba or Waca? I dont think so. Same goes for New Zealand, india only playing minnows in NZ where the pitches seem to have far more seam and swing for the bowlers than Oz.

  • Xiong on March 3, 2015, 14:51 GMT

    I can live with the WACA and Gabba getting shunted a little bit because it makes sense commercially and I can imagine certain boards having some influence on avoiding those 2 venues. What I really don't like is how overused Manuka oval is. It's the home of the worst pitch in Australia and is getting tons of games from world cup matches to the BBL final for absolutely no reason. It isn't a hub for... well, any sport. It has no history. It's not pretty. It doesn't even seat a lot of people. I really don't see any legitimate reason for Manuka to get as much action as it does. It's a garbage ground that looks perfect for local amateur/semi professional sports, not international professional events.

  • muhammad on March 3, 2015, 13:07 GMT

    Utterly bizarre!!! I was not happy watching teams scoring 320s in the beginning BUT it's even stretched to 400+ now. Why cricket organizers want bowlers to go on strike one day??? I miss the ODIs of team batting first putting 250 on board and teams batting second needing 75 of last 10 overs.

    Never thought that a WC in Australia would be on complete batting friendly tracks. Time to change channel...

  • Rama on March 3, 2015, 12:15 GMT

    @Isiahbilly: if the scheduling of the matches was per India's strengths and weaknesses, India would not have been given two games at the WACA. Now, India's marquee games have been scheduled mostly on holidays, but that is probably the advertisers' influence speaking. Also, the MCG pitch that India played SA on was hardly a subcontinental pitch. It had tennis ball bounce (no Indian pitch; let me repeat, no Indian pitch has tennis ball bounce); conditions were fair for both teams.

  • Dummy4 on March 3, 2015, 12:11 GMT

    Now in the world of crass commercialisation, cricket cannot escape this phenomenon. It's obvious that the World Cup games are being held in stadiums where runs flow in torrent and that way you can keep the spectators in good humor. Large Gate collection is guaranteed. So, it is no wonder this bug has crept into Australia and so CA preferred Adelaide, SCG,MCG and even Manukkuva Oval, Canberra over to Gabba & WACA grounds where the pitches may sometimes play truant. And ICC is already shrouded in mystery about who are all wielding the powers of the game and BCCI would have flexed its muscles to allot the games in friendly and lively pitches rather than bouncy and green top pitches.

  • Mitch on March 3, 2015, 6:57 GMT

    Yes, quite embarrassing ! No matches in our world class statium's. Moreover I could not see the traditional Aus pitches throughout this summer!! MCG was a shock, geez ! It's almost all flat decks except Gabba and WACA. Hope it should change to our traditional fast pitches in knock outs !

  • naresh on March 3, 2015, 6:51 GMT

    what is happened to ca. don't know why they are try to give Manuka Oval, Canberra than the gabba. Manuka Oval, Canberra pitch is dead nothing in it for the bowlers once you won the toss u will won the match its not good for the world cup

  • Dummy4 on March 3, 2015, 6:40 GMT

    Well I don't why MCG and SCG have to host a quarterfinal each and a semiinal for SCG and the final for MCG.The Gabba and WACA should have hosted a Quareterfinal each.

  • Isiah on March 3, 2015, 5:57 GMT

    Gabba and WACA have largely been ignore because it represents the quintessential Australian pitches with pace and bounce. I believe ICC and BCCI for the large part wanted sub-continental like pitches for India to advance thru to the next levels. Without India going thru to the later stages, this world cup will be a dud like 2007. The only seaming and difficult pitches seems to be in NZ where India doesn't want to play thus they only play against weaker teams there.

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