March 2, 2015

Inside the WACA scoreboard

It might be cramped, it might get hot in it, but it's part of the legend of the storied old ground

Old-world wonder © Getty Images

The WACA has been spruced up for the World Cup, including a new media box, but it still retains a certain old-world charm. The bare concrete stands take you back decades. A couple of reasonably big grass banks give the ground an open feel. And there is the old scoreboard, right behind one of the grass mounds.

It is famous for displaying the Western Australia all-time XI when there is no match happening. This is a team that does not have Adam Gilchrist; Stephen Hall, the ground's museum co-ordinator, says that is only because the list has not been updated since around 2000.

The scoreboard, built in 1954 at a cost of around £7000, belongs to the 20th century too. The Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts spent some time inside it on the group's last visit to Perth in 2014. There is also a board displaying Matthew Hayden's signature after he made the then-highest Test score of 380 at the ground in 2003. Hall says that locals Rod Marsh and Justin Langer would often come up to get a feel of how the scorers went about their business.

It is a climb of about 35 steps on a metal staircase to the first level. There are two more, up 15 wooden steps each. The floorboards squeak if you have a slightly heavy step. The structure was shifted in the late 1980s to its present location and the dressing rooms came up in its old place.

Around eight or nine people function in the scoreboard on match days, and Hall says that number can go up to 12. All they have as far as comforts go is a long, rickety table to keep food on, a refrigerator, and a few fans. There is just about enough space for a small portable toilet when needed. In the past, scorers even managed to catch some sleep in that claustrophobic environment.

The hot and dry weather of Perth makes the scoreboard a cauldron to sit in. Hall says there is so much opening and closing of the display boards on match days that air conditioning will not work (also going by the experience of fellow scorers at Adelaide Oval).

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The top level gets the most uncomfortable, which is why the names of the front-line bowlers are usually displayed at the bottom to facilitate easier operation. So if a non-regular bowler is having a productive day, you've had it. Hall talks about a Shield game in which Marcus North took five wickets pretty quickly and a man had to hurry up to the top level with his nameplate and stand there sweltering through the spell.

The nameplates are made of metal, have sharp edges and get hot as well. They also weigh about a couple of kilos each. They do different coloured ones for each team here, and all the painting needed to make an XI takes three hours. Gilchrist and Michael Hussey were given plates with their names on them when they retired. Sometimes players wonder what to do with them, Hall says, but it is a bit of a tradition they have here. It is the scoreboard at the WACA after all.

Abhishek Purohit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo