The Ashes 2013-14, 2nd Test, Adelaide

Adelaide Oval's mixed future

For so many years a cricket ground, the home of Bradman, Chappell and Hookes has become a stadium after $500m redevelopment

Daniel Brettig in Adelaide

December 1, 2013

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Work continues on the pedestrian bridge over the River Torrens, Adelaide Oval, November 2, 2013
The rocky road to Adelaide Oval: work continues on the pedestrian bridge over the River Torrens © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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From the right seats, at the right angle, St Peter's Cathedral is still visible beyond the Moreton Bay Figs. Once in plain sight to all, that evocative spire can no longer be seen by the vast majority of the thousands who will descend this week upon Adelaide Oval. For so many years a cricket ground, the home of Bradman, Chappell and Hookes has become a stadium.

A redevelopment to cater for football cost more than A$500m (US$456m) in government funding and has almost completely recast Adelaide's previously genteel ambience. Cathedral views have been obscured by a temple at which the denizens of many sports - and lovers of stadium rock shows - will henceforth indulge in their rowdier forms of worship.

As Ricky Ponting put it, "cricket is just a small part of what these entertainment complexes have to offer", and Ashes visitors will duly be greeted by the sight of construction work timed to be complete by the start of the 2014 AFL season. The southern stand is more or less complete and will play host to the annual Test match dinner, while spectators will be catered for in the bottom tier of the eastern structure. Over the River Torrens, the not-quite-complete pedestrian bridge will be opened for partial use on Thursday morning.

The green mounds that once accommodated the majority of Adelaide's crowds have now been reduced to a single strip across the back of the northern end, leaving the venerable scoreboard as a final link to the past. While the source of information on tallies of runs and wickets remains unchanged, it will be the only familiar sensation to greet players in the middle, for even the ground beneath their feet has been vigorously overturned.

Nothing symbolises the marriage of convenience between cricket, football and state government desires for a vibrant all-year precinct on the banks of the River Torrens quite like the arrival of drop-in pitches, an AFL stipulation that overruled years of the two games co-existing at the ground. Straw-coloured and set to dry further before the match begins on Thursday morning, it is a variable that not even the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA) custodians can be entirely sure of.

Rolling Stones to Shield final in three easy steps

  • On the day South Australia leapt to the top of the Sheffield Shield table with an outright victory over Victoria at the MCG, the SACA chief executive Keith Bradshaw revealed the ground can still accommodate the final despite hosting both the Rolling Stones and an AFL fixture only days before.
  • The performance of the ageing English rock band - among whom their frontman Mick Jagger is a noted cricket follower - has been billed as a celebration of the new AFL-friendly ground, but Bradshaw said he wanted to prove the game had not been entirely shunted from the front rank itself.
  • "We can still play the Shield final. I've had chats with Cricket Australia about that," he said. "The Stones will come in, play their concert, we bump out the stage, we bump out all the infrastructure for them, then we play the first Showdown [between Adelaide and Port Adelaide].
  • "We can then bump out one of the football trays, bring in a pitch, take down the goalposts, play a game of cricket, then get it in and play footy the next weekend. It's a logistical challenge I would love to have and I'm feeling quite positive about the way the Redbacks are performing at the moment … I'm really optimistic that will happen."

"It'll be very interesting to see how the pitch deteriorates over the five days," Keith Bradshaw, the SACA chief executive, told ESPNcricinfo. "The first two matches it probably hasn't deteriorated quite to the level it has in the past. The second game it did break up a little more than the first. I think [curator] Damian Hough is becoming more familiar now with what he's dealing with. I'd expect to see a traditional Adelaide pitch for this Test match.

"There's been a huge effort made to ensure that we maintained the character of the way the game's played and has always been played at Adelaide Oval, and in terms of the surface that we're playing on we had a few issues when it was re-laid but we've overcome that now. You can have the best facilities and stands and hospitality in the world, but if the surface isn't world-class as well, then the quality of the product is compromised, so that's a very important part of what we've done."

Bradshaw knows a thing or two about marrying past, present and future, having been a popular and visionary overseer of Lord's during his time as chief executive of the MCC. He arrived at the SACA after the decision to redevelop it for wider use had been reached, but has watched approvingly as the stands have risen up in a manner he thinks has retained as much character as possible.

"Part of the beauty of Adelaide Oval is the design has kept the ambience of what it meant to come here to watch cricket," he said. "Now it is catered for football as well, but the fact you have that northern mound, the historic scoreboard, the Moreton Bay figs, the Cathedral in the background and the stands themselves as individual stands, that adds to the character of the ground.

"The facilities are second to none in the world I believe. There is an aura about what's being implemented, and we need to recognise too that no ground can stay still. It will really form quite a cathedral feeling, while the structures are a lot larger there is still a degree of intimacy, which I think is really important."

Irrespective of the aura created by the construction of the new stands and the uncertainty brought by the early days of the drop-in pitch, it is ultimately the cricketers themselves who will build Adelaide's new reputation. The manner of their play will have an impact, but so too the plain-spoken words they will utter about the way the stadium has been put together.

George Bailey has made plenty of runs in Adelaide for Tasmania down the years, and he spoke enthusiastically of his first experience training in the middle of a ground now ringed with stands where once it had been garlanded with mounds, terraces and marquees. But he had one wry objection. "Those red seats behind the bowler's arm," Bailey quipped. "Whoever's come up with that is a genius. I'm sure it'll be good for the Adelaide Crows…"

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

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Posted by   on (December 3, 2013, 22:58 GMT)

@JimDavis, have you looked at the Shield ladder in the last couple of days? The Redbacks are sitting SECOND - second to TOP, not bottom! They're only 2 points behind NSW so they are more than just a mathematical chance of finishing first. Credit where credit is due, the Redbacks aren't the basket case of the past. The AFL has much less control over AO than over the MCG and with only one game per weekend at the ground there is definately a possibility of playing the shield final - 8 hours to drop in and remove the pitch, and 5 days play fits neatly into the 7-day window they'll have. This is a multi-purpose venue after all.

Posted by JimDavis on (December 3, 2013, 18:13 GMT)

@GregHowe. You left out the biggest and most obvious problem with Keith Bradshaw's plan for the Shield Final at the Adelaide Football Stadium. SA needs to finish on top of the Shield table first and that just isn't going to happen.

Posted by anton1234 on (December 3, 2013, 12:28 GMT)

Chechong0114,

What are you talking about? Most Australians care deeply about the ongoing Ashes series. In England during the Ashes (the UK Ashes series just gone) we had big TV, radio, web traffic from the UK around that series. Lot of people do care both in the UK and especially in Australia, where cricket is probably the only truly national sport.

Posted by Cyril_Knight on (December 3, 2013, 10:14 GMT)

It's down to the fans to ensure that the character of the ground remains. Lord's has managed this, despite the massive redevelopments that have taken place there, as has the MCG. Buildings don't speak and sing and drink, the people provide the history and the unique atmospheres found at every single ground. Adelaide can still be a special place for cricket, the new facilities look superb. But if the increased capacity changes the type of people who attend (more corporate etc) then the specialness could be lost.

Posted by Front-Foot-Clunge on (December 3, 2013, 8:30 GMT)

Hmmm, this worries me a little. The AFL & CA have an interesting relationship over the MCG - so much so that the AFL suggested in recent times that if Victoria topped the Shield, perhaps they would like to play the final at Punt Road so as not to eat into preparation for the AFL season! Maybe it won't be a huge issue...it doesn't seem to cause any issues in Sydney or Brisbane (although they are moreso rugby cities), and Adelaide Oval doesn't have that special place in the heart of AFL fans like the MCG. I'm sure I had a point, but I seem to have talked myself out of it. Er, carry on!

Posted by GregHowe on (December 3, 2013, 5:58 GMT)

There are two problems with Keith Bradshaw's plan for the Shield Final at the Adelaide Football Stadium (formerly Adelaide Oval). The first is that the Shield Final is programmed to run between 21-25 March, and the Rolling Stones concert is on 22 March! So unless CA agree to postpone the Final - and how could they, probably not knowing until the last day of the season who will host it - this is impossible. The other problem (and this will be the case in future years of course) is that pursuant to the ground sharing agreement cricket's occupancy of the Stadium concludes absolutely on 15 March every year, and the Shield Final is played toward the end of March. So for this grand plan to have any chance of coming to pass, either this season or in future years, it would require the football interests to surrender control of the ground for the five days of the final (plus a few days either side to get the drop-in pitch back into the ground and then out again). Good luck with that!

Posted by valvolux on (December 3, 2013, 5:57 GMT)

Fact is its difficult for these grounds to survive unless they serve multiple sports. Dam Adelaide looks ugly now, but it had to happen. The drop in pitches dont always mean dull batting fests, the MCG has been kind to bowlers at times on drop ins. The biggest concern for me is the WACA - it bleeds money which is such a shame because its pace and bounce is iconic for Australian cricket. There was a day when waca members were treated to afl, rugby, soccer and baseball all in the one season. Now its just cricket and they just can't make a buck. The cost of a membership has gone through the roof and for ashes series, you have to lineup at 5am every morning to get a seat that spends half the day in the 45 degree sun. Next year we dont even get a test. When the new Perth stadium is finished the waca is history - Perth stadium will get the drop in pitches and oz loses a massive advantage.

Posted by chicko1983 on (December 3, 2013, 5:11 GMT)

@RandyOZ: are you from Radelaide too? Awesome!

Posted by LoungeChairCritic on (December 3, 2013, 4:40 GMT)

The redeveloped stadium is great for Adelaide and all South Australians. It will change the face of the city. From March to September there will be between 30,000 to 55,000 people weekly attending either a Crows or Port game. If you are going to get 500 million of federal government money to redevelop a stadium you can't just rely on the income derived from cricket. Essentially cricket fans will be riding the juggernaut of the AFL. A redeveloped Adelaide Oval represents a win for all the parties concerned. As a proud West Australian, it is only a matter of time before you will watch an Ashes Test at the proposed Burswood Stadium (60,000 stadium with capacity to go to 70,000). Although it will be sad not to play on the WACA due to its unique characteristic, the game in the West needs to remain relevant to the general public. The sporting landscape like in most places in Australia is extremely competitive.

Posted by Meety on (December 3, 2013, 1:27 GMT)

Proof is in the pudding, if the pitch is dull, cricket in Oz will be poorer for it. The decision was made by a majority of members, so they'll get what they asked for. On the other hand - if they get pitch right, then the potential for Adelaide to host bigger cricket matches is increased. That however, does come with an aesthetic cost that is incalculatable!

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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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