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The WACA’s future and the difficulty of playing Test cricket in Perth

The WACA's future and the difficulty of playing Test cricket in Perth

Charlie Watts, a renowned cricket aficionado and former Rolling Stones drummer, followed the well-traveled paths of numerous tourists in Perth while the band was on tour in Australia. He posed for a photograph in front of the WACA stadium.

It’s been a while since I’ve been this excited about a book.

The rather humorous incident highlights the widespread awe of the WACA, the legendary cricket venue known for its fast and bouncy field that has evoked some of the game’s most intense images.

The moniker, according to Matthews, is what makes the place special and well-known worldwide. “The name and what’s transpired out in the middle are indescribable. Those are the items that need to be safeguarded.
Several spectators and members of the international media went across the Matagarup Bridge, which connects East Perth’s WACA to the gleaming 60,000-seat Optus Stadium, during the most recent Men’s T20 World Cup.

What they witnessed was an outdated pitch undergoing a massive overhaul with the legendary Prindiville Stand destroyed and the grass banks under the historic scoreboard now resembling a building site.

The WACA will undergo a transformation into a multi-sport community facility with a public pool, playground, and café as well as 10,000–15,000 event seats.

The project’s original budget of AU$115 million has now been exceeded because of rising construction expenses brought on by the Covid-19 outbreak and the current crisis in Ukraine.

According to Matthews, $32 million is still required. The money is hoped to come from the Western Australian government’s budget, which will be announced in May.

If all goes to plan, the redevelopment will be completed by the backend of 2025 – one year after the projected timeline.
“I have a good feeling that we’ll succeed. We just need to reassess it if we don’t,” Matthews added. “It would be a true community destination with first-class cricket as its base.”

Even though parts of the ground are an eyesore, the WACA has continued to host men’s and women’s domestic cricket while several matches of the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup were played there.

However, the WACA has not hosted the Big Bash League or men’s international cricket matches since 2017–18, and it is unclear whether Test cricket will resume there.

According to Matthews, higher-profile Test matches involving England, India, New Zealand, South Africa, and possibly Pakistan will likely be held at Optus Stadium on a regular basis, with other matches scheduled for the renovated WACA.

However, Perth has had trouble securing a recurring date in the schedule because since 1997, tests have been played every month from October to February.

We think that if we were allowed more discretion in how the Test was conducted, Cricket Australia would likely benefit more. That doesn’t mean we act erratically, but it does imply that it becomes part of the way we plan.
Jennifer Matthews
It is in contrast to other large cities that have developed traditions around their Tests in order to establish continuity and attract spectators.

Three Test matches have “huge stakes in the ground,” according to Matthews: Sydney’s New Year’s and Jane McGrath Day, Melbourne’s Boxing Day, and Adelaide’s first-choice day-night match. Despite the fact that Brisbane frequently kicks off the Test summer, “Brisbane and ourselves kind of simply float.

“We want our Test to have a little more security. Is there anything we can do to let Perth residents know they will be attending something other than a cricket game? What stands for our Test?

Matthews thought that the ideal time for a Perth Test match would be in the middle of December, and WA Cricket is seeking to host Pakistan at that time next summer.

We firmly believe that the Test match taking place prior to Christmas is perfect for us, she added. “Given the travel [to Perth] from England and other places…and then over to the east coast for Christmas Day and New Year’s [Tests], it’s practical,” the author writes.

When your test is scheduled for somewhere in December before Boxing Day, folks will know when it is.

The first Test between Australia and the West Indies, which was played at Optus Stadium in late November or early December, drew just a hair over 40,000 spectators.
Several factors contributed to the disappointing attendance for Perth’s first Test match since 2019—among them, what seemed to be a dearth of marketing before the summer’s first Test.

Except when Cricket Australia asks us for help in implementing something, we have nothing to do with the Test outside of our membership base, according to Matthews.

“We think that if we were given greater discretion in how the Test was conducted, we could possibly provide a better outcome for Cricket Australia. That doesn’t mean we fall off the rails, but it does mean that it becomes a part of how we plan.

“Every year, a pretty generic national marketing campaign is run. We believe Perth needs a concrete example of why people should attend an international cricket match.

After a demanding period marked by a wave of board resignations and anger coming from a number of WA icons, Matthews missed the Test match while on a month-long leave.

The board will shortly receive the conclusions of an outside investigation into the resignations, which also included former Test players Graeme Wood and Mike Veletta.

A plan to create monuments of women’s sports pioneer Zoe Goss, famed fast Dennis Lillee, and an Aboriginal cricket team from the nineteenth century also caused controversy last year.

Without a question, the “old guard,” as you may refer to them, would prefer things be done differently. What do they want different and how do they want it done, is the question. stated Matthews. “I can’t think of any area where we aren’t doing exceptionally well. This year, we maintained a 90% member retention rate. That proves that people support what we’re doing rather than being opposed to it.

Without a doubt, the elder demographic has been the source of the commotion during the past six months. Yet that is not the consensus.

From 1984 to 1995, Matthews, who played in 20 Tests and 47 ODIs, aspired to increase the proportion of female members in WA Cricket.

The model of purchasing a membership and a guest card, she claimed, is the reason why we have a low proportion of female members. “In the past, males purchased memberships, and women used the visitor pass.
“I believe that getting more ladies to commit to being members, as opposed to guests of members, is a problem for us. We want non-traditionalists as well as traditionalists to attend the cricket.

In a position she has maintained for more than ten years, Matthews planned to keep up her opposition to her detractors.

We’re still working to incorporate the development, so it would be neglectful of me to move on, she said. “We’re hoping to have this ground seen across the world as a contemporary facility and keep it as a particularly important part of the WACA’s heritage.”

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