Australian Turnstiles – January 8, 2018
MCG Ashes Cricket Test Match Pitch Rated as Poor
The pitch for the Boxing Day Test between Australia and England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) has officially been rated as “poor,” unprecedented for stadiums in Australia. The match referee submitted the rating to the International Cricket Council (ICC) after the match, which ended in a draw.
The characteristics and condition of the pitch have a huge impact on the game of cricket. The pitch itself is the central strip located in the centre of the ground between the wickets. It’s approximately 22 yards long and 10 feet wide, and consists of very short grass rolled flat. Most importantly, the pitch must provide even and consistent bounce, otherwise it can be overly dangerous for batters.
That aside, pitches tend to vary around the world, and sometimes even within countries. Generally Australian and South African pitches are faster and bouncier, with the WACA in Perth considered the fastest pitch in the world. Humid conditions and greener pitches found in England and New Zealand assist fast bowlers to swing the ball. Pitches on the sub-continent (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh) are most commonly dry and dusty, suiting the slow bowlers who spin the ball. The West Indies produce balanced pitches, often dry but with good bounce. While this may seem strange, it adds variety and challenges players to adapt to different conditions around the world.
In this case, the MCG pitch was heavily criticised by players and commentators alike for being slow and flat, and for maintaining those same characteristics throughout the five days of the test. Pitches are rated as sub-par if they fail to provide for an even contest between bat and ball; in this instance, the MCG offered no assistance to either fast or spin bowlers yet because it was slow, also inhibited batting. Good test match pitches in Australia will suit fast bowlers initially, batters through the middle of the game, and then will slowly deteriorate to help the spin bowlers towards the end of the game.
The ICC has recently introduced a points system that can see stadiums effectively suspended from hosting international cricket if they continually provide unsuitable pitches. Pitches rated as below average, poor, or unfit attract demerit points. The poor rating is embarrassing for the MCG, the largest stadium in the country, and effectively the home of cricket in Australia.
Despite this, crowds have been huge across the five-test series, with the final match at the SCG in Sydney taking the aggregate attendance up towards 800,000. Total cricket attendance across the summer is expected to pass 2 million for the first time.
Auckland Stadiums Continue to Shine
In a piece for influential industry magazine, “Australasian Leisure Management,” Auckland Stadiums boss, Paul Nisbet, has outlined the success of the New Zealand city’s stadium network, particularly in staging concerts. Nisbet explained that Mt Smart Stadium is the busiest stadium for concerts in Australasia, and would rank in the top 20 worldwide. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, and is located on the North Island. In addition to Mt Smart Stadium which is the home of rugby league in New Zealand (including the Warriors NRL team who are committed until 2028), Auckland Council also manages QBE Stadium and Western Springs Stadium.
Auckland Stadiums have plans to further develop Western Springs to better cater for international cricket and AFL, and have also had talks with Baseball New Zealand regarding their venue needs that come with their possible inclusion in an expanded Australian Baseball League (ABL). The largest stadium in New Zealand, Eden Park, is also located in Auckland but is managed by a separate body.
Record Crowd for Big Bash Cricket in Geelong
The regional city of Geelong has pushed its claim for a Big Bash franchise when the league decides to expand, with a record crowd attending the double header between both men’s and women’s matches between the Melbourne Renegades and Sydney Sixers. The Renegades moved the matches from their usual home at Etihad Stadium an hour down the freeway to GMHBA Stadium in Geelong. The stadium is the main ground for Geelong Cats AFL club, and has undergone a significant staged redevelopment over the past few years with a current capacity of 34,000. Melbourne Victory have played the occasional A-League game there, and Australia and Sri Lanka did battle in a T20 cricket international last summer. However, the Renegades drew a crowd of 23,000 – the largest ever non-AFL attendance in Geelong. Geelong is hopeful this will push their claims for a team of their own in future years, but in the meantime the Renegades remain open to continuing their relationship with the city. Other cities keen to join the BBL include Canberra, Gold Coast, and Townsville.
Central Coast Rugby Sevens Scrapped
Sadly, the organisers of the Central Coast Rugby have announced they will no longer be running their tournament. We reviewed the event in 2016 and found it to be a fantastic weekend of rugby at Wyong Rugby League Club, and a great advertisement for the local area. The tournament was billed as the highest quality tournament outside of the World Series, attracting teams from as far away as North America, as well as the added flair from numerous entrants hailing from the Pacific Islands. Tournament Director, Craig Morgan, announced the decision on social media and was met with a flood of messages filled with goodwill, despite the disappointment.
Possible Changes to Summer of Tennis
Tennis Australia is considering revising the World Team Cup concept as a lead up to the Australian Open at Melbourne Park, a move that would likely affect warm-up tournaments currently played in Brisbane, Sydney, and Kooyong, as well as Perth’s Hopman Cup. The World Team Cup was previously held in Dusseldorf, Germany between 1978-2012 and was considered the second most prestigious men’s teams event after the Davis Cup. An Australian iteration would involve teams from 24 nations playing in a round-robin format across the cities of Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, and Sydney. The highest ranked teams would then progress to a knockout stage, with the final in Sydney. Any changes are still in concept stage and wouldn’t take effect until 2020. There are no plans to shift the Australian Open from its late January timeslot, which aligns with the local summer school holidays.
AFL and GAA Still Searching for US Venue
The AFL and Ireland’s Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) have ruled out playing an International Rules game (hybrid of Aussie Rules and Gaelic Football) at Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania, however other options for a game in the US are still being explored. GAA Director General, Paraic Duffy, inspected the venue over Christmas but deemed it to be unsuitable due to the artificial turf.
Two International Rules Test Matches are due to take place in 2018, with Australia particularly keen to see the first match scheduled in the US. The second game will be at Croke Park in Dublin. Australia staged their preparation in New York prior to the series in Ireland in 2015. Other cities being mentioned as possible venues are Boston and Chicago. The next round of discussions between the AFL and GAA are scheduled for February.