Plenty of free seats at the Gabba.
Plenty of free seats at the Gabba.

Ugly image sparks legends’ Gabba debate

Traditionally, the Brisbane Test is the opening gambit of the summer and helps Australia get off the perfect start.

Australia has not lost a Test match at the ground since 1988 and currently have a 30-game steak since their last loss including 23 wins and seven draws.

But an ugly recent trend has taken the lustre off the ground with crowd numbers remaining down at the ground.

After 13,900 turned up for the first day of the first Sri Lanka Test earlier this year, 13,561 fans came through the turnstiles on day one of the two-match Test series against Pakistan.

It's not boding well for the Gabba to retain the first Test of the summer when India return to Australia next year.

Last year, India refused to play both the Gabba and at Optus Stadium in Perth, meaning Adelaide had the opening Test of the summer.

India will play four Tests in Australia next summer, while Afghanistan will visit for the first time for a one-off Test preceding that series.

The new Optus Stadium in Perth, refurbished Adelaide Oval, plus Melbourne and Sydney's traditional Boxing Day and New Years slots leave the Gabba fifth in the pecking order and as the most likely venue for that maiden Test encounter against Afghanistan.

Pakistan last visited the Gabba in 2016 for a twilight Test that broke records as the best non-Ashes attendance, with 26,353 fans through the gates on the first day.

The Gabba has a 42,000-person capacity, with the 2006 Ashes series drawing close to 40,000 fans on each of the first three days.

Yes, play had started.
Yes, play had started.

But the ugly sight of the opening day of the summer of Test match cricket met with empty stadiums started the debate about the ground continuing with its prime slot as the opening Test of the summer.

 

 

Speaking on Fox Sports' Cricket360 hosts Gerard Whateley and Robert Craddock questioned what was more important - the winning record or the packed stands.

"13,500, last time Pakistan was here, it was a day night Test, it was 23,500 on day one, it was never going to measure up to that," Whateley said. "The easiest stat to recount is Australia's domination at this ground - 30 Tests without defeat.

"It's in need of the promised facelift that's coming, it has all the right feeling of day one but will it hold it's place at the front of the Australian summer, which it seems to me is very much on trial today."

Robert Craddock said the players have united around the ground and it should get the first Test of the summer against India, teasing a story for tomorrow's Courier Mail.

"It's such a big thing for this team to be able to win matches early in the series, India don't like coming here," he said. "But it's a war between Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. I think Adelaide is the number one cricket ground in Australia at the moment, Perth is jostling hard.

"The refurbishment of $40 million, people are excited about it, but that to me doesn't bring this ground up to the level of Perth. But they win here, what price do you put on victory?"

C’mon mate, you’re in my seat.
C’mon mate, you’re in my seat.

Fox Cricket commentator Shane Warne was unequivocal when asked about the Gabba's place in the Australian cricket landscape.

"I think no matter who the opposition is, this is Australia. When we got to India or Sri Lanka or wherever else, they tell us where we are going. For me, it's non-negotiable the Gabba should be the first Test of every summer," Warne said.

"I think what they could do better is market it better. Get the players out in amongst the people, get them out in the public, get down in the malls, play mall cricket, get the kids down there, get into schools, promote the game here at the Gabba because it's a great atmosphere when it's full."

As for the first day crowd, Warne conceded it was "okay for a workday".

 

It's a bad sign for the ground that the poorly attended T20 series against Sri Lanka, which attracted just 11,986, which was heavily criticised for the "shocking crowd".

And it's a poor start for the World Test Championship, which had aimed to revitalise the Test match attendance by giving teams more to play for.

But English captain Michael Vaughan agreed with Warne, arguing the Gabba is a difficult ground to play at.

"I think Australia would be silly not to," Vaughan said of playing the first Test of the season at the Gabba. "The record here, the intimidation factor of what it produces to the opposing team. I know from an English perspective that they'd be absolutely delighted if you ripped this one out.

 

 

"It just has a feel and intimidation that when you arrive, there's something about this town that it's uncomfortable for the opposing teams so for me, it has to start here."

Speaking to news.com.au, Fox Cricket commentator Mike Hussey said it was becoming a disappointing trend for the ground.

"It's the first Test of the summer, the kids are still at school, people are still at work, it's difficult for everyone to get out there on the Thursday," he said. "I'm sure later tomorrow and certainly over the weekend that the crowd will be a lot better depending on how it's all going. It's a little disappointing but really the crowds haven't been that strong here for a couple of years unless it's a big series like the Ashes."

Hussey was speaking with news.com.au as the cricket legend is offering the opportunity of a lifetime.

Fans can enter the competition to join the legend in the Fox Sports commentary box for the second day of the Adelaide Test on November 30.

Flights and accommodation are part of the prize.

Fans can enter the competition by donating as little as $10 to the Women and Infants Research Foundation (WIRF) by following this link to the Hang With A Star website.

Win a once in a lifetime prize with Fox Cricket commentator Mike Hussey.
Win a once in a lifetime prize with Fox Cricket commentator Mike Hussey.

The charity is close to Hussey with two of his four children being born three months premature.

"It's a really good initiative I'm with my wife an ambassador for WIRF," he said. "We had two premature births with our children, both were very premature at 28 weeks and it was a really tough time for our family and WIRF do a lot of research on women's health but also in trying to reduce the number of preterm births.

"Hang With A Star works hand-in-hand with providing someone two flights and accommodation to the Adelaide Test match, it's a day nighter. I'll meet them there and bring them up to the commentary box where they can meet everyone and see how it runs behind the scenes. It's a bit of a money can't buy experience."

- with AAP

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