Brisbane’s iconic Gabba could be on the receiving end of a test match snubbing as early as 2018 if it fails to churn out a respectable crowd for next week’s first test between Australia and Pakistan.
The Gabba has come under scrutiny from the game’s governing body over its poor attendance records in recent years, and has had to stave off bids from interstate rivals to keep its status as a test match venue alive.
When the ground hosts its first ever day/ night test match next week, all eyes will be on the Brisbane locals to see if this once trivial idea, which looks to now be a staple on the test match calendar following two successful stints in Adelaide, will be enough to stir up interest and keep the Gabba in contention for hosting rights of the summer’s first test match.
Scheduling has proven to be a major factor in the ground’s recent dwindling attendance figures, with last year’s first test against New Zealand coming just day’s after the Melbourne Cup.
But the Gabba has no excuses when the first day’s play rolls around in mid-December, and you get the feeling that this is the ground’s last chance to prove it is entitled to a test match each season.
CA gifted Brisbane with a day/ night test earlier this year upon unveiling the seasons schedule in the hope that it would rejuvenate the cities ostensible flagging interest in test match cricket.
The venue has pulled out all the stocks since, upgrading the light towers and installing a boundary-side pool deck to attract a new type of audience, while early ticket sales suggest that this might just be the Gabba’s opportunity to remove itself from CA’s cross-heirs until at least the series following the 2017/18 Ashes.
If it cannot achieve the kind of crowds expected by CA, having been given every opportunity to shine, it can say goodbye to continuing its legacy as Australia’s first test venue – as it did this year – and begin to make plans to fill the void with one-day international and BBL fixtures.
Alternatively, it may become one of only two Australian venues used exclusively for day/ night test cricket.
The ground is held in high esteem by the Australian side for the bounce and pace that is generally on offer for the home side’s seamers on a Kevin Mitchell Jnr. prepared wicket.
It is also one of the last remaining multi-use stadiums in Australia that is yet to adopt the drop in wicket system currently in operation at the SCG, MCG and Adelaide – three grounds which have assured a test match will remain in their respective states for the foreseeable future.
Sacrificing Australia’s remarkable winning percentage at the Gabba seems a significant price to pay for an infinitesimal gain in attendees at one of the rival venue’s currently vying to take the first test from Brisbane’s firm grasp.
Such a move would signal CA’s apparent need to maximise profit, even if that means leaving the interests of the national team and seasons of tradition in its wake.
Average test match attendance figures over the past five years has led CA to fall out of favor with the ground, but if the Australian side wish to continue opening their season at the Gabba – a venue which has witnessed some of the game’s finest moments – the pink ball will need to tick all the relevant boxes starting with a crowd that exceeds the previous attendance records set by a Pakistan touring side.