Perth’s new cricket stadium, a modern day marvel

Reporting from Australia


Some of cricket’s best memories are at the WACA in Perth. As schoolboys, during the Australian summer, we used to wake up at 5:30 am during school holidays to follow the Test matches. If the games were played in Perth, then of course there was some consolation as matches started at 8:30 am. There is a three hour time difference between Perth and other major Australian cities like Sydney and Melbourne.

Australia is such a vast country and Perth is cut off from rest of Australia. You spend five hours in the flight getting to Perth from Melbourne. The couple of days that you spent in Perth was a valuable experience learning more about the city, its people and its culture.

WACA has witnessed some of cricket’s finest moments. Reputed as the fastest pitch in the world, it was a big call by the authorities to shift international cricket from WACA to the newly built Optus Stadium, a stone’s throw from the old ground.

WACA can host only about 17,000 fans. The new ground, however, can host 65,000 fans and caters to more than one sport. In fact for rectangular sports like rugby and football, the venue’s capacity can be increased to 70,000. The All Blacks recently entertained the Aussies and a full house witnessed rugby’s greatest team spelling their charm.

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Capacity was one main reason why international cricket shifted from WACA to Optus Stadium. While other established Australian cricket centers like MCG, SCG, Gabba and Adelaide Oval moved on with times catering to larger crowds, WACA remained stagnated not able to refurbish and host bigger numbers and the decision was inevitable.

There are ambitious  plans to bring international sporting events to Australia and the new ground’s state of the art facilities are appealing to both fans and sports administrators, who call the shots. The eleventh edition of the Rugby World Cup in 2027 will be played in Australia and Perth’s new venue is slotted to get some big games.

The ground is owned by the government. The plan for a new  sports venue in Perth has been mooted since 2003 and after identifying several locations, the authorities settled for the current one  close by the WACA stadium. Apart from sports, the venue hosts entertainment  events, conferences and functions. It has won an international award for the best stadium in the world.

A free shuttle service takes fans to the ground from the city. There’s one stop called WACA and two stops later, you are right at the door step of the Optus Stadium.  There’s a train service as well right next to the stadium. The stop is called Perth Stadium and its three stations or ten minutes ride from the city.

The press box at WACA could barely cater to a dozen journalists. For a magnificent cricket venue, the press had to work in limited space and often for bigger events, makeshift press facilities had to be put in place. The new location though accommodates more than 200 print media and there are separate boxes for television and radio.

The constructing of the venue started in 2014 and was completed in 2018 cost the government a sum of AUD 1.6 billion (over 1 billion US$).

Although cricket shifted from WACA, the pitch at the new stadium has not lost its spice and this is owing to the fact that for the drop in pitches the same content of clay like WACA has been used.

There are some memorable games that Sri Lanka have been involved at the WACA. A visit to the old ground rekindled those memories.

Sri Lanka’s first ever Test match in Australian soil was played at the WACA, way back in 1988. The opening Test match of the 1995 tour, which lasted for more than two months was also played at the WACA. This game is known for Hashan Tillakaratne’s stubborn resistance. The left-hander copped a few nasty blows on the body, but didn’t throw away his wicket and went onto post a brilliant hundred. That remains the only hundred by a Sri Lankan at the WACA across all formats.

In 2010, there was a T-20 International that Sri Lanka won. Chasing a target of 134, the tourists were cruising at 119 for three in the 15th over. Suddenly when captain  Kumar Sangakkara played down a maiden over in the 16th, they were feeling the heat. Michael Clarke called up leg-spin and Thisara Perera wasted no time. He hit two sixes and a four in the first three balls to help Sri Lanka win with plenty to spare.  We didn’t hear much about the leggie after that game, but he went onto revive his cricket as a batsman. Steve Smith is his name.

The win set the tone for rest of the tour as Sri Lanka went onto win the ODI series as well that followed, their first ever series triumph in Australia

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