Sun setting on Gabba Tests
CRICKET Australia chief executive James Sutherland has admitted the Gabba is in danger of being snubbed for a Test against India next summer after slipping to the fifth-ranked venue in the country.
The Gabba notched its third straight sold-out crowd of the first Ashes Test but fan support alone is not enough to save its status as a premier venue.
Australia has not lost a Test at the Gabba since 1988 and the players speak glowingly of their love for the green-tinged wicket.
However, the stadium has not evolved like others across the country.
The new 60,000-seat Perth Stadium and revamped Adelaide Oval, which has taken ownership of the pink ball Test, have moved ahead of the Gabba in the pecking order, headed by the Melbourne and Sydney cricket grounds.
Sutherland told The Sunday Mail the Gabba was facing stiff opposition to secure one of the four Tests against India next summer.
"It will always vary and depend on the schedule and timing but it looks as though two of the Tests will be in the traditional timeslot of Boxing Day and New Year," he said.
"That's Melbourne and Sydney locked away, then it's a matter of where are the other two Test matches against India going to be played?
"Clearly it is in great demand among those three grounds (Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane) on the mainland and we'll have a difficult decision to make there.
"We haven't seen any sort of material developments at the Gabba in terms of improving public amenity for a while.
"There is a concern there for Queensland and Queenslanders that this is probably No.5 or so in the rankings of stadiums."
Sutherland's admission should ring alarm bells in the ears of Queensland Government officials.
Apart from the installation of new big screens and a temporary pool, the Gabba has sat mostly stagnant in recent years as the country's other stadiums improved.
The NSW Government this week announced a $2 billion commitment to revamp Allianz and ANZ stadiums in Sydney.
Sutherland said Perth Stadium had set a new benchmark for Australia but the Gabba's reputation for poor parking options and limited public transport was a concern.
"What we all need to understand is the bar continues to rise," he said.
"A lot is about spectator comfort and amenity, the inside of the ground, access to Wi-Fi. I'm thinking about the new Perth stadium and what it offers.
"There is also the infrastructure that supports outside the ground, public transport and all of those sorts of things are really important.
"When you go to a place like Adelaide, you've got a stadium right in the middle of town. Melbourne is very much like that.
"In Perth they're building a footbridge across the Swan River and trying to connect that new stadium to the city. They've built train and bus stations around the facility. These things are really important.
"Public amenity is about access and making it easy for people to get to games.
"I understand that's a really big and complex issue for the government and others to work through, but it's a factor when it comes to making the ground work and putting it up there as one of the premium grounds in the country."
If the Gabba is overlooked for a Test against India in November next year, it will host Sri Lanka in January or February 2019.
Such a decision would result in a smaller crowds and a much lower economic return for the state.