An ode to the W.A.C.A
By Aaron Callaghan and Tom Atkinson
The tangerine western skies rise and fall over a famous old friend this week. The once feared touring cemetery, The West Australian Cricket Association (W.A.C.A) ground, oozing in Australian cricket history and no less Ashes test cricket history is now a dolorous shadow of it’s former self. Instead of the erratic, rapid and bouncy W.A.C.A pitch of years and decades past, a lifeless concrete slab now sits in its place. It now offers nothing to even hardened bowling attacks, except for an arduous toil on of those typically scorching western summer days.
Gone are the days of Dennis Lillee shattering digits through prototype gloves as a red cherry rears up off a good length. Touring batsmen soon learnt the devil in the detail. Rocks which started out looking like a tantalising cover drive proposition, had their melons swivelling hastily to avoid a fractured skull.
Gone are the days when a volatile West Indian pace attack would have underlined the W.A.C.A test match with a red pen on their calendar. The erotic dreams of Joel Garner and later Courtney Walsh would undoubtedly include an eager session with a new Kookaburra. Too much fish, not enough barrel for the Carribean swashbucklers. Sadly, they seem to be suffering the same fate as their former favourite hunting ground.
Gone are the days when the day five W.A.C.A pitch looked like a post-apocalyptic wasteland ready to engulf anyone who dared a risky attempt to leave the ball just missing off stump, as it nipped back acutely off the seam. Complimented by a young (read: Diuretic taking, chain smoking party animal) S.K Warne bowling two foot outside leg stump aiming for a divot you could lose a set of car keys in.
Gone are the days of the halcyon West Australian fast bowling battalion of which mediocre international cricket careers were built on. You know, the Brendan Julian’s and Jo Angel’s of the world. The W.A.C.A pitch was so electric, it even made run-of-the-mill quicks like Brett Dorey seem like a challenging assaignment. Fair dinkum, facing thunderbolts on that deck has kept many opening batsmen awake at night, trembling in a lonely corner and repenting all their sledging sins.
But as a quartet of swordsmen notch up chanceless tons in the third Ashes test, it leaves a bloke pondering. How did it come to this? A concrete road imposter served up by the accountants at Cricket Australia aimed to generate five days of ‘action’. We at The Unsportsmen know who is entirely to blame for this mess we find ourselves in. The BCCI. Yes, our Reptilian Overlords of Cricket in control of the field and the finances. And I especially mean the finances. As test cricket in the sub-continent (read: India) falls behind in popularity in comparison to the noisy T20 juggernaut, the BCCI has exerted its control calling for batsman friendly pitches, conveniently excluding any opposition tours of India. A five test series between traditional test powers England and Australia must be a thorn in the BCCI’s backside. They have at least manoeuvred enough brown enevelopes to have a road installed on the W.A.C.A ground and we at The Unsportsmen have had enough, we want the old W.A.C.A pitch back, mine shafts, gutters, craters and all.
As mentioned, Dawid Malan (read: Microsoft Word has no idea what I'm trying to write here), the 409th transplanted South African to represent England scored an elegant century on day one, even with the added burden of his parents being unable to spell ‘David’. Across the first three days of the Perth test we’ve seen four beautifully crafted centuries, a far cry from the scratchy batting effort in Brisbane and Adelaide. The asterisk in this column sits besides the infallible Steve Smith. The bloke could score a ton with a baseball bat and an eyepatch at the moment. Future test captain Mitch Marsh plundered an aggressive 181. If this isn't enough evidence that the pitch is flat, I don't know what is.
Sadly though, it's curtains for the wild western saloon. I hope this flash new joint across the snaking Swan River offers something more than total uniformity, but I have serious doubts. A sign of the times.