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Adelaide Oval 'ready' if called upon to host Boxing Day Test

by  YaSir  •  Last updated on 2020-08-24 15:43:46

The Boxing Day Test might be coming to the Adelaide Oval this summer for the first time in 44 years. Though there is unlikely to be a confirmation any time soon, Cricket Australia have been looking for contingencies in case they are forced to shift the marquee event out of the MCG owing to the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic that's crippled Victoria over the last 7-8 weeks.

And the early signs are that Adelaide will be front-runner to take over from Melbourne if that were to happen. South Australian Cricket Association (SACA) chief Keith Bradshaw meanwhile had already confirmed on Wednesday that they were more than ready to play host to the highly-anticipated clash, which this year will feature Virat Kohli's high-profile Indian team, in case it comes their way.

"From our perspective, we are very serious in being very interested and available and able to host the Boxing Day Test if that became available. At the moment, it's still fixtured to be at the MCG. If that were not able to be the case then we are certainly ready, willing and able to put our hand up and host that Test match and we'd be very excited and capable of doing so. I don't think there'd be a better place in Australia where you can hold it than in Adelaide," Bradshaw had said.

Victoria has been in a state of lockdown ever since mid-July and the Stage 4 restrictions, which include curfews and control over people's movements, are set to stay at this stage till September 13. The restrictions have fortunately resulted in a reduction in case numbers across the state, which recorded its lowest figure since the second outbreak on Friday (August 21). There is a possibility that the lockdown continues for a bit longer with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews hoping to bring his state to a "Covid-normal" stage by Christmas.

That would mean that even if the MCG did manage to hold on to the Boxing Day Test, Kohli's men will go head-to-head against Tim Paine's slick Australian outfit in front of empty stands or at the most a very sparse crowd. South Australia has managed to lift most of its restrictions and has seen only a handful of cases since April. While the Victorian-leg of the AFL (Australian Rules Football League) was shifted completely out of the state last month, the Adelaide Oval has been hosting matches on a weekly basis since July with crowds close to 18,000 (though that number was reduced to 10,000 in the wake of the second wave across the border).

CA is likely to leave it till late before taking a final call on the Boxing Day Test with the MCG to remain their preferred choice. Bradshaw too had revealed that there was no "deadline" in place at the moment but SACA and the Adelaide Oval would be ready if they were called upon eventually.

"There is no deadline at the moment. CA are working with Victoria and the MCC and at the moment, they believe that they're still going to be able to host that Boxing Day Test match. From our perspective, we are ready to jump in if that's not able to occur and to host that match. We'd be very keen to do so," he said.

The Adelaide Oval does have an impressive track record in getting itself ready for Test match duty without needing too long a preparation time. Curator Damian Hough has more than once managed to get the drop-in pitch and the ground in perfect condition days after the Oval has hosted a major music event. It only adds to Bradshaw's confidence in being ready.

"In terms of for Damian Hough and the team and since we have drop-in pitches, and looking at the fixtures we have, we're more than capable to host a Test match in that time-frame. Within two weeks. It depends on the whole fixtures. It's a moving feast at the moment with the international schedule and we just need to be flexible and able to adapt and that's how we are positioning ourselves at the moment," he said.

The Adelaide Oval has since also received the backing of Australia's premier wicket-keeper in white-ball cricket and South Australia's own Alex Carey.

"I think that'd be perfect. It's an amazing place to play cricket and it's an amazing venue that they're putting together with the new hotel. Yeah, I'm sure we'll find a way wherever it is in Australia but biased to set India up here and play a lot of cricket here in Adelaide," Carey said on Saturday (August 22).

Former captain Ricky Ponting too was all praise for the Adelaide Oval as a potential replacement venue for the top-billed Test match but believed that it'll face some stiff competition.

"All the venues around Australia are brilliant, and they're all unique in their own different way. Adelaide is one of the best places that I've been to to watch or play cricket, certainly over the last 4-5 years since they've renovated the stadium. I'm sure they'll have their hand up, as will Perth and Brisbane. Everyone will be throwing their hat in the ring. I just hope that things have improved enough in Victoria that it doesn't move," Ponting said in an interview on Sunday (August 23) to

Though the Boxing Day Test has become synonymous with the MCG, their traditional association only goes back four decades. In fact, prior to 1980, when it did become a fixture, only four Tests had been played over the Christmas period and on Boxing Day itself in Melbourne. And the Adelaide Oval is no stranger to it either, having seen three "Boxing Day" Tests in 1967, 1972 and the last of them in 1976 when Australia took on Pakistan with the game starting on December 24.

The Adelaide Oval and the SA government are also preparing to make a bid for the AFL Grand Final which has been shifted out of the MCG despite what is expected to be a rather steep asking-price. But unlike with the Boxing Day Test, most reports suggest that they might not succeed with it as Queensland have the edge.

The uncertainty though is symptomatic of the times we are in and also shows in the overall speculative nature of India's schedule when they do land in Australia later this year. There's the likelihood of the tour starting with the white-ball leg in Perth, where players from both India's Test and one-day squads will fly to post the IPL.

That would mean the first Test doesn't start before the third week of December followed by the Boxing Day encounter. And in case, Melbourne does miss out, the series might start at Perth and end in Brisbane with the third Test played over New Year's at Sydney. But like with every other aspect of that tour, you'll just have to watch this space.