Still fresh, still alluring: Revisiting Perth’s fabled WACA

The second Test involving Australia and India is set to start at the new Optus Stadium, but cricket did rumble at the WACA on Wednesday.

Au Revoir: The WACA is now second in priority as an international stadium in Perth. (File Photo)   -  AP

Whisper Perth to a fast bowler and watch him turn beady-eyed and levitate. Lord’s, labelled as the home of cricket, has a historical resonance but for velocity merchants hurling the red cherry at breakneck speeds, Perth, or to be more precise its ground WACA is the holy-grail. A hard pitch assisting good pace and bounce was enough for speedsters to salivate and run in hard.

Yes, the surface had slowed down over the years, much akin to Sabina Park at Jamaica’s Kingston, but WACA’s brand-allure as the head table for the fast bowlers’ club remained intact. Let’s admit, you cannot mess around with the land of Dennis Lillee. His name figures in an all-time Western Australia squad foisted upon an old scoreboard.

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However, with the second Test involving Australia and India set for a Friday start at the new Optus Stadium with all its bells and whistles — higher capacity, drop-in pitch, multi-sport arena — good old WACA might resign itself to Sheffield Shield domestic matches and the odd international fixture.

Short dalliance

But cricket did rumble at the WACA here on Wednesday as both Australia and India did their training stints. May be without intending it that way, it was perhaps time for the ‘long goodbye’. There was centre-wicket practice while school kids watched from the stands, awaiting autographs, clutching at caps, and revealing the wide-eyed wonder that only tiny-tots can possess. With the Swan River flowing nearby and the ‘Freemantle Doctor’ breeze easing in, WACA has its share of quirky natural allies.

Mature knock: Sachin Tendulkar weathered the storm at the WACA in 1992 to carve out a famous century. Photo: The Hindu Archives

 

It is an unpretentious ground with a few stands, some grass-banks and there is an air of ease around it though its turf has dished out cricket of the most intense kind. There is cheeky humour, too, up above the row of drinking-water taps, there is a caption: “Drinks break? This is the water, Langer and Co., grew up on. Help yourself.”

Special ton

There is history as honoured by stands named after Lillee and Rodney Marsh. The post-modern twist is present, too, as evident in ‘Langer’s Loft’. It is a simple venue and perhaps its direct lines encouraged fast bowlers to unleash their primordial angst. Get on with your game, seems to be the underlying theme.

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For Indians, WACA holds a special place. It was here during February, 1992, that an 18-year-old Sachin Tendulkar struck an incandescent 114 against an attack that had the likes of Craig McDermott and Merv Hughes. The seeds for the great heights that Tendulkar subsequently scaled, were sown during that epochal knock.

And now cricket, at least the international variety, moves to the Optus Stadium. Old fast bowlers might shed a tear and slowly sip their beers.