WACA curator Matt Page is a man on a mission. His task is to restore the pace and bounce of the famous Perth pitch to its former glory.
Page’s two chief foes on this crusade have been the weather and Cricket Australia’s scheduling.
After twenty years of opening the Test season at the Gabba, the WACA will now bring the curtain up on Australia’s summer which has drastically reduced the time Page has had to work with.
The Test between Australia and South Africa starts nine days earlier than last year’s first WACA contest.
To top that off Western Australia has had an unusually cold spring meaning the pitches have been unable to bake in the sun as they normally would.
Despite all this Page is confident of producing a livelier track than the highway presented for the Baggy Green clash with New Zealand last year.
Page said: “We’ve done things a little bit differently this year.
“We’ve left a little more green grass on it, we’ve also adjusted our water.
“Being November, we don’t usually get the high temperatures we need to bake that surface to try to give us every possibility to get something that will go through and give the bowlers a good crack at the batters.
“[The weather’s] not been great, but we’ve tinkered with our prep to try to get a harder surface than we would normally see here this time of year and just try to help it go through a bit quicker.”
The pitch selected for the Test will be from the block to the east of centre, the central pitch is less settled and therefore not suitable for a Test match.
Page went on: “The ones on this [east] side of the block seem to be a bit quicker, they’ve all got their own little characteristics, the 10 wickets out there, they all do little things.
“There are some that are a little bit quicker than others. This one is a normal Test-match wicket. We saw a couple of one-dayers here a couple of years ago with South Africa when it went through really well.
“Last year was not so good, so we’re hoping that it’s more towards that South African wicket of a couple of years ago. Hopefully it’ll [also] be something very similar to the last Shield game we had.
“There was a bit of bounce there, there was a bit of seam, something there for the bowlers, something there for the batters, there were three hundreds. That’s sort of what we’re looking for this time of year, being November.”
The groundsman is determined to restore the WACA’s reputation as the fastest pitch in Test cricket even as the all-new Perth stadium complex threatens to snuff out high profile cricket from the ground.
Page concluded: “It’s something we’re working towards and we’ve seen wickets here since the wicket that was reconstructed that have really gone through well.
“Our biggest issue is our consistency, they’re not consistently quick. That’s what we’re working towards to make sure it happens.
“There’s pressure with every wicket you produce at the WACA, there’s that reputation of the pace and the bounce and getting it back consistently to the way it was in the 1970s.
“That’s what we try to do with all our wickets, sometimes we get there, sometimes we don’t. I’m pretty confident we’ll have a wicket that will have a bit in it for both batters and bowlers.”