Australians consider alternative venue to SCG

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Australia could abandon tradition and stage an Ashes Test at the 80,000-seat Olympic stadium instead of the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Updated: November 12, 2009 17:24 IST
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Australia could abandon tradition and stage an Ashes Test at the 80,000-seat Olympic stadium instead of the Sydney Cricket Ground.

New South Wales state cricket administrators are in negotiations with the Sydney Cricket Ground, venue of 97 test matches dating back to 1882, over its contract beyond 2010, Australian media reported on Thursday. The fifth Ashes Test against England would usually start in the first week of January, 2011.

Cricket NSW chief David Gilbert said he was considering its options and hadn't ruled out moving the test, although it would appear unlikely.

The same speculation arose when the state cricket board and the SCG negotiated the current contract five years ago.

Australia has an excellent record at the SCG, where it has only lost three tests since 1980, including the last match in the 2003 Ashes series after it had already won the first four tests.

The former Olympic stadium "is focused on getting a major cricket match to its venue," Gilbert was quoted as saying. "I know test cricket will be a difficult one to do at this stage - and you have to weigh up tradition and history and the drama at the SCG.

But, "If you take the heat and emotion out of it, as CEO of Cricket NSW, I have to do what is best for cricket to generate revenue to keep this game going, and this is what this process is about."

Shane Watson, who made his test debut at the SCG in January 2005, has no doubts where he thinks the Sydney Test should be played.

"I love the ground, the history behind the ground, the players who have been in the change rooms, there's so much tradition and history involved in the SCG," Watson said on Thursday. "I'd prefer to be able to play all the Sydney test matches at the SCG because of that alone."

The 28-year-old allrounder this season moved from Queensland to New South Wales, where the 40,000-seat SCG will become his home ground in the domestic competition.

"The capacity is not as big as the Olympic stadium but in the end you have to find the right balance," Watson said. "The SCG wicket is a very unique wicket in its own right in Australia.

"That's hard to replicate in a drop-in wicket."

Since the Olympics, the stadium at Homebush in Sydney's west has been used primarily for National Rugby League matches, international rugby union matches and major football matches and is now known as ANZ Stadium.

New South Wales has hosted domestic limited-overs matches at ANZ Stadium.

The stadium's managing director Daryl Kerry told The Australian newspaper that his focus was more on one-day international and Twenty20 cricket "because these forms of the game have a natural fit with the stadium as major events with a broad audience appeal."

"In relation to Test cricket, that's a decision for Cricket NSW and we're happy to explore the opportunities."

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