Victoria’s Shield match against WA was abandoned over safety concerns with the pitch. Picture: AAP
Victoria’s Shield match against WA was abandoned over safety concerns with the pitch. Picture: AAP

Under fire MCG: Hands off our Boxing Day Test

The MCC declared the iconic Boxing Day Test was going nowhere with no plans in place to move the blockbuster against New Zealand.

Victoria's Sheffield Shield clash against Western Australia was abandoned because of fears over player safety on the dangerous pitch but curator Matt Page will use that juiced-up strip to scale back the Test wicket.

Rival states are eyeing the famous timeslot with Perth Stadium boss Mike McKenna declaring his ground wanted to host India on Boxing Day next year.


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"The opportunity for us to take the Boxing Day Test this year is a real long shot," McKenna told News Corp.

"But next year is not out of the question. Both the venue and the state government would be very keen to talk to Cricket Australia about a Boxing Day or New Year's Test.''

Head curator Matt Page and his ground staff face pressure to get the mix right for Boxing Day on a strip that hasn't been used in the Shield this season.

MCC boss Stuart Fox said Boxing Day belonged at the 'G and backed Page to get the balance right after several boring Tests played on lifeless decks.

"It's the biggest, most iconic Test in Australia, very well attended and it's the rightful home," Fox said.

An Ashes-like crowd will fill the MCG for New Zealand's first Boxing Day appearance in 32 years. Thousands of Kiwis are flying over and close to 90,000 could attend day one.

The maligned MCG wicket has been criticised as being too docile in recent years and has received unfavourable ICC ratings.


The MCG scoreboard. Picture: AAP/Sean Garnsworthy
The MCG scoreboard. Picture: AAP/Sean Garnsworthy


It's understood Page wet-rolled the track and left the extra moisture in the pitch. The extra moisture led to divots which hardened under a baking sun and made the surface unplayable.

WA batsmen Shaun Marsh and Marcus Stoinis both underwent concussion tests after being hit by Peter Siddle deliveries that rose sharply and unexpectedly on Saturday before play was abandoned for the day.

Page spent Saturday night cross-rolling the pitch but it was still so dangerous on Sunday that the match was abandoned in bright sunshine.

"We've had some issues with a lack of life in the pitch and we've been working over the last 18 months in particular to try and produce better pitches," Fox said.

"This one wasn't perfect - far from it - and we may have just pushed it a little too far.

"We've all wanted more life in these pitches. We didn't want this much. (But) we don't want to overcorrect and go backwards again."

Fox spent Saturday night on the phone to CA boss Kevin Roberts discussing the pitch.

CA head of operations Peter Roach spoke to high performance boss Ben Oliver and New Zealand powerbrokers on Saturday night to reassure them Boxing Day would go ahead.

Roach said the Black Caps were "relatively comfortable" with the MCG.

"I'll nervous on Christmas Day (but) the Boxing Day Test will go ahead," Roach said,

This year's Boxing Day pitch was built in 2012, which is the MCG's newest batch, and Page will start preparing it next Monday.


Close to 90,000 attended the 2018 Boxing Day Test. Picture: Barbour/Getty
Close to 90,000 attended the 2018 Boxing Day Test. Picture: Barbour/Getty


"We have made changes, like removing the concrete base in the middle. So we actually think we're on the right path," Fox said.

"The drop-ins severely deteriorate by day five, ours haven't shown that, and that's why we've been trying to liven up things in the early stages of the game."

Marsh and Victoria captain Peter Handscomb backed the highly-respected Page to produce a better wicket for Boxing Day.

But they agreed with Australian Cricketers' Association chief executive Alistair Nicholson that the correct call was to abandon the Shield match.

CA will attempt to reschedule the Shield match, with rules stipulating it should now be played in WA, but if it can't be rescheduled the two teams will split the points.