Dennis Lillee won’t be attending the finale Ashes Test for the WACA Ground in protest at its decline as Australia’s fast-bowling fortress. Though his name adorns one of the stands and despite serving until 2015 as WACA president, Lillee staying away in disgust at the decision that will see most of Australia’s matches in Perth played at a new stadium in Burswood from 2018 onwards.
The WACA’s fall from favour has been a long-running saga. During his 11 years as president, Lillee advocated redeveloping the old ground but that battle was eventually lost after a planned commercial project fell through in 2013.
The announcement that the WACA would become a “boutique” venue, with major matches held at the newly built, 60,000-seater Optus Stadium – which will be inaugurated with an ODI against England next month – prompted Lillee to quit in protest. His views have apparently not changed much in the intervening period, as he made clear when contacted by the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I’m not going [to the Test] because I’ve had enough of the crap that’s gone on in the background to push the WACA into oblivion,” Lillee said. “There was a lot of things that went on including broken promises and I could not be part of that going forward.”
Since its first Test in 1970, the WACA Ground has become one of the game’s iconic venues, closely associated with the exploits of Lillee and his partner Jeff Thomson. It was a favourite touring venue for the West Indies pace battery during the 1980s and 90s and although Australia’s recent record there has been patchy, they have won seven Ashes Tests in a row at the ground, with Mitchell Johnson taking six wickets in a 150-run victory in 2013.
Although it will remain Western Australia’s home for Sheffield Shield and one-day matches, only minor international tours are likely to see games scheduled at the WACA; Perth Scorchers will also play Big Bash Leagues across the Swan River.
Lillee has allowed his image to be used at the new stadium but was reportedly angered in particular by the fact that Tests will be shifted to Burswood, despite questions over whether attendances are ever likely to exceed the WACA Ground’s current 20,000 capacity. Asked by the Sydney Morning Herald for comment, WACA chief executive Christina Matthews said: “We did a whole lot of financial modelling through Ernst and Young, it was presented to the board and the board was satisfied that our financial position would be improved.”