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Former Test star Simon Katich has dismissed claims the Manuka Oval pitch is not lively enough to host Test cricket, and believes another one-day international sellout in Canberra could help the goal become reality.
Katich is now involved in player development with AFL club Greater Western Sydney Giants, who have played three premiership matches and a pre-season game in Canberra since 2012.
The Giants have enjoyed an upgrade in the quality of fixtures played in Canberra as crowds have grown.
Having been allocated non-finals teams like Melbourne and Gold Coast initially, last year’s Geelong clash at Manuka sold out, while it is expected Cats and Richmond games this year will follow suit.
Katich says Canberra cricket can enjoy a similar domino effect as ACT government chief minister Andrew Barr chases the “holy grail” of a Test match.
A sold-out crowd packed the ground to watch the Australia-India clash on Wednesday night.
Manuka has come further into the frame as Test crowds have dwindled this summer, with Brisbane, Perth and, in particular Tasmania, coming under pressure to retain hosting rights.
“The Giants have certainly spent a lot of time down here playing games regularly and the public has supported it with the first sellout game last year,” Katich said.
“It goes hand in hand, you can’t expect to receive handouts and not give anything back. Canberra has had World Cup games and one-day games and they’ve got good crowds, Test cricket is the next step.
Katich, who was part of the ABC commentary team for Wednesday’s Australia-India one-dayer at Manuka, does not subscribe to former Test batsman Dean Jones’ theory a drop-in pitch is required due to its low and slow nature.
Batsmen have traditionally dominated, a trend which continued on Wednesday.
“I played against Tassie down here a couple of years ago for NSW and it was a result,” Katich said.
“It was a good wicket. It spun, there was reverse swing and it was good to bat on.
“It’s certainly a big advantage if you bat first, but there’s a lot of wickets like that around the world anyway, like in India and the Adelaide Oval.
“It’s certainly good enough to hold a five-day game.”
Katich does not feel Tasmania should be judged solely on the poor attendances for this summer’s Test against the West Indies, who set the trend for the rest of the series with a shocking display.
“It’s hard to judge them on that because it didn’t help the way the West Indies played. On the first day they were woeful,” he said.
“Tasmania is obviously keen to protect their Test cricket down there but if the conditions are good, which they are here [Canberra] and the crowds are here, no doubt Cricket Australia will look at it depending on who is touring.
Cricket NSW has recently voiced its desire to campaign for two Tests per summer, including a day-night fixture after the success of the historic Australia-New Zealand clash at Adelaide this season.
SCG Trust chair Tony Shepherd is also the Giants chairman and Katich does not believe the bold bid will happen.
“I’m pretty sure Tony was just creating a bit of a stir with that one, having spoken to him afterwards,” Katich said.
“Melbourne and Sydney are entrenched in the Test summer and probably Perth as well, that time difference works well for TV on the eastern state.
“For me it [Canberra Test] has to tie in well with the right time and the right series.”
Katich was unsure whether a day-night Test would work in Canberra.
The pink ball came under heavy fire from Test batsman Adam Voges after it was used for the Prime Minister’s XI-New Zealand game at Manuka earlier this summer.
“It’s hard for me to comment on it because I don’t think I ever played a day-night game down here, but I’m assuming the lights are at a suitable level given they’re playing one-day internationals here,” he said.
“There’s a lot of speculation about the pink ball. It was overwhelmingly positive [after the Adelaide Test] so who’s to say it couldn’t happen in a Test here.”