The Western Australia Government, which owns the stadium and pumped in $1.6 billion for its construction, has described the lights as ‘one of the most stunning features’ of the stadium. @ Twitter/Optus Stadium
The Western Australia Government, which owns the stadium and pumped in $1.6 billion for its construction, has described the lights as ‘one of the most stunning features’ of the stadium. @ Twitter/Optus Stadium

Perth: ‘Wow’, went many of us travelling media corps as we passed by the beautifully lit Perth Stadium on Wednesday night. ‘Wow,’ we went again, on Thursday (December 13) morning when we stepped into the flush new stadium, a construction of such beautiful monstrosity that it simply takes your breath away.

Cricket watchers in Australia, India and the rest of the world, have always associated the WACA Ground with cricket in Perth. It’s a ground that is etched in our memories, first courtesy, the wonderful visual pictures painted by the magically gifted commentators from ABC, then thanks to satellite television which convinced us that we hadn’t allowed our imagination to run wild.

WACA is a beauty, its intimidation stemming entirely from the 22-yard strip that sparked chills and drove shivers up our spine the night before India were to play a Test match. You loved the ambience and hated the capacity for damage it possessed. WACA was just WACA, it needed no expansion of initials, no adjectives to describe its place in history.

ALSO READ: The lowdown on Perth’s Optus Stadium, venue for the second India vs Australia Test

All good things in life, however, must come to an end, and now, so has Test cricket at the home of the Western Australian Cricket Association. Last year’s Ashes face-off will remain the last of 44 years over a period of 47 years, dating back to December 1970; Australia won 25 of those games and drew eight, rightfully claiming bragging rights at a venue closest to their heart.

The Perth Stadium is a classic modern-day Colosseum, a gargantuan multi-purpose facility that can seat 70,000 people for other events, but a maximum of 60,000 for cricket and Aussie rules football. The playing arena, used sparingly for cricket thus far, cuts a pretty picture, showing no adverse impact of having played host to footy. The pitch, a drop-in like at most venues in this country, sat proudly, adorned by a shade of green that complemented the heavier hues in its vicinity and yet carried hidden danger that blades of grass across other parts of the vast expanse of the outfield do not.

The standout feature of the stadium is the presence of more than 15,000 LED lights installed around the roof of the stadium that have made the construction of massive light towers redundant. @ R Kaushik
The standout feature of the stadium is the presence of more than 15,000 LED lights installed around the roof of the stadium that have made the construction of massive light towers redundant. @ R Kaushik

One of our friends, a former first-class cricketer in India, who has been living in Perth for a dozen years now, told us on Wednesday that the Perth Stadium had the ability to intimidate even when empty, much like the Bullring that is the Wanderers in Johannesburg can. I can vouch for the feeling at the Bullring; standing in the middle of the ground a day before the Test match in early 1997, I could feel the massive and singularly unoccupied stands closing in, waves of heat leaving my face flushed, throat dry, lips parched, heart hammering away remorselessly. It was an eye-opener, an insight into the kind of challenges cricketers encounter when a packed, partisan, sometimes rowdy, crowd is baying for blood. You had to have the skills, but if you don’t have nerves of steel, you might as well stay at home.

VIDEO: Virat Kohli and Indian cricket team train at Optus Stadium

The Perth Stadium, one suspects, will be a bit like. Despite the vastness of the stands, the five levels of seating allow every chair an uninterrupted view of the ground. To both the left and the right of the grandstand are giant screens of 340 square metres each, and 1,000 TV screens placed strategically throughout the inside of the stadium. The seats are tastefully colour-coordinated, and give the impression of being occupied even when they aren’t, effective camouflage when there is a vast disparity between the capacity and the attendance, as is expected over the next five days.

The standout feature of the stadium is the presence of more than 15,000 LED lights installed around the roof of the stadium that have made the construction of massive light towers redundant. The lights are yet to be tested out in a cricketing environment – Australia’s only two One-Day Internationals here – against England this January and South Africa last month, were both day games, and both won by the visiting sides.

ALSO READ: Australia set to unleash ‘bounciest pitch’ at Perth’s Optus Stadium

The Western Australia Government, which owns the stadium and pumped in $1.6 billion for its construction, has described the lights as ‘one of the most stunning features’ of the stadium.

One of our friends, a former first-class cricketer in India, who has been living in Perth for a dozen years now, told us on Wednesday that the Perth Stadium had the ability to intimidate even when empty. @ R Kaushik
One of our friends, a former first-class cricketer in India, who has been living in Perth for a dozen years now, told us on Wednesday that the Perth Stadium had the ability to intimidate even when empty. @ R Kaushik

“This looks pretty much like the MCG, to be honest,” India skipper Virat Kohli said at his pre-match presser.

“I walked in and I felt it had a bit of MCG in it. It is very different from the old Perth Stadium (the WACA). The stadium is beautiful, it is very well made, and it has got a great feel, and we are just looking forward to getting on the park.”

That’s pretty much the mood across the city, a sense of excitement that comes with venturing into the unknown. Perth is no stranger to top-flight cricket, but no one is quite sure how a still relatively untested surface at the Perth Stadium will acquit itself. Indications are that it will be as pacy and full of bounce as the WACA was at its pomp; the generous coating of grass suggests a field day for the quick men. Old wine in new bottle? Déjà vu, anyone? Pity, though, that the ticket sales have yet to reflect the tingling anticipation.