MCG Boxing Day Test to attract a crowd
With Covid-19 restrictions finally beginning to ease in Melbourne, the Boxing Day Test looks set to be the first major event to be played in front of a crowd in the Victorian capital, as the summer cricket schedule is confirmed.
Other than horse racing, Melbourne hasn’t hosted a sporting event since July 5 – an AFL game played at an empty MCG, while the last match played in front of a crowd at the famous ground was the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Final on March 8, with more than 86,000 fans in attendance.
Melbourne’s sports stadiums have remained empty since, with the city suffering a harsh second wave of the pandemic, resulting in some of the harshest lock-down restrictions in the world, set by Premier Daniel Andrews. This week, it was confirmed the upcoming Melbourne Cup Carnival would also be held in front of empty grandstands at Flemington Racecourse (last year, 276,186 fans attended over the four-day carnival).
On Wednesday, the Victorian Government announced the crowd will likely be capped at 25,000 per day for the Boxing Day Test at the 100,000-capacity MCG. Previously, the Melbourne Cricket Club and Cricket Australia had been in talks with the Government to allow crowds of up to 30,000.
India will tour Australia for this year’s summer of cricket, and Cricket Australia confirmed the international schedule on Wednesday morning, with four Test Matches, three ODI's and three T20's to be played.
The First Test will be played at Adelaide Oval (Day-Night Test) commencing on December 15, followed by the Boxing Day Test at the MCG from December 26. The New Year’s Test in Sydney looks set to start a week later than usual, on January 7 at the SCG, while the Gabba, which usually hosts the first Test of the summer, will host the final Test, on January 15. The tour will start with three ODI's and three T20's, with all six matches in Sydney and Canberra.
Perth has missed out altogether on any matches featuring India, with WA Premier Mark McGowan's tough stance on border controls making it too difficult to get teams into the state.
Premier Andrews said restrictions being lifted meant it was too late for crowds to attend next month's Melbourne Cup, but the same will not apply for the biggest day in Australian cricket.
"The Boxing Day Test of course is very different because that is some way off," he told reporters.
"I am very confident that we will get a crowd at the MCG for the Boxing Day Test.
"I don't know how big it will be but there will be a crowd, that's the advice that I have, that's what we're working towards."
Last year, 80,473 fans packed the MCG for day one of the Boxing Day Test, with 203,472 spectators across the four days as Australia beat New Zealand by 247 runs.
India last visited Australia in 2018 and on that occasion, 73,516 spectators were on hand for day one, and 176,539 across five days as the tourists beat the Aussies by 137 runs.
The NSW government has signed off on Cricket Australia's quarantine proposal, with the confirmed schedule for India's tour released on Wednesday.
While no firm decisions have been made on crowd capacities yet, fans are expected to be at all international matches this summer, with a staggered release of tickets expected to begin in mid-November - available via the Austadiums Tickets Hub.