Cricket history comes alive in Adelaide

As the Australian cricket team plays the fourth and final test against India, it is worth taking a look at some of the rich historical artefacts the Adelaide Oval contains.

Adelaide has much to offer a visitor to the city of churches and parklands. For the first time in recent years the Adelaide Oval is playing host to the Australia Day test. This year it is the final test in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

A test match in Adelaide could be called ‘the social test’ – people are friendly, they have a real interest in cricket and they come from near and far. An often heard question is ‘Where are you from?’ This year I heard of people from Sydney, Young and Goulburn in NSW. Others made the journey by train from Melbourne and of course there were people from the country and coastal areas of South Australia.

What draws people to Adelaide for a test? Perhaps it is the history, the occasion or the ground. Yes, test cricket has been played at the ground since 1884. There is a real sense of ownership by the current pillars of the SACA as it is known. The President of SACA, the former first class player, businessman and politician Ian McLachlan said: "We can look back on a rich and colourful history. The Association (SACA) has made a genuine contribution not just to life in Adelaide and South Australia but to cricket around the world".

We only have to look at the Adelaide Oval if we ever have doubts about where we stand with the game facing change in the different forms currently being played. Over the years the guardians of the game at the SACA have sought to develop Adelaide Oval in a tasteful way. Gone is the famous Giffen stand replaced by a 21st century stand yet to be named. The famous Chappell family have stands called ‘Chappell Stand South’ and ‘Chappell Stand North’ erected in front of their grandfathers' gates – the ‘Victor Richardson Gates’. Clem Hill gets a stand as does Sir Donald Bradman. The planned redevelopment will create a world-class 21st century venue. Retained will be the unique heritage, including the 100-year-old scoreboard, as well as the atmosphere of one of the world’s great cricket venues.

The cricket out in the centre of the Adelaide Oval is only part of the cricket experience. Within the ground are unique associations with the game in Adelaide. The ‘Bradman Collection’ housed in the Bradman Stand tells the story of Australia’s cricketing legend. His story is brought to life through a series of audio, visual and interactive displays. There are of course items directly associated with Bradman including caps, bats and images from his own collection.

In the newly-constructed members' stand are two outstanding displays. The first near the Committee Rooms of the SACA provide a tasteful display of cricket from 1877 to the present day. There is a display of ‘baggy green’ caps, the ball used by George Giffen when he took 10 for 66 in 1884 for an Australian XI at Sydney, Joe Darling’s bat from 1905 – how they have changed – and cricket scarfs worn by Clem Hill. Clarrie Grimmett, that wonderful leg spinner born in Dunedin New Zealand who found cricket fame after a long journey in Adelaide, has items including blazers and balls from his playing days on display.

A reminder of the equipment used by players is the leather cricket boots, complete with a metal toe cap, worn by John Drennan in South Africa in 1957-58.

The most unique item is a shotgun used at the ground to protect the pitch from invading spectators during the Bodyline Test at Adelaide in the 1932-33 season. The gun is perhaps a reminder of the darker side of the game back when passions ran high.

To complete the display is an image of Mark Taylor and Sir Donald Bradman. It was taken at Bradman’s home following Mark Taylor’s score of 334 which equalled that same score made by the great man.

Just opened for the test is the ‘Sheffield Shield Room’ located adjacent to the Village Green. Architect and former South Australian player Andrew Sincock has assisted in creating a wonderful pageant of the game in South Australia. The room records the names on a wall of all players who have represented South Australia in first class cricket. A close inspection is worthwhile. Some players were home bred, others played whilst at the Cricket Academy in Adelaide or moved to Adelaide for the opportunity to play first class cricket. A few families are represented including the Pellews, Hills, Chappells and Favells.

Also displayed is the Sheffield Shield in all of its splendour. So too are gold badges presented to players, prior to 1939, when they won the Sheffield Shield. Perhaps the most poignant is the badge given to Arthur Richter who won his medal in 1935-36 as a member of the victorious South Australian team. He played the season knowing that he was going to die of a kidney complaint and died just after the season had concluded. It says much for the passion and determination of some cricketers.

The current chairman of selectors John Inverarity's cricket career is depicted in a unique way. In the match between South Australia and Western Australia in November 1969 a bird flew across the pitch as Greg Chappell delivered the ball. The bird ended up breaking the stumps, was pronounced dead by the umpire Col Egar who promptly called ‘dead ball’. Inverarity went on to score 89.

Photographs of winning teams, blazers, the ball that Tim Wall took 10 for 36 are displayed, as too the shield presented to Clem Hill in 1898 for scoring 1196 runs in the just-completed summer.

All would not be complete without a walk around the 'Village Green’. Last year Jason Gillespie had a sculpture unveiled; this year it was Darren Lehman. Both adorn the area where cricket followers meet. They can enjoy a cup of coffee, a donut, dinkum hot dogs, schnitzel burgers, original pie floaters, a quiet drink or a sit-down meal under sails to protect you from the Adelaide sun.

When you have had enough you can leave the Adelaide Oval and walk the parklands via the Clarrie Grimmett Gates or the gates named after the noted player and administrator Phil Ridings. For those cricket purists a more in depth visit to the ground can see you being taken on a guided tour on a weekday during the year.