Jake Hill, a former club-cricketer-turned coach at the Adelaide University, can’t stop venting his anger out at the state council’s decision to cancel the metro train services on the weekend because of the relocation of the Operations Control Centre, adjacent to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, to Dry Creek. “What can I say, they’re stupid? How can they do this to thousands of cricket fans from the suburbs? There are 52 weeks a year, but why this one,” he fumes.
Hill is from the sleepy suburb of Gawler, 45kilometres north of the city, and plies on the metro everyday to the University. Now, he has to hop into crowded buses, deployed in the metro routes to ferry the passengers. “But it takes a lot of time. A metro takes about half-an-hour, but the bus takes easily an hour and a half. On weekends there will be traffic snarls during peak hours. Now it has to seen how many of them would turn up over the weekend for the match.”
It’s on the weekends that the Adelaide Oval is at the fullest, when those staying deep in the state pack their bags to the Oval pilgrimage. “It’s part of our culture, to come here during the weekends whenever there is a Test, or (Aussie-rule) football match, but more so when it’s cricket,” he says.
It maybe that unlike bigger cities like Sydney and Melbourne, which have their year-round glittering carnivals and pageants, Grand Slam and Grand Prix, Adelaide and its suburbs don’t have much festivities to look forward to.
There is an Adelaide Beer and BBQ festival in July, a Fashion Week in October and the Adelaide Fringe, a multi-stream visual gala, in January, but nothing quite matches a Test match at the Oval, reckons Hill. “Maybe, it’s deep-rooted in our culture that it’s become a tradition, which both the young and the old adhere. I got fascinated by the game when my dad brought me here to watch cricket, even grade cricket,” he says.
It’s where they make new friends, dust up old friendship and even find their dates. “I’ve made a lot of friends here, people that I only meet here but share a deep bond. It’s like that in most of Australia, we just don’t watch the game but socialise over the game. Occasionally, there have been scuffles and brawls, but it’s all part of the game here,” he says.
The frolicking, though, will be less this time due to the cancellation of the metro service, leaving the South Australia Cricket Association (SACA) equally dissed. According to them, nearly 13 percent of the spectators commute by metro, which operates in five other routes, and the figure could be even higher on the weekends. What angers them more is that they were not consulted before taking the decision, and were informed a week before the Test, that too involving India.
In a bid to reverse the decision, the SACA chief executive Keith Bradshaw met the transport minister Stephan Knoll last week, but it didn’t bear the desired fruits.
Bradshaw was reported as saying to The Advertiser: “We’re, obviously, very disappointed that the trains won’t be running on Saturday and Sunday. It’s really a case of now rolling up our sleeves and getting on with a plan.”
This is even more worrying for them as new Tests centres like Canberra are springing up, reducing the frequency of the matches at the Oval. Needless to say, it’s became a lightning rod for criticism for the opposition party.
Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas deemed it was “arguably one of the biggest public transport stuff-ups in history”, before calling for the resignation of Steven Marhall, the premier of South Australia, who some of the political reporters feel, is too cornered to open his mouth.
The comments section of the story that appeared in one of the newspapers was scathing. “Welcome to South Australia, the state with no idea no matter who’s in power,” quipped one of the readers. Another one snapped: “More stupid Adelaide material. Why not the first week of January or this weekend?” But this one nailed it: “It seems this Liberal government has an overwhelming desire to be stupider than the discredited Labor government that preceded it. Hard to do, I know, but they are giving it a good go.”
But Hill, and like him thousands from the suburbs, aren’t worried about the political upheaval it could generate, but the pangs of missing an Oval Test at the weekend.