TEST cricket will return to Tasmania for the first time in three-years as Blundstone Arena plays host to the Commonwealth Bank series opener between Australia and West Indies from 10-14 December.
The Australians, led by Steve Smith, will head to Hobart for the first of three Tests against the men from the Caribbean who, despite having slipped down the ICC Test rankings, still boast match-winners in young captain Jason Holder, batsman Darren Bravo and pace pair Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach.
The match is set to continue the tradition of the world’s best cricketers doing battle on the island state, snagging the title of the 12th Test played at Blundstone Arena since the very first match in 1989.
Tasmania skipper George Bailey, who played five Tests in the 2013-14 Ashes whitewash, told cricket.com.au that he had fond memories of attending the second-ever game in Hobart as a schoolboy 22-years ago.
“I do remember an Australia versus New Zealand Test in 1993,” he said.
“I was in grade five and I petitioned the headmaster at Longford Primary School to take a busload of kids down to watch a day’s cricket in Hobart.
“In his wisdom, he decided to let the grade six kids go, but one of the teachers relented and said, ‘given it was George’s idea, perhaps he should be allowed to go.’
“So we trekked down and saw Australia absolutely rock and roll New Zealand.”
Bailey said the ground had seen a lot of changes since 1993.
“It was just a completely different ground to what it is now,” he said.
“I remember being fascinated watching the commentators go up to the commentary box – it was like an old building scaffold and if the wind got up it used to sway.
“Back then, I think it was really only one-and-a-half grandstands, so watching the transition over the years has been pretty special.
“It’s coincided with the rise of Tassie cricket.”
As an active member of the Tasmanian system for more than a decade, Bailey said the rise of the state as a legitimate force on the country’s cricket scene could be attributed to a host of people behind the scenes, as well as David Boon and Ricky Ponting “blazing a trail on the playing front.”
“There’s a huge number of people who were involved in the steady growth and Boon and Ponting showed it was possible to play for Australia and Tasmania,” he said.
“But when I first started those guys weren’t around much, so it was Jamie Cox, Michael Di Venuto, Shaun Young and Dan Marsh who were so successful – they could compete and they got Tassie to a couple of Shield finals.”
Mr Bailey said Tim Coyle also played a “huge part” when he came on board as coach.
“Just in terms of a really strong belief, a really proud Tasmanian who was proud of our history,” he said.
“Certainly Boonie and Ricky made it possible for all of us, but there was a huge number of people who contributed.”
For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.cricket.com.au.