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Heritage house: From Heavy Metal to Chappell ball

Known the world over for possessing a pitch that entices fast bowlers, the WACA ground has a pleasant surprise tucked away in a corner of its sprawling complex, writes Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2008 21:53 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

Known the world over for possessing a pitch that entices fast bowlers, the WACA ground has a pleasant surprise tucked away in a corner of its sprawling complex.

It has everything to do with bat and ball, though people don’t play there. It’s a museum that offers visitors a peep into the ground’s history and heritage.

The place isn’t huge and used to be the curator’s residence before authorities decided to relocate the museum here in 2000. A brainchild of the late Roy Wenlock, a former cricket development officer with the Western Australian Cricket Association, the museum saw close to 6000 visitors in 2007.

The collection of memorabilia isn’t huge, but there are some interesting articles on display and most of them are linked to the matches played here. There are exceptions as well, like the ball used by Trevor Chappell in 1981 when brother Greg infamously instructed him to bowl an underarm delivery in an ODI against New Zealand.

“Though that match was played in Melbourne, umpire Donald Waser, a Western Australian, donated the ball to the museum,” informed Stephen Hall, the coordinator.

Most objects have a direct connection with the WACA, like the aluminum bat used by Dennis Lillee in a Test against England in 1979. Also adoring the ‘Bat Room’ are ‘Combat’ or ‘Heavy Metal’ — the willows used by Sir Len Hutton and Sir Jack Hobbs.

Son of the soil Lillee forms an integral part of the establishment and the last ball bowled by him in a Western Australia-Victoria match here in December 1984, finds a prominent place, as does the ball used in the first-ever Test at this ground in 1970.

A room has been dedicated to Sir Don Bradman and there are rare pictures of the legend including one with the champions of an inter-school competition in 1948. An abstract sculpture of the icon by Ray Montgomery stands out for capturing what can be called poetry in motion.

Space being a problem, Hall informed that articles are replaced from time to time partly depending on the team that’s visiting the WACA.

India figure prominently at the moment with pictures of the first team to have visited here in 1947-48, occupying a shelf.

A blazer used by the Maharaja of Vizianagram can be seen along with a bat used by Ranjitsinhji.

‘Ranji – The Authorised Biography’ is also here, while a short description of the tour matches played by the first Indian team refers to Vinoo Mankad as the ‘great Indian all-rounder’.

It’s not just a journey through the distant past, but also a reckoner of how things have moved on with time. The WACA hosted the first-ever Twenty20 match on Australian soil in January 2005, and the scorecard of the game between local side Retravision Warriors and Victoria Bushrangers, occupies a prominent place.