CA put priority on rebuilding Perth Test to open summer
Cricket Australia is entrusting Pakistan with helping bring life back to the Perth Test after a run of COVID cancellations was followed by a disappointing crowd against West Indies last summer.
Officials have confirmed Perth will host the first Test of the men's summer as part of a new-look schedule for cricket in 2023-24.
The decision to award Perth a mid-December Test against Pakistan comes at the cost of Adelaide, which will instead host West Indies for a second straight summer but in January this time.
CA's reasoning was two-fold.
Firstly, Australia's commitments overseas until early December severely limited options, given the first Test cannot start until midway through the month.
A Perth Test could therefore only be at the very start or end of the summer, given its timezone would have it clashing with the Big Bash League if played in the middle of January.
Perhaps more importantly, CA is desperate to see a return to big crowds in Western Australia.
Since the new stadium was opened in 2018-19, both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 Tests were cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions.
A total of only 42,517 attended the five days of last summer's opening Test there against West Indies, and CA are keen to avoid a repeat given the men from the Caribbean tour again this summer.
Pakistan will therefore play in Perth starting on December 14, before the series moves to the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne and New Year's Test in Sydney.
A day one crowd of 63,000 attended the MCG last time Pakistan played on Boxing Day in 2016, and officials have been spurred on by good-sized crowds they helped to draw in Melbourne and Sydney during last year's T20 World Cup.
There is a belief Pakistan have several players who are big enough stars to help marketing the summer schedule around.
"You've got (Shaheen Shah) Afridi who is one of the best bowlers in the world, and Babar (Azam) who is arguably in the top batters in the world," Australia spinner Nathan Lyon said.
"It's going to be exciting to have them out here. To have them in Melbourne and Sydney, I think that will be a decent Boxing Day crowd, for sure.
"They pull a crowd everywhere they go. I know when we went over to Pakistan, they absolutely love the game of cricket over there."
Australia will face West Indies for a second straight summer as part of a quirk of the ICC schedule after Pakistan leave, with Tests in Adelaide and Brisbane.
The women will start the summer with ODIs and T20s against West Indies, before they tour to India over Christmas and later host South Africa in a multi-format series in December and January.