It’s an ode to the game’s glorious past, one of cricket’s most iconic landmarks. Right now, it’s sitting in a Sydney suburb warehouse, biding time and waiting for a homecoming. For 60 years, the old scoreboard of the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) stood at the top of the Hill. Built in 1923, it was the third and the most illustrious scoreboard in SCG’s history till it was replaced by an electronic version and kept behind the Doug Walters Stand until 2006 when it was moved from the ground. And now, there are talks of bringing it back.
“Hopefully, the plan is to bring it back. When and where I am not sure but I am hopeful it could be next year,” said Gail Dwyer-Gerrard, who has been overseeing SCG’s tourism and culture division for five years now. The final decision lies with the SCG Trust. And it could be taken some time later this year considering they were waiting for the new football stadium (Allianz Stadium) to come up next to it at Moore Park. “There isn’t much room anyway in the ground so we have to see,” she said.
The first electronic scoreboard at the SCG came up in 1983. The current one is SCG’s seventh scoreboard, the largest in the southern hemisphere. It’s a computerised modern marvel now, with new LED panels that have increased the size of the existing scoreboard on the Dally Messenger Stand from 272 sqm to 443.5 sqm.
But it doesn’t compare to the heft the heritage-tagged scoreboard brought with it. SCG’s very first scoreboard was designed by the grounds curator Ned Gregory and looked quite similar to the third that stood for 60 years. An imposing concrete structure with SCG written on top, the scoreboard was nothing less than a storyteller. “Adelaide has retained the scoreboard but they don’t have the stands anymore,” said Gail Dwyer-Gerrard. Nor do Melbourne, nor the Gabba. Perth has shifted to a more monotonous venue that doesn’t let the Fremantle Doctor sweep its grounds. But the SCG is the only ground in Australia to retain the original scoreboard as well as the members’ pavilion.
The scoreboard, along with the Hill, was an integral part of the ground’s legend. Like in the 1971 Ashes, when England fast bowler John Snow hit Terry Jenner (Shane Warne’s mentor) on the head. “The crowd wasn’t happy,” said Gail Dwyer-Gerrard. “And the crowd on the Hill was really unhappy. And so, Ray Illingworth said to poor Snow: ‘You go and field on the boundary in front of the Hill.’ He was just asking for trouble. Somebody grabbed him and bottles rained on to the ground. There was a walkoff and England refused to come back till it was all sorted on the Hill.”
Back then, there were four people working on the scoreboard at all times, all of whom had to climb up and down ladders to change the calico (canvas) sheets which displayed cricketer’s names. Whoever was coming out, they would have to roll out the name accordingly and put out metal numbers as scores. When the Doug Walters Stand was finally built in front of the scoreboard, only the top was visible. The late cricketer and broadcaster Bill O’Reilly had once said: “How sad that such a great structure which had borne the names of so many greats of the game, from Bradman to Benaud to Border, was now hidden behind the Doug Walters stand, ignored and forgotten.”
In 2006, it was finally decided to move the scoreboard. Some of its original parts, including calico portions of the 1947 tour—when independent India was led by Lala Amarnath—have been preserved at the museum. The SCG curator still undertakes annual checks on the scoreboard as authorities deliberate its final resting place.
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