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Gabba no certainty for future first Tests

AAP logoAAP 13/12/2016 Rob Forsaith

Cricket Australia (CA) risks further infuriating players as it continues to juggle sentiment, ticket sales and TV ratings while plotting the future.

CA on Tuesday announced the 2017-18 Ashes schedule, confirming the Gabba would reclaim its status as the summer opener.

But it came with a caveat from CA chief James Sutherland, who said the Brisbane fortress was no certainty to host first Tests beyond 2017.

"This venue is a real stronghold for the Australian team. They love playing here; they love kicking off the summer," Sutherland said.

"Every summer is different, but it's certainly a possibility that we play the Brisbane Test match at a different time (in ensuing seasons).

"We'll definitely keep our options open there.

"Players are a very-important stakeholder group, as are many others. We've got a lot of corporate partners, sponsors, media partners."

They are words that will not sit well with many Test stars.

"It's nice having the first Test at the Gabba, only because it's the sentimental thing," batsman Usman Khawaja said on Tuesday.

"As cricketers, we're always reluctant to change.

"It is a big shock for any team to come to the Gabba first up because it is very different to any other wicket around the world."

The ground has hosted the first Test of the Australian season for the vast majority of Khawaja's life.

It is an arrangement that has suited skippers Steve Smith, Michael Clarke, Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor just fine. Australia haven't lost a Test at the venue since 1988 - a record that has weighed on the minds of countless touring sides.

But poor crowds prompted a rethink this year, with CA shifting the first Test to Perth and instead opting for a day-night Test from Thursday at the Gabba.

The wheels fell off at the WACA, where Australia lost the opening Test of their home summer for the first time since 1988.

"Starting up here feels normal," Josh Hazlewood said.

"When we are playing top international teams, having that record here gets in the back of their minds."

Former Test paceman Ryan Harris was among many past players and pundits to suggest stripping the Gabba of the season opener was an error.

Sutherland preached the upside of breaking with tradition.

"We're on target to have the highest attendance ever for a non-Ashes Test match at the Gabba," he said.

"We're looking at around (a total crowd of) 80,000."

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