The Ying and the Yang of a Cricket Square
The Ying And The Yang of a Cricket Square
Message from Richard Mosdell, Wiltshire Cricket Pitch Advisor:
In my last article I promised you that things would come good but I have to admit I wasn’t quite expecting what has happened in the last two months. In short, apart from the odd thunderstorms, which caused their own issues, it’s been dry, and we have all gone from praying for a dry spell, to praying for a drop of rain. Just a little, early in the week , preferably overnight - not too much to ask really. However, the weather gods have seen fit to deny us our request, and so we are faced with desert like conditions. Note to self; you had to go and open your mouth, it’s bound to be torrential next week now!
It’s all very well if you are full time, have no budget or time restrictions and can lavish as much nutrition and water to your beloved square as you like, or need. BUT. What if like the majority of us, you aren’t and you don’t. Well, then it becomes a bit trickier. Players all want or think they have to have, thanks to TV coverage, white , flat and pacey tracks, unless they are seam bowlers (ex in my case), but then they are a breed all of their own. However, I doubt we see many of them rocking up to add their invaluable wisdom to the process of preparing their wicket for the weekend.
So what’s to be done. Well first of all, be realistic with what you can do and what you want as an end result. Don’t kill yourself attempting to have something resembling HQ. They won’t know any different, until you aren’t there. Make a plan to win the battle, not win the war. Focus your efforts one track at a time, ahead of time and make it the best it can be. Think about leaving more grass length on the square. I've gone up to 13mm. This has two benefits; (1) it means the plant is less stressed and will retain its colour better, and (2) it will provide some protection for players from hard surfaces and will hold the square together better. If you have limited time and water availability, use them wisely. Water in the early evening, or overnight; less will evaporate that way. Give you chosen track a good soaking at least a week ahead (different loam types will need different time soaking so beware), cover it ( flat sheet is ideal for this) so it soaks to depth, leave for a day and then start rolling; 20mins twice a day is ideal but if time is your enemy then once a day will be fine. Remember though; re-cover it to keep moisture in for now.
NOTE don’t over roll at this stage. If it goes black, or makes large depressions relative to next track while rolling, leave it, it’s too wet. Come back tomorrow. Make the first couple of sessions at a brisk pace, just to level the surface, then gradually reduce your speed as you get near to game day. This will force the water out gradually allowing the loam to bind more effectively, with the last roll on Saturday morning at slowest possible speed. This process will enable the track to dry evenly through the week and, if it get’s too dry too early, you can always add a little on a Thursday and roll it in as opposed to having to get a lot on so close to game day. Keep the track cut at 8mm during this process and then reduce to 5mm for game day (you’ll be surprised how that makes it look white), leave your creases at 8mm (this will help keep your ends together and provide contrast to the track). You can switch to roll on covers after the first few days if you have them and don’t be afraid to leave them on to stop it drying too quickly as they don’t have to be used just for rain as most people think. If teams use the ground get them to put covers back on. If you aren’t around it won’t kill them to help and they may begin to understand what you/we have to do every week.
It all sounds very time consuming doesn’t it? Once mastered though this routine will save time and effort and will be more cost effective for your treasurer (always a good result). Give it a go; what’s the worst that can happen; a slight green tinge to the track maybe, but infinitely preferable to a track that’s falling apart. All the above is subjective of course, and is what works for me. You may find tweaking the process to suit your individual situations is needed. It’s about finding what works for you, and that is what it’s all about. Good luck in the coming weeks and, as always, the W.C.G.A. is here to help so if you need some advice or an ear to bend all the numbers are on the web site. NOW WATCH IT BUCKET DOWN!
Wiltshire E.C.B. Pitch Advisor.
P.S. Never too early to start planning your end of season renovations and to get your loam orders in to avoid the inevitable rush. Please note that bookings are now being taken for the W.C.G.A. Trailers if you want your work done for you. All details available on the Wiltshire Cricket web site and via George Clift.
Rolling on a River
The WCGA also thought it might also be useful to pass on the following article from IOG technical turf consultant Alex Vickers who offers helpful advice to cricket groundsman trying to make up for lost time (Article from June edition of The Groundsman):