Cricket club players may be hustling for their next win, but the behind the scenes preparation for the grass where they are set to play is an award winner for its intensity. There is an immensely unbelievable amount of work involved in maintaining the perfection of cricket club grass.
The grass is not just immaculately perfect at cricket clubs on its own. It’s a combination of art, science, and extreme diligence of the cricket club’s ground staff members. In the same way that the cricket players have their calendar of the playing season, the grass maintenance of the pitch area is also something that has its own corresponding calendar that is bustling with activity all year round.
Cricket pitch standards are set to excellent condition.
There are three general things forming the main criteria of the cricket pitch standard: even and free of sinking areas/depressions or undulations, balanced enough to facilitate ball bounce, and grasses have good density of roots and solid depth. Underneath these three general categories are many other factors from structure (length of grass, weed management, rootzone depth, etc.), appearance or presentation (surface is free of debris, appearance is uniform, and colour of sward is excellent), and implications to playing quality (rolling distance of the ball, hardness of the surface, grip, friction, etc.) The selection of the grass and the maintenance work required of it is not randomly chosen. It has its own set of standards and recommending guidelines outlined by organizations such as the English and Wales Cricket Board.
Pre-season Maintenance Work
January to April is the pre-season of cricket. Maintenance work is done when soil is dry during pre-season. The work involves gradual rolling work. There are light rollers in February at first and then heavier rollers by end of March, as heavy as 1.5 tonnes. Moist ground is ideal and spiked rollers to regulate the depth of the soil in preparation for the growing grass.
Mowing, Scarification, and Dragbrushing Magic
The magic of these three processes indicate that grass maintenance in cricket clubs is not a simple, run of the mill lawn mowing operation and you can bet nothing but the best zero turn mower on the market are used these fields. Reducing the height of the grass from its winter height (12-25 mm) through mowing is essential before the season of playing cricket begins. Depending on the grass type, the ideal height ranges anywhere from 10-18mm. Scarification must be done sparingly to encourage leaf growth without making the roots suffer underneath. Dragbrushing, on the other hand, allows the straightening of the grass or maintaining its upright position. You do more of these activities during playing season.
During the playing season, the maintenance work during pre-season is continued but uses more intense frequencies and there is some focus on irrigation requirements through the use of rotary sprinklers and a daily routine of pitch preparation. By this time, dragbrushing has a daily schedule and is done religiously along with mowing, scarification, and rolling.
Fertilisers and Chemical Applications
Earthworm problems are common as winter changes into spring. Spraying schedule to deal with the earthworms and other problems depends on the pitch condition and weather requirements. Fertilizer with a little iron is good for the pitch, and light application of fertilizer can begin by middle of March of as much as 2 g/N/meter-squared.
Post-Match Renovation Activities
After the playing season matches, the maintenance work involves removal of debris, repair of damaged areas like footholds with heavy clay loam, fertilizer rejuvenation, fine grass clippings, and pest control.
End of Season Maintenance Work
September is the end of cricket season and there are special maintenance work activities during this phase. It includes dew removal, aeration at a depth of 125 mm, scarification, multi-direction overseeding using an ideal grass seed mixture with the perennial ryegrass (lolium perenne) being one of the most popular, and continuation of earthworm control and application of fungicides.
Given this high level of maintenance for grass, a handful of cricket clubs offer non-grass varieties in their playing field and some wickets of the playing field are not made of grass, but this has its own set of guidelines and recommendations for maintaining a pristine condition. Even in something so seemingly simple as a patch of grass that forms a cricket pitch field, all the best and perfect things really take a lot of time and hard work to accomplish.