DEVELOPMENT FROM THE GROUND UP

A Vision for Portable Pitches In Asia

With due consideration to the needs of the game of cricket, challenges of obtaining land for cricket use in many countries and the advances in modern technology, NZSTI believe that portable or moveable pitches can play a major role in the future of cricket in Asia.

The beaches and schools of Sri Lanka, the maidans of India and the gullies of Pakistan, along with the rooftops of Hong Kong and Bangladesh have been a breeding-ground for many a cricketer but the truth is, playing areas across Asia are shrinking with the onset of urbanization and population growth.

“I remember growing up in a city, in Bangalore, and there was so much of area around where we lived and I played cricket. Everyday, we got together as a group and in the neighbourhood, there were a lot of empty plots where you could clean up the plot and play a game of cricket every evening. There is none of that today. Now, there is commuting. If my parents or my father took me for cricket coaching or cricket practice from my house to the stadium, it was a twenty minutes drive. Today, it is an hour's drive.” Rahul Dravid

 

For quality cricket to be played there needs to be a pitch and outfield of good (high quality and safe) standard. Constraints that currently limit achieving the above in many countries, include:

  • The need for cricket to share facilities with football codes and other users, which hinders preparation of a quality cricket surface and limits the time the ground is available for cricket use. Furthermore, a cricket pitch located in the middle of a football field will compromise quality of the other user groups.
  • A shortage of grounds for cricket and the difficulty for cricket to acquire land in some countries (especially where it is seen as a minor sport)
  • The intensive use (amount of cricket played) at some venues, which directly affects pitch quality and also limits the opportunity to work on new pitches while a match is in progress.

Portable pitches (either natural or synthetic turf surfaces) will help ensure that:

  • Cricket can operate symbiotically with other sports (cricket needs to demonstrate to football and other codes that it can share a ground without compromising quality of the football surface)
  • A quality playing surface (prepared portable pitch) can be provided to venues (countries, associations) that do not have the capability or resources to prepare a quality pitch. For example an exhibition cricket match could be successfully played at a major football stadium.
  • Grounds can receive intensive use without compromising quality (fresh pitches brought in). This will have particular significance for grounds that already have high use, and for major tournaments.
  • Aligned to the above, having a portable system will enable the Curator to be working on preparing the next pitch while a game is in progress, thereby lowering the risk of ground defects.

In many places, where there was desert there is now turf. Where there is turf there is now cricket. And where there is cricket there can only be improvement.

Keith McAuliffe, NZSTI’s Chief Executive, says “I guess our staff take a lot of satisfaction from seeing a country with little or no playing facilities develop international standard and sustainable playing facilities – the Kinrara ground in Kuala Lumpur would be a good example.

“It is nice to receive letters from countries where help has been given to develop curatorship skills and to hear of the progress made (e.g. Nepal).

“I have also enjoyed the responsibility and challenge working with the Test-playing countries, such as the recent evaluation of first-class grounds in Pakistan.

“If I was to say what I look forward to it would include:

  • working with the ACC and ICC to ensure the next World Cup is a success with regard to pitch and outfield quality.
  • Seeing new technology introduced to the region, such as affordable, effective portable pitch systems.”

The New Zealand Sports Turf Institute has done much to benefit Asian cricket. The rest is now in the hands of those on the ground.

Filed April 23, 2007

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