2020 has been for groundsmen a cricket season like no other!
Initially the early Summer emphasis was solely on maintaining cricket squares, outfields and areas beyond the boundary ropes neat, tidy and cut with no match play of any kind. Publicity was sent out by CAG to ensure that this essential maintenance was carried out across the county.
Once Boris Johnson gave the go ahead for recreational sport in July, match wickets at junior and senior level were prepared for the eight to ten week programme of games organised by the county’s governing bodies.
Perhaps, the most important aspect of CAG’s 2020 work came towards the end of the season and was to signify with clarity and urgency the need for all clubs to ensure that their squares were renovated and in particular thoroughly scarified to avoid the build up of thatch on and below the surface. To this end, Dave Twiney , our hard working secretary , provided our pitch advisers with groundsmen’s contact telephone numbers so that clubs could be contacted and offers of help, advice and support made.
Patrick Hutchinson, The Cheshire Fast League grounds chairman, provided CAG with a list of 35 clubs who may have found it difficult to carry out end of season renovation work. We made contact with all these clubs, our pitch advisers spoke to most on the phone and visited 10 clubs to take core samples and give advice.
This had the positive effect of making our pitch advisers more visible and encouraged clubs to specify clearly what end of season contractors should do. For example, the depth of scarification required , the number of passes needed etc.
The geographical spread of our 3 pitch advisers made this process more easily manageable:
Mark Samaru North Cheshire
Paul Agar Central Cheshire
Alex Kegg South Cheshire and The Wirral.
We thank the above advisers for the productive communications which took place. Without exception, groundsmen seemed to appreciate our calls and useful conversations were held.
Thank you to Dave Twiney for his wise old owl thinking, administrative efficiency and careful guidance. Our straight talking committee men, Ian Schora and Andy Horsfield, are working successfully at their respective clubs. We appreciate their up front contributions to our committee work.
It is this association’s major objective to continue to reach out across the county offering assistance and advice to clubs at all levels and particularly to clubs with grounds problems, limited finances and/or low grounds budgets. To this end we aim:
* to maintain strong links with the Cheshire Cricket Board, The Four Cs, The Cheshire County Cricket League, The Cheshire Fast League and The Cheshire County Cricket Club.
* we are building a file of pitch adviser site reports
CAG this year has increased its use of social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter and this has proved key in connecting with more groundsmen.
Our website remarkably shows more than 50,000 hits since April from more than one thousand users !!
Dave Twiney and Mark Samaru are looking to develop the website further and a statistics package has already been installed.
Pitch marks for the Cheshire Leagues but not The Cheshire County League are now available soon after matches have finished and give valuable feedback to groundsmen.
Sadly, as a consequence of the Covid crisis, no training sessions can be organised currently .
We trialled and advertised The Grounds Management Association’s on line course.
As soon as Covid allows, we will resume educational groundsmen’s courses, with particular concentration on the encouragement of the next generation of young groundsmen, both amateur volunteers and career professionals.
Currently, CAG is rightly paying our pitch advisers for their reports, the clubs are NOT :
£100 for a site visit offering analysis and verbal guidance and support
£ 200 for the in depth, written report known as PQS >> Performance Quality Standard report plus travel expenses.
The thinking is that CAG would not wish to deter any club struggling for grounds finance from asking for guidance from us.
* We have also been very grateful just this month to ‘The Cheshire Cricket Board’ for giving financial assistance to 4 Cheshire clubs so that they could fund end of season work on their grounds.
CONGRATULATIONS ALEX !
Alex Kegg, The Chester Boughton Hall groundsman and CAG Pitch Adviser, has just now completed an exhausting but satisfying Summer hosting at his ground some of the country’s best cricketers.
The Chester ground became the training centre for England’s men’s and women’s teams and Lancashire C.C.C.’s 1st X1 players, including Jimmy Anderson and CCCL products, Liam Livingstone, and leg spinning Parkinson, plus their coaching teams.
Over a three month period, Alex had to prepare wickets right across both his squares and to his credit they were all well received on both his grounds, being praised for their pace, carry and bounce and when they became worn, they spun to please the fourth day spinners in each of the squads.
This was no joy ride for Alex; he had every evening to put covers on the wickets and the bowlers’ run ups and we groundsmen all know just how tiring that is. Despite the long hours, he has thoroughly enjoyed the experience and may have won return visits next season !
Well played, Keggy !
CHESHIRE CLUB CRICKET IN GOOD HEALTH
To earn my corn, during the eight week programme of matches and afterwards in September, I visited 20 cricket grounds to get a feel for the condition of Cheshire club cricket across its different leagues and levels.
I am delighted to tell you that it was a most pleasurable experience as what I observed were attractive, well maintained , well equipped clubs with clearly conscientious groundsmen doing a fine job. I made sure that I visited small village clubs perched on hillsides as well as groomed town grounds.
How satisfying it was to view a wide range of clubs with differing expectations all taking a pride in creating a home of which their memberships could be proud.
HIGH LANE C.C. REBORN
One of the more remarkable stories in Cheshire cricket 2020 is the rebirth of High Lane C.C.
A gutted pavilion is being attractively re-designed internally, new changing rooms are being set up in a different building, a new drainage system is in place and the cricket square has been effectively renovated.
A determined and incisive chairman, Chris Simpson and a top rate groundsman, Gavin Graham, have led the way . The local community has been brought onside, golf days organised and a quarterly newsletter keeps the flag flying high!
In order to raise the profile and morale of groundsmen, we decided to award a ‘Groundsman Of The Year’ trophy to a deserving recipient, to be presented at the annual County League dinner. As the 2020 season only lasted 8 weeks and the League dinner cancelled, we delay the award until life returns to normal.
There was also valid talk of the club that developed its ground most effectively deserving recognition through an award.
A safe Winter to you all.
May season 2021 be filled with cricket matches!
Richard Cragg, Chairman, with key contributions from secretary, Dave Twiney.