We are now entering an extremely busy time for grassroots clubs. We are at that period where we need to start preparing for the changeover from winter sports to summer ones.
Most cricket club groundstaff are now looking at starting their pre-season rolling programme. There is no hard and fast rule of when to start your pre-season rolling, it is purely down to the weather conditions and more importantly the condition of your ground.
No two grounds are the same. Each club has their own unique environments and topography.
As a general rule, it is a good idea to begin rolling work in the weeks leading up to the start of the cricket season. This will allow the pitch to be properly prepared and to develop the desired characteristics for cricket play, such as a smooth and level surface with good bounce and pace.
The rolling work should begin with light rolling to help level the surface and gradually increase in weight and frequency as the season approaches. It is important to monitor the condition of the pitch during this time and adjust the rolling as needed to ensure that the surface is not becoming too compacted, which can lead to poor drainage and decreased performance.
By understanding what your rollers can and cannot achieve is very important. Knowledge of soil compaction, moisture content and soil swell and shrinkage, coupled with the importance of allowing pitches to dry, is all part of good pitch preparation.
The aim of rolling a cricket square is to compact the pitch so that it is harder and more consistent. The harder the pitch, the less deformity will occur on ball impact, resulting in more pace and bounce.
Brian Sandalls, a Sussex cricket groundsman, provides a wealth of information on cricket pitches and has recently published some specific information on Pre Season Rolling.
Brian’s website also recently produced a podcast that featured a number of turf professionals who candidly spoke about some key issues facing our industry, that I found to be most interesting.
Entitled No 1 Turf Topics- Recruitment and Mental Health Concerns, during the session Brian and his guests spoke about the pressures faced in doing their job and the difficulty in getting the appropriate resources, products, machinery and quite often the right levels of staff to deliver the expectations of their employees and end users. All this can be compounded by low pay and less than ideal working conditions. All too familiar traits that our industry has experienced for many years.
From my own working experiences, these issues have always been a challenge and can only be changed if we have the presence of mind and communication skills to convince others to invest in our ambitions and ideas. This is needed to giving us the time and recourses to deliver their expectations.
As mentioned in the podcast, these outcomes are often made more frustrating by the fact that many of our line managers can sometimes not understand the complexities of the job and how major an influence the weather can be when preparing natural grass playing surfaces.
Lighting rigs to help promote growth
We have also seen in recent years, the dramatic advances in monitoring turf health as well as a plethora of products now available to promote growth and sustainability.
All of these pressures are now affecting the health and wellbeing of turf professionals, with many now leaving our profession. I would say from experience that too many facilities are under-resourced and are only functioning on the goodwill and dedication of their staff - often working long hours and weekends to fulfil these tasks, oftentimes for no additional recognition or payment.
We as an industry need to take stock of these problems and start to change our working environment. Above all there must be a better understanding of our jobs, hopefully leading to better pay and working conditions.
The future of our industry depends on this.