Life’s a pitch at the Wan­der­ers

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - KEVIN MCCALLUM

APART from some ex­tra cash and an en­hanced rep­u­ta­tion for putting on a big show, the In­dian Premier League has come at some cost to South African cricket as two of the show­piece pitches at the Wan­der­ers, the coun­try’s premier sta­dium, have been killed off.

Chris Scott, the chief grounds­man at the Wan­der­ers, said the two pitches used for the IPL have not re­cov­ered from the tour­na­ment and have had to be re­planted.

With the Wan­der­ers only hav­ing four “tele­vi­sion pitches” – ie, those near the cen­tre of the square – this means Scott has only two TV pitches avail­able for next month’s ICC Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy and the up­com­ing tour by Eng­land, the Ashes cham­pi­ons.

“It was a com­bi­na­tion of the IPL be­ing played af­ter our nor­mal sea­son had fin­ished, which meant the pitches didn’t have time to re­cover, and also the na­ture of 20-over cricket,” said Scott this week.

“For Pro20 cricket you need ab­so­lutely flat tracks, which meant we had to scalp all the grass from the pitches. We’ve had to re­plant them and they won’t be ready to be used un­til late next year.

To con­serve the two pitches and pre­vent too much wear so they last for the seven matches to be played in 11 days at the Wan­der­ers, Scott said he would have to leave more grass on them. Bowlers the world over will be happy at that news.

“This could mean that the two tracks will be a lit­tle more ‘sporty’ than nor mal,” said Scott, who pro­duced the fa­mous 438 track where bats­men ruled over bowlers in March 2006. “I un­der­stand Cen­tu­rion have a sim­i­lar prob­lem, and al­though they didn’t lose two pitches, their pitches will also be a lit­tle more lively for the same rea­sons.

“The Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy means we will have an ear­lier start to the sea­son than usual, and then we will also have to use th­ese same two pitches for the Eng­land matches on Novem­ber 13 and 20, and then one of them for the Test on Jan­uary 14,” said Scott.

“I need to look af­ter the two re­planted pitches for the fu­ture. The roots need time to get some depth be­fore we start us­ing them.

“Oth­er­wise, if you play on them – and you could get them match ready – then any sur­face dam­age prob­a­bly wouldn’t re­pair and would be per­ma­nent.”

While not quite a dis­as­ter for the Wan­der­ers, with the ad­min­is­tra­tors at the Gaut­eng Cricket Board say­ing they had full faith the award-winning Scott would nurse the pitches through, it has given lit­tle room for er­ror at the sta­dium that is South African cricket’s big­gest earner in terms of gate tak­ings.

Con­sid­er­ing the re­cent spat be­tween the GCB and Cricket South Africa in which the lat­ter took the Eng­land matches away from the GCB, it was lit­tle sur­prise that they re­in­stated the games.

In th­ese hard times, cash is still king. Last sea­son the Wan­der­ers, which has a ca­pac­ity of 29 500, had 124 767 pay­ing spec­ta­tors from a to­tal of 321 212 for the six venues used for in­ter­na­tional cricket.

That amounts to a sales value of R13 495 631, near enough to half of the over­all fig­ure of R30 983 960.

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