Life’s a pitch at the Wanderers
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.