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‘A Groundsman’s Life’ – Kent Cricket’s Andy Peirson

Tuesday 18th October 2011

Men’s First Team

Let me introduce myself, I’m Andy Peirson – Ground Co-ordinator for Kent County Cricket Club. I have been in my current position January 2009; my previous role was as Head Groundsman at KCCC Beckenham, a position I held for seven years.

I work in an industry that happens to be in the public eye, and I wouldn`t work anywhere else. I love my job and don`t worry about the hours or the commitment it takes to carry out my job, if I didn`t love what I do then I`d be in the wrong job. It does have its ups and downs – the ups are gaining awards at ECB dinners, and the downs are having your pitch reported, and the hurtful comments made behind your back. But I`ve got a thick skin, and four pins and a rope to keep people away from me and my pitches.

A typical match day starts at about 5:30am – yep you are reading correctly; this is when I check the weather forecast for the day before I leave home. I reach the ground, along with the rest of my team about 7:00am. The reason for this is to ensure that all the covers are off the net area, square and all the playing surfaces are cut and practice nets and throw down nets are up before the players arrive. This allows the players full run of the ground without interruptions.

Once a match has started, we have already been at work for four hours, so if the weather is fine then it`s time for some breakfast and a cup of tea. I stay and watch between 80 and 90 percent of every day’s play on a fine clear day, but on a dull day when rain is forecast I`m on the side of the pitch all day, only leaving it to check the weather. If it does rain or the players come off for poor light we are instructed to cover the pitch; when rain is the reason for a stop in play then I decide on how many covers go on, we only put everything on if heavy or prolonged rain is forecast. As for removing covers and the restart of play, it is up to the umpires, I don`t have any say and all I can do is advise on how long it will take to remove all the water and sheets – then the umpires will decide if the ground is safe for play to restart or even start.

On a non-match day we start work at 8:00am and our workload changes depending on whether the players are in training or playing away. If the players are in then we prep whatever they require. The players don’t just turn up, they have a training schedule which is set by the coaching staff and I get a copy at the beginning of every month.

Once I have set the work for the day I concentrate on pitch preparation. If we are getting ready for a match, we start prepping pitches 10 to 14 days away from the fixtures, but this can be hampered if we have bad weather or a busy fixture schedule and we are also producing net pitches and repairing old pitches on the net area and square. Pitches aren’t picked randomly; I produce a plan during the winter which I then run past the coaching staff so we can then discuss any changes they wish to make to suit our team.

Another part of my job is to oversee any out-ground that the County play on. So, when we are playing at Tunbridge Wells, Beckenham, Maidstone, King’s School and Folkestone most of the grounds aren’t under my control and I`m there on an advisory basis to lend support to the resident ground staff in case of any problems. This means that my time is split across the county during the season. I still talk to the other grounds during the off season, which leads me into what is actually done at the ground during the off season.

Most people believe that once the cricket season is finished the ground staff disappear until March, when we start pre-season rolling, but this is far from the case. Yes, we do work less hours, but this is to make up for working an average of six days a week from the beginning of March until the end of September. The ground staff team consists of myself, Simon, Anthony and Martin – all are full time staff at Canterbury, and we also employ a seasonal worker between March and September.

The off season is very short, but the most important. The reason for this is because the work we carry out from the end of the season until late December will have a major impact on the following season.

This season we have had problems with certain pitches, so we have under-taken steps to rectify these problems. Although there aren’t any miracle solutions and we can`t wave a wand to resolve any problems overnight, we can put in place steps to improve the playing surface; which we have done this September.

The work that we have had carried out this autumn is a process called drill and fill (see picture 1).

Picture 1: Deep Drill machine in action

For this we outsourced the work to a specialist company called Ecosolve; they have carried out work at the ground before and have helped at other County grounds throughout the country. The purpose of the above process was to pin the square together, this was done by drilling holes to a depth of 325mm and a diameter of 25mm at approximate 100 centres (see picture 2).

Picture 2: The pattern left after two passes

The debris had to be removed by hand and has been used to fill various holes along the Nackington Road side of the ground. The next part of the process was to refill the holes ensuring that we compact the loam that went back in; this was done manually with metal pins and mallets. We have used approximately half a tonne on each pitch, which took five days to complete before we could seed or top dress the four pitches. Before the drill and fill process we had scarified all the table and then seeded and top dressed using Bar Extreme seed and Ongar Loam (see picture 3)

Picture 3: Pin used to compact the loam into the holes

This winter we will also be reseeding any areas around the ground where building work has damaged the surfaces, and try to restore the levels on the non-playing area. We will be doing the same on the playing surface, sowe will be busy all winter.