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Veteran curator P R Viswanathan bids adieu after long career

He was felicitated by the BCCI for his outstanding contribution over the years

P R Viswanathan, who served BCCI as a curator for well over a decade, was also a member of the committee from the South Zone that looked at improving qualities of pitches and grounds. As he retires from his role, he interacted with bcci.tv reflecting on his long career. Speaking about his initiation as a curator, he said, “I was in a business which did not go well. I had a background in Botany and was a post graduate in the subject, so I was doing a bit of landscaping work. At the time Chemplast wanted a ground prepared for them and I took the job. From there on it started. It has been about 25 years now. 

“I prepared the grounds for Chemplast, India Cements, MRF, India Pistons etc. After about 10 to 12 grounds, I worked for Andhra Cricket Association. I did the initial work for the new stadium that they have now at Vizag and also Vijayawada. I did a good deal of work for Andhra. Once I took it up seriously, I left all the other things and focused on it,” he added while discussing his transition into the profession full time.

Asked about his work with BCCI, Viswanathan said, “I think it was around 2002-03 when New Zealand came to India and there was an ODI to be played a day before Diwali (in Chennai). It had been raining very heavily for more than a week, so I covered the ground completely. From then on I started working with the BCCI.”

Viswanathan also mentioned that the work he did along with Mr Daljit Singh in designing courses was one of the fulfilling initiatives of his tenure. “Daljit Singh and I were given the responsibility of conducting segregation courses. We did a lot of training work and conducted three certification courses for curators. We also brought out a manual which has been appreciated by quite a few. As a natural progression from the segregation course, we did a course for Level 1 we brought in a scientific approach. There are quite a few people like Taposh Chatterjee of Rajasthan, Ashish Bhowmick from Tripura who is looking after the East Zone; they are capable people who will take this work forward,” he said.

Reflecting on his career, Viswanathan said that preparing a ground and getting it match ready despite rains and bad weather at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru was one of the most memorable events for him. “The match was on 14th and I landed there on the 11th and India were to play South Africa. I had given instructions for rolling but just after two days of rolling, it started raining so nothing could be done about it. We started working but as we would remove the covers, it would start raining. Mr. Brijesh Patel from KSCA who was watching all this said, “Vishy can we do something and cover the ground?” A complete canopy extending almost 20 feet behind the wicket and either side was put up. Then from 1 pm in the afternoon till 10 pm in the night, we moved hot trolleys over the pitch, burnt charcoal, made hot plates and used them for six – seven hours. Then next day we came at 6 AM and the wicket was made. The match referee Jeff Crowe said that it was ready. Unfortunately, day and was rained off.”

On the occasion of his retirement, Viswanathan was felicitated for his service and contribution to by the BCCI in Chennai on February 14, 2018.  

BCCI Staff

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Dhiraj Parsana – The guide to preparing a Test wicket

BCCI West Zone chief curator tells us what goes into preparing a Test pitch

mHosting a Test match is a proud moment for any state association and producing a good Test wicket gives tremendous satisfaction to a curator. Preparing a pitch for the longest format is an art and also a challenge which every curator relishes.

With extensive cricket being played during the season, time used for pitch preparation has vastly changed. Earlier, it took about 20 days, but now a good pitch can be prepared within 10 days.

Usually the three centre wickets on the main square are shortlisted for a Test match. The one with even grass cover is zeroed in and work on it starts about a week before the match. Once a strip is shortlisted, it is barricaded with a 10 foot by 80 foot rope. 

The length of the grass is then measured and it should not be more than 8mm. The pitch is then checked for undulation and it is an ongoing process leading up to the match.

To begin with, the pitch is watered. It may seem simple, but watering is not done directly through a hosepipe. It is very important that watering takes place in an even manner and which is why we use the shower pipe, so that water is sprinkled uniformly.

If the surface is too soft, percolation of water takes place quickly. A screwdriver of about 6mm and with a diameter of 3-4 mm is used to measure the depth. Precaution must be taken that water does not percolate more than four inches.

If too much water percolates then one cannot prepare a good pitch. If the surface underneath is damp, the bowlers do not get the desired bounce and right density needs to be achieved over a period of four days.

Once the pitch is watered, we make use of the light roller weighing 250-300 kg and roll it diagonally for about 20 minutes in the morning.

The pitch is then watered again using the shower method to make sure the water intake and surface level is regular. It also ensures that there is no shifting of soil and sand underneath the surface which might have resulted due to rolling.

Once the pitch is watered, it is left to dry to see how much water remains on the top of the surface.  Once that happens, a light roller is once again used in a diagonal-cross fashion and the pitch is watered again. This is the routine which is followed in the first half of the day. For the second half, the pitch is left uncovered to ensure there is no dampness underneath.

However, afternoon heat results in formation of hairline cracks on the pitch. It is important that the surface is bound together and this can be achieved by making use of the one-ton roller.

The roller that is put to use in mornings is to bind 2mm of the top surface while the one in evening is to bind the surface underneath. The same process is repeated for three straight days to get good rebound energy.

On the fourth day, the eight-inch grass that was left earlier is cut to 6mm. In the afternoon, two more mm are chopped off to bring it to four, which is the perfect height to produce a good result-oriented surface.

It is always advisable to have some idea about the surface. If the ground has not played host to any age-group or multi-day games earlier, we make sure there is some cricket played to check the base compaction of the surface.

While the pitch is almost ready to be used, the groundsmen need to see to it that the top surface is not excessively dry and that grass is evenly spread.

The other factors that one needs to keep in mind while preparing a pitch is sunlight, temperature and time of the match. The curator has to observe weather patterns and accordingly make his calculations. If the match is in November, it is generally cooler while a match in March would be a lot drier. In winter, you generally leave the pitch to dry for two days.  Doing the same in April would result into big cracks on the surface due to extreme heat.

(As told to Moulin Parikh)

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