By Neto Baptiste
Head curator at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium Anthony Merrick has, in hindsight, agreed that the pitch used during the recent Test between England and the West Indies at the North Sound venue could have offered more to bowlers and could have made it a more balanced square.
Speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show, Merrick added that a number of issues worked against his team’s efforts to find the right balance in preparing the pitch, including a hectic schedule which spanned the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup and a training camp.
“It was very challenging; it was the first time we were preparing a Test match pitch and we didn’t have full access to the middle or the square, because just about at the end of the ICC Under-19 World Cup at the end of February, we got a schedule for a training camp in the center of the square. They [Cricket West Indies] wanted three pitches to have a camp in the middle with the outfield and everything, so we had to give up that space at a time when we were supposed to be preparing for a Test match. We had limited time to even water the field and do the things we wanted to do during that period,” he said.
The former Leeward Islands fast bowler also highlighted the fact that after the camp, both the senior West Indies and England teams requested use of the venue ahead of the Test.
At first, Merrick said he questioned the packed schedule but pushed forward after realising there was no alternative.
“When the schedule came in, I [told] them [stadium management] that it was going to be difficult. [Then] we got a call during the World Cup from a member of the West Indies Cricket Board asking for the same situation to happen in terms of pitches in the middle. I did say it was going to be difficult for us to give you two pitches in the middle, but we did it because we had the schedule and we didn’t want to disappoint anybody, so we put our necks on the block and it was a challenge,” he said.
The All Saints resident who played English county cricket for Warwickshire and Kent until he retired in September 1991, said the groundsmen were willing to work beyond regular hours in an effort to get the job done, but did not receive the go-ahead from their employers.
“With the cooperation of the government — because sometimes they feel that we are making too much money as grounds men because West Indies Cricket Board gives us a little stipend for Test match cricket. With [the government’s] approval we probably could have put in more time later in the evenings, but there are a lot of issues going on in terms of the way the guys work and how they get paid in terms of overtime. Going forward, we would be in a better situation if the government allows us to work extra hours in the nights and in the mornings. Preparing a cricket pitch and outfield and so on, you can’t do that between 8am and 4pm,” Merrick said.
The Test, the first in a three-match Apex Series for the Richards-Botham trophy, ended in a tame draw after five days.