TurfMeister - Keith McAuliffe, Chief Executive of the New Zealand Sports Turf Institute, consultants to the Asian Cricket Council on Grounds and Pitch Development

Cricket in Brunei

What are the uniquely positive features of working in Asia?
"Between us, my colleagues and I made sixteen country visits last year. Having conducted two ACC Curators courses in Kuwait and Thailand, my colleagues saw that the enthusiasm of participants was quite extraordinary - there was a strong willingness to learn. A lot of our work now should be following up on the initial momentum and ensuring that there is competent supervision during the planning and construction phases."

Bangladesh for many years had to share its cricket stadium with football, and the MCG is not just a cricket stadium. But both grounds, however, had long-established curators who are well-versed in wicket preparation. How do you allow for cricket staking its claims for playing surfaces in a world where football is incredibly popular?
"Most cities and towns have their share of good quality football stadiums and football seems to receive its fair share of government funding and sponsorship to help build and maintain grounds."

"Although cricket administrators may envy soccer’s position, they could be able to cash in on soccer’s fortune. Ideally cricket would develop and manage its own grounds."

The Westpac Trust Stadium in Wellington, NZ.
An example of a multi-use ground.

Isn’t the reality, however, that not all countries/associations will have the resources to own and manage their own facilities?
"Yes, either they cannot access land or the costs of construction and maintenance of a quality turf surface are unaffordable (especially where there is a high cost associated with water use). In such cases cricket administrators are urged to seek out other sports, such as football clubs, as partners."

"Football clubs too, have limited budgets and many are seeking ways to offset (share) costs of grounds maintenance. Yet further, multi-use and sharing of sports facilities is a growing global trend. Managing a sports stadium is just like any other business, with a need to focus on maximizing revenue by efficient use of the facility."

The Oman national squad practising for the ICC Trophy in Muscat

Won’t there always be though, a desire for the national associations to have their own dedicated stadia?
"That’s a desire but the reality of the world is that cricket is not a year-round sport in any country. And stadiums are expensive beasts to maintain."

"A challenge in ground multi-use is to optimize the synergies that exist and minimize the potential negatives. The most obvious synergy will be in cost-sharing and cost saving, but there could also be advantages in areas such as joint marketing, sharing of catering facilities and staff. The main negatives will include potential timetable clashes and the potential disturbance to the playing surface by the other user group."

PoKong Village in Hong Kong where the NZSTI could lay a turf wicket between the two existing artificial strips

So if you were the Sports Minister of an ACC-member country who is keen to be promote cricket in the most cost-effective manner, what would you do?
"Having a clay wicket block or a concrete strip in the middle of a football field is not ideal. On one hand there is potential for muddy conditions when it rains and on the other it can be a hard, unsafe surface. If cricket is to minimize the negatives and be seen as a good synergistic partner, it will need to come up with solutions to this problem."

"The Institute believes that one answer to the multi-use of grounds conflict is the use of portable cricket pitches. Leading multi-use venues must inevitably move to portable pitches if cricket is to co-exist with the likes of football. There are now some working examples of portable pitches in New Zealand, Australia and the UK. We can expect to see new and improved systems developed over the next few years."

"A portable cricket pitch will provide the desired conditions for all users (a free-draining turf base for football and a compacted clay pitch for cricket) . It will make it easier to prepare good pitches. Imagine being able to prepare a new strip within the confines of a climatically-controlled glass house, without any interference from players or weather!"

How would you summarise the progress of grounds in Asia since the NZSTI was hired by the ACC?
"The ACC’s Development programme is resulting in much progress being made throughout Asia with cricket facilities. We are seeing new grounds of international standard being built, natural grass wicket blocks appearing in regions for the first time and curators being trained up to ensure new facilities are being properly maintained. Despite the progress made there is still a long way to go. We need to ensure all countries in the region have access to decent playing surfaces."

"As the ACC Chief Executive keeps saying, 'without quality playing surfaces you cannot have quality cricket.' "

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Filed April 12 2005