TurfCareBlog talks to Stuart Kerrison, Head Groundsman at Essex County Cricket Club, about netting in marquees in the winter months and how the idea came about.
Stuart please tell us a little about who you are and your experience of marquees.
Stuart Kerrison, Head Groundsman at Essex CCC since 1991, at Essex since 1984. In charge of Newlands, Cape Town winter 1997-98 and consultant winter1998-99.
5 years of marquees from 2012.
Were Essex the first county club in the UK to net under marquees and do you know who had the original idea, if not yourself?
Essex were the first club to net under marquees in the world, since then it has been used around the UK and overseas. It came from a discussion during the winter of 2011-12 with our coach about how we could get earlier nets in March and developed from there into a fully clear marquee with netting inside.
Pros and cons of erecting and using marquee's for nets.
Pros - Guaranteed practice, more control of conditions for preparation of early net pitches.
Cons - Wind damage to roof, early start! Grass plant not ready to be stressed, uses a large part of practice/square area.
Can you see this ever happening at club grounds?
Possibly, although the main reason for doing it was the cost of overseas tours for the pro clubs, if the right prices can be sourced or shared there is no reason why clubs/schools can't' do the same.
What are the most challenging things about having to provide grass nets very early in the year, is the grass ready to be woken up?
The roots are not fully developed or ready to take the stress of pitch preparation and consequently struggle in the recovery period after use. Without artificially drying with heat, wind or dehumidifiers it is still a challenge to dry the pitches adequately with no strength in the sun or length of daylight.
What are the basic requirements of the grass plant within a marquee environment?
You should not need to water at that time of the year. Although there is ample light getting to the plant it is still filtered through the clear plastic roof and sides and therefore lacking the right strength and intensity for grass growth. The clear nature of the marquee acts as a greenhouse so provides some warmth and there should be plenty of airflow from opening the sides up. Because of these issues, grow-lights, heaters and dehumidifiers are regularly used to create an ideal environment for producing pitches.
What are the basic differences between a marquee for netting and a marquee used elsewhere for events etc?
The clear plastic roof and sides are the main differences, everything else is pretty much the same.
How do the borders of the marquees effect the grass under it and are the marquees secured to the ground?
Where the footprint of the marquee is, that dies back, and under the side skirts, if not moved regularly there can be disease and die back. The marquee frame is secured by metre long stakes and sometimes one-tonne water ballasted weights, there have been instances of marquees blowing across open sportsgrounds!
Are marquees cost effective or is it still cheaper to fly to somewhere like La Manga to net for clubs?
As with most things, you can pay what you like. Costs can be anything from £13K up to £60K plus, depending on what you want inside and what drying method you use. An overseas tour can cost from £45K plus with the amount of staff needed for the modern game, as well as the players.
How do wickets play in a net environment, if compared to playing on grass outside a few weeks later?
If all has gone according to plan, there should be no difference with early season pitches. In fact, they probably play better because of the artificial environment created to dry the pitches out.
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