Dateline summer 2009
To continue with my quest to complete the training for the Dutch groundsmen, I have been keeping in touch with Frits Makkee and I have agreed to deliver the autumn renovation and winter maintenance course at the end of the season at Voorburg CC.
I have also been monitoring the new square at Voorburg using modern technology, a web cam that is focused on the square. Photos and information sent over by Frits, using email, have allowed me to advise on the work being carried out on the new square since my last visit in April.
The new square has established quite well but had some cracks that were quite extensive. This, of course, is quite common in the first year of establishment. The grass cover is good and, with some light topdressing and watering, the cracking was reduced.
The square at Voorburg is one that has been identified for staging the One Day International (ODI) Division one games in July 2010, subject to the facilities meeting the required standards. I received an email from Frits to inform me there was to be an inspection of the ground by Chris Broad, the ICC match referee and dad of current England player, Stuart, on the 27th August 2009. With this in mind, I booked a trip to Holland for the week so that I could be on hand to answer any questions regarding the square.
My wife and I made the trip over so that we could also have some time together and have a bit of a break. I must thank her for the tolerance she has shown over the last twenty-five years because, as most groundsmen know, the summer is spent at the cricket ground and not taking holidays like normal people do. It takes someone special to be that tolerant enabling me to achieve the things I have been able to.
On the 25th August we drove to Harwich to catch the day crossing to Holland. This proved to be costly for me as my wife decided she would stock up with perfume from the duty free shop on board -maybe her tolerance levels had worn a bit thin!
On Thursday the 27th we went to the Voorburg ground to meet with Chris Broad and representatives of the KNCB. This meeting proved satisfactory, with the facilities meeting, and exceeding, the required standards.
Of course, a decision could not be made on the square as it had not been played on, and there was no way of making an assessment at this time. I did explain the construction of the square and my thoughts on how it would be in 2010. Chris Broad recommended that a further inspection would be required in the early summer of 2010 to see how the square was playing, and to make the final decision then.
The square had a good even grass coverage and I took some core samples to see how well the root had established. This was very good, with roots at 170mm, and the soil structure was becoming established and had keyed together very well. I was confident that the square would be up to the standard required for the ODI in July 2010.
During my visit I arranged with Tim De Leede to set up the autumn course for the groundsmen on Saturday 26th September 2009. This meant that I would have to travel over on the night sailing from Harwich because of my lecturing work at college, and would have to be back for work again on Monday morning!
Once in Holland, I drove directly to Voorburg, where the course was to be delivered, arriving at 8.15am. I set up the equipment and had a look at the square. Frits had also arrived at the ground to get things organised.
I had brought with me a Sisis drop spreader, a lute and a weasel which the club had purchased to enable them to carry out the work required. They had also purchased a Sisis ARR5, with all of the attachments, plus two mowers, one a second hand Lloyds Paladin from Upsons in Essex, plus a new Masport for general square mowing. A two tonne cricket roller was also to be purchased from England to ensure the correct equipment was available when required.
The delegates arrived, and so it was time to get down to business by first going through the basic theory of why we need to carry out the renovations in the autumn. I also explained the need for this to happen on a new square to enable any minor faults to be corrected. The weather was fine and dry, ideal for renovation work. The square had been watered well during the week and had been left to soak through Thursday and Friday, the surface was perfect for the work I needed to carry out.
The Ongar loam had been delivered and so the work began carrying out all of the procedures to ensure a good surface for the coming spring. The delegates were quite surprised at the amount of work and the severity of the procedures to a cricket square, especially a new one. Throughout the day there were lots of questions and, with the course being practical, I could demonstrate as well as explain the answers.
So, at the end of a very busy day, the delegates left wondering if there would ever be grass visible on the square again, and possibly doubting my sanity after what they had seen.
Through the winter, Frits was carrying out the work, as and when it was required, to maintain the square but, of course, we had a severe winter with more snow than we have had for many years and this created a few problems with snow mould.
Luckily, when the snow finally cleared, the damage was minimal and, with the onset of spring although much later this year, the square quickly recovered and the autumn work had paid dividends. The grass cover was very good and the sward was healthy.
The roller had been delivered and it was time to start the pre-season rolling, using a light roller to begin with, to start building up compaction, and then moving on to the heavy roller, rolling in different directions.
The first game was to be at the end of April, and so Frits started his preparations ten days before and followed the preparation format. On the day of play the pitch looked a good and received a lot of positive comments. But, as we all know, it is how it plays that is the key factor. In this case, the umpires and players said it had played very true and with good bounce and pace.
The ICC inspection took place on 23rd May and was carried out by the ICC's Andy Atkinson and Alan Hurst, and I am delighted to say that, after a very busy day at VCC, the venue has been successful in its bid to gain ODI status.
I must congratulate Frits Makkee and his team for the hard work they have put in to achieve international status in such a short time. Holland now has a third ground with ODI status, the others being VRA in Amstelveen and VOC in Rotterdam.
The first ODI to be played at the VCC will be on 1st July 2010. I will be continuing my involvement at VCC, giving advice and guidance when it is required to ensure the best possible surface will always be available for the game of cricket in Holland.
The pictures are of the game that was being played on the day of the inspection, and the inspection team of Andy Atkinson and Alan Hurst from the ICC with Frits Makkee and officials of VCC inspecting the square