There have been some interesting innovations and the development of better machinery to aid groundsmen in the preparation and maintenance of their cricket facilities.
Equally, on the playing front, there have been greater demands put on players, resulting in the need for specific training facilities for them to practice.
Many cricket clubs provide both indoor and outdoor practice net facilities for players to improve their bowling and batting techniques.
In recent years we have seen tented marquees being used by county groundsmen, enabling players to train even earlier than the normal April window of outdoor net practices.
Tented net areas, utilising heaters, flat sheets and lights, allowed county groundsmen to prepare 'outdoor' tracks for practice in early March.
These projects were very successful, leading to the ECB undertaking a project of their own at Loughborough University to trial the use of a tented practice area on match wickets in November, with the aim of providing outdoor practice facilities for the forthcoming England Lions and Academy teams before they go to Australia and Sri Lanka.
After a phone call from Chris Wood, the ECB Inspector of Pitches, I was invited to Loughborough to see the tent in action. I was met by Will Relf, the University's head cricket groundsman, who explained how they had prepared the wickets and how they manage the unique environment, coping with air flow, condensation and fluctuating temperatures.
Whilst on site I was able to talk to some of the England players, along with Chris Wood and Mark Ramprakash, to get some feedback on how well this unique facility has been received.
A full report will appear in the December/January issue of Pitchcare Magazine, whilst the ECB has produced a video of the project. See the following link :-November net practices