As the sun sets on a another season of spills & thrills of action packed cricket, and, with the trials and tribulations still ringing in the ears of the players, chairmen and supporters alike, for many it is time to pack away their flannels and polish the dust off the footy boots and turn one thoughts to Ahhhhhh, winter sports.
Now don't get me wrong, football is a great game for which I have played myself, at a reasonable level, but, for some cricket groundsmen it is a whole lot of trouble. Players and spectators mindlessly, traipsing across your beloved square to retrieve oval and rounded wind filled balls just hours after painstaking renovation, topdressing and T.L.C has been completed. All of which can be totally voluntary.
So, one may forgive the merry band of part time groundsmen, volunteers and any one else who cares to lend a hand to help, when the final ball is bowled of a very long season confine themselves to relaxing and putting their feet up for the winter till it is time to get out the mower and start all over again.
Although this may be the case for some who may take a sabbatical till March, for the majority it is a time to reflect and to introduce new ideas in the maintenance and general upkeep of their beloved cricket ground.
Just because there is no cricket, or football thankfully come to that, to prepare for, it does not mean that there is nothing to be getting on with. There are lots of different tasks during winter close down to be carried out in order for the ground to be ready and at its best for the start of the new season. Machinery maintenance, sight screens, covers, boundary ropes and of course, the square & outfield all have to be looked after during the course of the winter.
The list can be daunting even for the most experienced groundsmen, so preparation for close down is important. Good house keeping can save a lot of time and money on repairs and replacement if consideration is not given to the importance of its use.
Where first should you start you may ask? Well there's always time to sit down and write out you list of priority tasks and how you are going to approach them now the season's over, or you can just simply shove everything into your shed lock the door and head home for the next six months!
The conscientious ones though will be out there organising, delegating and getting on with the job.
Now some of the tasks may be done in a day or two when there are a few volunteers to help, but generally speaking, when working alone and maybe of a septuagenarian, you will need to time yourself to achieve your objectives, especially when the onset of winter really bites. Personally, I like things to have an order or a plan, so here is a list that I have compiled after a season of cricket on sports ground, where football is also played, of things to do.
• Sight screens stored away ready for painting. Wheels removed, if practicable, and stored in a safe from prevailing winds.
• Covers stored in a safe place & remove all; Hoses, plastic sheeting and spray wheels with lubricant to stop rusting and covered with tarpaulins to protect from weather.
• Flat sheeting & covers stored in a dry place (under the covers perhaps?).
• Boundary rope stored in a dry (place score box perhaps) where possible covered over.
• Garage- Work shop cleaned and tidied for storing machinery for service and other artefacts.
• Benches / Chairs. If not used stored in a dry place ready for painting in the spring.
• Score Box /Mobile score Boards & numbers cleaned, boxed up & stored.
• Irrigation equipment systems closed down, mobile sprinkler and hoses wound & stored on trolleys so pipes don't crack.
• Marking frame/ paint pots -brushes cleaned put away.
• Machinery: Clean and wash down all machines. Set aside those organised for collection that require servicing.
• Managing and maintenance of the Square & Outfield: Aeration, fertilising, mowing, devoting, harrowing and drag brushing. Erecting & removal of ropes & fencing around the square.
• Collating new fixtures, organising new seasons work load for the square.
• Investigating financial support such as grants, sponsorships or corporate hospitality.
Managing and maintaining your cricket square and outfield will also be an important factor. It goes without saying that your square and outfield will require a fair modicum of winter maintenance from time to time and you should set aside time to attend to these tasks as weather permits.
Your programme of work on the ground should always be of the upmost importance as you may only get one chance to complete it. Your winter maintenance programme will be your working module which would include aerating, mowing and fertilising and so forth. This maybe sometimes be at the expense of other jobs you may have lined up for the day as you should always have a flexible approach to make good use of the weather by working on the ground when the window of opportunity arises. Working with Mother Nature is the best way of achieving good results.
Whilst the list may seem like common place and straight forward, it has a ring of organisation to it so you can plan your time spent attending to each task. Organise you work into monthly schedules where practicable; For instance, during October/November, the covers would need to be stripped down properly, stored, wheels greased and covered over with tarpaulin to protect from the winter weather.
It would be far better to try and get some of the major tasks completed before the end of October mid November as the weather could turn when the clocks revert back to winter time. Remember Christmas is only just around the corner and you have all that shopping to do!!
Where some jobs can be completed in next to no time, other tasks will take a lot longer, such as machinery maintenance. Whilst your machines are away, organise your workshop so that on their return they can be stored out of harms way.
Steam cleaning a machine is one thing if you have a power washer, but if you don't possess one then the old fashioned way of stripping the machine down and cleaning by a hand or a hose pipe has its positive points.
You may want to send the machine away for a service and or re- grind for instance; by having already cleaned it by hand it could save you some money in labour by identifying any faults that may have occurred during its use that needs to be checked.
When it comes to machine maintenance & servicing though, it is always sensible to get a qualified mechanic to do your service & repairs for you. To many times volunteer groundsmen start jobs and find it is either too complex for then, or they haven't got the spare parts to fit, or the time to complete the job; so end up having to spend more money having their machines repaired by professionals all because they are trying to save themselves a few pounds.
As always be sure to carry out a risk assessment on any work to be carried out whilst working on your own. Prevention is better than a cure. If you use a methodical and practical approach to all the tasks that have been mentioned then come the start of next season you will be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour and give the players confidence in your ability to manage the cricket / sports ground by producing a safe playing and enjoyable environment.