The Time Team
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When you are asked to write a blog about our club and the ground team it is somewhat daunting. What to say, how to phrase it and who is likely to be interested anyway.
That may be a place to start when dealing with club cricketers. I don’t usually have trouble deciding what to say, could do sometimes with thinking what to say rather than saying what I think though. No trouble in phrasing a comment.
My old maths teacher always said the only foreign language I would learn was English, bit rich as he came from Glasgow, as he swore, we all spoke the local dialect. These days when talking to players I use groundsman ease; they understand that all right. Usually that is enough to remove any interest in asking another question.
A bit of History
So a bit about the club, situated about ¾ of a mile outside the village it is closer to the railway station, also outside the village. Formed as a cricket club in 1880 accounts (1885) show it was pretty well integrated into village, life as they appear in the same documents’ other village activities of the time. The stalwarts who supported it were also major benefactors to a fund to build the Anglican Church in the village.
In the early 1960’s the family who owned the ground and surrounding land created a trust bestowing the ground to the cricket club as long as cricket continued to be played and the ground still bears the family name. That at times can be a double edged sword as we can do as we like but have to fund everything. Grants have been declined several times as we were viewed as a ‘private’ ground and the ‘community’ requirement was missing.
Not the place here to list the ‘community’ events we try to support on our grass. So my memory as a child was of a local farmer coming down now and again to cut the outfield and the opening bowler of the day walking up and down with a mower on the pitch. Rolling, not often it seems, was by any lads hoping for a game pushing an old horse drawn roller up and down (at least twice).
Over the years the ‘groundsman’ was whoever could get the mower started. He had two, one to cut the square and one for the pitch in prep. No chance of proper adjustments or sharpening, you don’t need to know how, after years of looking after the juniors I got involved. I was aware that the outfield was in effect lay pasture and you couldn’t just leave it any more than you could the square.
Allowing it to grow and that giving it a severe hair cut every now and then was not really doing the grass, club or its players any favours. So I had a chat with the fellow, should have kept my mouth shut. Didn’t take long for me to realise that ‘could you just help me out Wednesday or Thursday or Friday? I am a bit pushed at work’ soon ended up with me holding the keys.
Here is where our county groundman association gets a plug. It was an eye opener to realise what you did not know, and opened both eyes when you found out how helpful (and I have to say patient) the other groundsman are when you need a bit of help. The meetings and assistance with equipment are worth their weight in gold.
But I ramble a bit,on to today, the ground, our problems and the team.
The club runs two league teams on a Saturday and a friendly team on a Sunday. Mid week fixtures as and when arranged.
The ground comprises about a hectare of grass, including the square and approximately an acre of woodland. It is mainly a few inches of topsoil on clay with sandstone patches not far down. All the surrounding fields have been sold off and are occupied by horses, well looked after animals, pity about the fields. We have trouble with drainage as no one now maintains the ditches so in periods of heavy or even light consistent rain we are overrun.
I know they are legally obliged to maintain ditches but legal action is beyond our finances and every time I mention the problem, we get another promise of action but... do I need to say more?
We suffer from moles occasionally and now the deer are moving in, rabbits, yes well.
Over the years we have only ever bought one new piece of equipment. A cheap rotary from a DIY shed and it is kept to top the square off over winter. One of the things we learnt at the association meeting and from the pitch advisors who are exceedingly generous with their time and knowledge. We have over the years built up a useful range of used and abandoned kit which we guard with passion. After an arson attack, we built a replacement ‘bunker’ which only ground staff are allowed to enter, in theory not even the chairman has a key but more of that later.
The Time Team
I have said at our annual awards evening that whatever the stars say I skipper the top team in the club and here is why. We have a fixed evening, Tuesday when all of us that are able are at the ground. Two of us are again in Friday evening and Saturday morning and one usually pops in on the Sunday morning. We are a close bunch, very much a team looking to produce the best we can with what we have.
Grumpy. That’s me, some say I have been here as long as the moles. I have to say a totally undeserved nickname. I often have a chat with the skippers and junior coach but don’t understand the often-heard observation ‘I would stay away from him for a bit’. After all if they did as they were told I wouldn’t have to talk to them at all.
Smiley. His job is the outfield, although he is also on with me with general repairs around the ground and pavilion. There has been no money spent on it for years, we haven’t had any to spare. Mole draining didn’t happen due to the weather so it’s a thankless task at times, (moss, weeds and foxes) but he guards it with a passion. Look out if he catches anyone moving equipment along the wrong ‘lines’ once he has cut it, we aim for two cuts a week if possible.
Big ears. What can I say! His job is rolling the square during the week, usually one of us will pick up the pre match duties. He has a terrier which he brings, useful we thought to deter foxes and catch the rat we saw where we feed the birds, no chance. We put up a rat trap one evening, the dog started furiously barking clearly thought ‘what the ***** is that’ and legged it. Big Ears got an observation for having a useless dog but more of that later.
Dopey. Extremely keen and willing, his main job is cutting and verticutting the square. On occasions when Smiley has been on holiday he has cut the outfield. He remains the only person to have rammed the pavilion with the triple, TWICE. He has also handed me various bits of machinery that ‘just fell off’ from time to time, I say no more.
The Boy. He is actually the chairman of the club and in theory is top man, not in our bunker. He has a senior position in a large multinational company, controls millions of pounds (probably should be dollars) of and thousands of staff and tried to buy a well known county ground to compliment his companies baseball and American football interests. He only gets a key to the bunker because he is useful to us and puts in the hours on the square, whenever he can. I have to say he takes a great pride (as do they all) and loves working on the ground.
The team’s relationship with the players usually works well. It helps that some of them were juniors when I was coaching so there is a certain responsibility built in. For instance, we insist that someone sweeps the wicket after a match, a little thing but it all helps. If they don’t want to do that then we assume they are happy to play on it again without us touching it, usually concentrates the mind. To be fair they do appreciate our efforts and we are proud of the improvement we have made over the years. It may only be diabolical to reasonable but we are proud of it.
We have a harsh disciplinary procedure, you get an ‘observation’ for misdemeanours such as running out of fuel on the ground, not cleaning the machine down or turning fuel taps off. Also, for not advising the team you can’t make it or will be late. Failing to return tools to their proper place or just ticking me off will also get you an observation. Collect two observations and you get a b********g. Or in Dopey’s case we usually dispense with the observations and go straight to the b********g.
Work evenings usually end up in the bar, we look after that as well, not all bad is it?