February 15, 2009

Andrew McGlashan on England in West Indies, 2008-09

Sense and sensibility

Andrew McGlashan
A groundsman marks the pitch as the Antigua Recreation Ground readies to host the third Test, West Indies v England, 2nd Test, St. John's, Antigua, February 13, 2009
 © AFP
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"I always believed Test matches were going to come back to the ARG," said a tired, but proud Keith Frederick. However, he would never have believed the scenario which sees international cricket back in St Johns after three years. It's been a surreal few days in Antigua as a Test has been moved to a new venue in less than 48 hours.

When it was announced on Friday that the second Test at the Sir Vivian Richards stadium had been abandoned, Frederick sensed what was about to happen. For the past day-and-a-half he has become the most important man as far as the short-term future of this series is concerned. "I was at the [SVR] stadium watching the game and when I learnt the game was off I quickly jump in my car and left. I suspected this might happen."

He immediately set to work preparing a pitch and bringing the outfield – dominated by a football pitch – up to a playable standard. He has worked on the ground for many years, but as we chatted on the edge of the square it is clear how much this surface means to him. "This is a very special pitch," he said. "Not only is the reputation of Antigua at stake but also West Indies. I'm very happy to be involved in getting the ground ready.

"I think it can be as good as some of the pitches we have produced here over the years," he added confidently. "This wicket should be interesting, I think the ball will bounce nicely and carry well. The bowlers should enjoy it."

That hasn't always been the case at the ARG, a ground with more than its fair share of batting records. But it won't need centuries to make this match memorable. So long as the surface proves safe everyone should be hugely grateful for Frederick's efforts. Without this second ground in Antigua, the series would have had to be shifted to another island, or even reduced to a three-match affair.

What makes his work even more extraordinary is that three weeks ago the ARG was basically a field. "I'm absolutely overjoyed with the condition it is in now," he said. "On January 25, if you'd come here you would have seen a field and wouldn't have believed that this transformation could be made. There was no pitch at all, just rough grass, and you wouldn't have been able to tell me where the pitch was."

Despite everything that has gone into this last-minute preparation Frederick said he wasn't the type of groundsman who got nervous about his 22 yards. "It should be good game," he added. The fact that there's any game at all is in no small part to him.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew McGlashan
Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.

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