September 4, 2009

Jamie Alter on New Zealand in Sri Lanka 2009

The groundstaff's thankless task

Jamie Alter

When their job begins, that’s normally the cue for people to change channels, start typing furiously, or go get a coffee and cigarette. Their work is not always applauded but really should be. Rain or shine, their work goes on.

I’m talking about the groundstaff who have been kept busy since 3.15 this afternoon at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. A 20-minute downpour then forced them into action and they’ve been busy since. At 4.54 a three-minute passing shower lashed across the ground as the group of roughly 100 young men was starting to remove covers off the outfield.

This time I tried observing them as attentively as possible. A key part of their job is anticipation and for the most part on this short tour I’ve noticed the groundstaff at venues is very good at knowing when a shower is approaching. This group never for a second lost enthusiasm for what is a high-pressure and strenuous job. Running through rain in slippery conditions dragging heavy covers – 12 of them, estimated at 100 feet by 40 feet - is no easy task but these guys go at wholeheartedly.

They whoop, they shout, they curse, they laugh, they move at great speed lugging those massive tarps. Some fall, some choose to slide across the sheets and into puddles of water, some back-slap, some high-five as one of them trips. Teamwork is so crucial in this job. All the while they are hooted at by two groups of spectators that have assembled hours before the start of play. That’s just not on, and downright disrespectful.

These chaps need a good pat on the back for their efforts. They really do a brilliant job out there, at work against the elements. They get soaked and run the risk of getting ill. Their wages probably aren’t too good either. You rarely hear players or administrators thanking them. The drainage facilities in this part of the world aren’t that good so these chaps, often teenagers, have to be darn good at what they do. Their efforts often ensure minimal or no damage is caused to the ground so play can resume quickly or start on time.

So the next time rain interrupts play, before you switch to MTV or VH1 or put on the kettle, spare a thought for these chaps.


Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Jamie Alter
Senior sub-editor While teachers in high school droned on about Fukuyama and communism, young Jamie's mind tended to wander to Old Trafford and the MCG. Subsequently, having spent six years in the States - studying Political Science, then working for an insurance company - and having failed miserably at winning any cricket converts, he moved back to India. No such problem in Bangalore, where he can endlessly pontificate on a chinaman who turned it around with a flipper, and why Ricky Ponting is such a good hooker. These days he divides his time between playing office cricket and constant replenishments at one of the city's many pubs.

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