Groundsman ready for Challenger Trophy tournament October 24, 2007

Parsana battles to keep dew at bay

Dhiraj Parsana checks out the firmness of the pitch a day before the start of the Challenger Trophy © Nagraj Gollapudi

The winter chill has set in in Ahmedabad. There's a nip in the air and it gets slightly foggy as the sun dips behind the Sabarmati. What it means for the Challenger Trophy tournament, which starts on Thursday, is that dew will play a crucial role in the games, all of which are day-night contests. Dhiraj Parsana, the chief curator at the ground, warns that the period between 7pm and 8pm is the danger hour when the dew is likely to set in, and perhaps have a bearing on the result.

The Motera stadium has been Parsana's nursery from 1982, when the ground came into existence. At 60, Parsana, a former Gujarat left-arm medium-pacer who played a couple of Tests in the late 1970s, retains the same kind of enthusiasm today as he did when the late Polly Umrigar recommended him to the Gujarat Cricket Association for the groundsman's job 25 years ago. Parsana, who is a consultant on the BCCI curators committee, is of the firm belief that dew "will be a factor", but he is doing his utmost to ensure that the moisture doesn't rise up too much.

The process starts five to six days before the match. "First, we start by cutting the grass low on the outfield. If the height of the grass is high the dew sets on it, so we cut the grass to a height of between two to four millimetres." His caution: cut it too fine and the fielders will have bruised bodies and dirty laundry.

The second important factor is not to leave the ground damp just before the match. "We don't water the ground for a day and a half before the game. So, I will water the ground today [Wednesday] around mid-day, and the next time I will water the outfield will be on Thursday evening after the game."

His other important task is to ensure that the pitch is good for one-day cricket, and remains fair to both teams over the entire duration of the match. He explains his perfect formula: "Maintain around two inches of hardness immediately below the top surface, and below that at least four inches of moisture is needed to help keep the shine on the surface and bind it."

First, we start by cutting the grass low on the outfield. If the height of the grass is high the dew sets on it, so we cut the grass to a height of between two to four millimetres

To ensure that the moisture level is just right, Parsana has an indigenous method in which he pushes a screwdriver, around four centimetres in length, into the pitch surface. Parsana explains how it works: "If it goes smoothly you will roll again to try and achieve an inch or two of hardness in the top surface." The perfect state is achieved when you have to use both hands to push the screwdriver, the bottom half of which should feel cool to the touch because of the moisture.

It might sound a trifle primitive, but Parsana says it works just fine. He also points out that the best thing that happened to Indian curators was when Jagmohan Dalmiya got experts from the New Zealand High Performance Centre almost a decade ago to help make better grounds across India. He has the Meteorological department supplying him the early morning, day time and late evening temperatures along with the humidity figures that help him work out how much watering he needs to carry out the following day. Parsana, along with his trusted groundsman of 25 years, Kaloji Thakur, have been the first men on the field for the last week to get the ground in the right shape, and the next four days will be crucial for both.

Parsana, though, is confident that the combination of modern research along with his own knowledge and experience will ensure that everything works out right. "It has helped in the past and I'm relying on that."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo