It changed into a statement by means of Mark Ramprakash, England’s former batting coach, after the latest Test collection defeat by West Indies which driven one quality groundsman over the brink.
Ramprakash had simply been requested why his batters had underperformed so woefully and replied via assigning a chunk of the blame to the “inexplicable” education of county pitches. “I don’t understand how groundsmen can probably justify the pitches we are playing on at the moment,” the former England player advised Sky Sports.
“The Mark Ramprakash feedback have been some of the worst I’ve ever examine,” the groundsman informed The Sunday Telegraph, on the circumstance of anonymity. “Those kinds of throwaway comments, [coming] from human beings as nicely that you admire in the game …” He tailed off, too livid to complete his sentence. But that groundsman is some distance from by myself. The Sunday Telegraph has spoken to a range of groundsmen on the county circuit, and observed a growing well of frustration and resentment at being time and again made scapegoats when the cricket falls under expectations.
Last season, whilst wickets fell at a clatter and handiest a handful of batsmen reached 1,000 runs for the County Championship season, groundsmen have been blamed for creating conditions which rewarded mild seam bowling and decreased beginning batsmen to nervous wrecks. These yr batsmen have plundered runs by way of the bucketful – as turned into England and Wales Cricket Board’s goal – and players which include Northamptonshire captain Alex Wakely are lambasting “a certainly poor cricket wicket” on which “you can’t enjoy video games”.
It has all stretched the endurance of the groundsmen to breaking point.
“When a group does well on a pitch, it’s due to the fact the group has performed properly,” says the pinnacle groundsman of one pleasant county. “When a group has now not completed so well, it’s the pitch. Players never just play horrific pictures.”
According to ECB rules, pitches must be prepared to offer an “even contest between bat and ball and need to permit all disciplines in the sport to flourish”, and be judged on “how they play”. It is a lofty perfect, the usage of quantitative criteria (a factors machine) to choose a qualitative final result.
But several elements decide a pitch’s individual, many past the manage of groundsmen – from more and more unstable weather to time constraints on preparation and adjustments within the weight of rollers (heavier ones are now mandatorily available for each suit).
There is every other, apparent, issue. Just as international locations need their aspects to win, so do counties. And ground personnel are hired via their counties. “It absolutely comes right down to the coaches,” asserts one high-quality groundsman. “What doesn’t get picked up on is that it is the coaches who prepare the pitches. We do as we’re advised. We work as part of the [county] team.”
Another of his colleagues, at a rival county, agrees. “Unless he is informed via the train, the groundsman is going out to provide the best pitch feasible. The much less you get interfered with, the higher pitches you’ll get. But groundsmen get interfered with plenty. The coaches want to win suits.”
“If the coach asks you to do something, they don’t know how to do it, so that they need you to do it,” says another head groundsmen. “They don’t recognize if there’s 10mm of grass or 5mm. That’s the key once in a while, you need to fake to tell them because they don’t realize. It’s the most effective process I recognize wherein someone tells you a way to do it even though they couldn’t.”
One groundsman recalls being informed through his county’s director of cricket that if he received Groundsman of the Year, his facet might now not win the championship.
“And it’s real,” keeps the groundsman. “My argument is, do now not take any be aware of your pitch marks. You can’t please anybody.”
The pressure from coaches and membership may additionally have been an unstated fact inside the past, however, instances are changing. Social media is complete of grievance for the work of the ground body of workers, frequently fuelled with the aid of the type of remarks made by means of Ramprakash. The growing predilection for figuring out a scapegoat has left floor body of workers feeling they “don’t have the voice to respond to all the criticism that we get”.