NEWSWIRE

THE ABBOTSFORD STORY

RANJIT SAINI

2011 has become a watershed year for Canadian cricket in terms of turf wickets. Cricket Alberta developed the second most northern turf wicket in the world in Edmonton and last week, seeds were finally planted on Cricket BC's first turf wicket in Abbotsford. Ranjit Saini chronicled his experiences on the Abbotsford ground project...

It was March 2009, when I became 1st VP of Cricket Canada and part of my duties was the responsibility for Infrastructure and the ICC u19 CWC 2011. With no resources assigned and hardly any significant work having been done, I began to work on tedious task of putting resources and people together. One of the core requirements of the CWC planning process was to have sufficient number of turf grounds to conduct the warm up and first round of matches. It became apparent that for the initial round of matches, we needed two grounds in close proximity to each other for each of the four groups.

I took my first visit outside of Ontario as an Interim President to Vancouver and walked with a measuring wheel from one ground to another to find regulation size grounds that could take turf wickets and nets. Vikram Bawa and Vimal Hardatt took me from one place to another. The scene of an a president running up and down and measuring grounds must have been  amusing to many, as this type of turf related promises and activity had been going on for a while

The only committed party, Abbotsford City that was already ready and committed to accept a turf wicket and what we needed were one more ground. Due to recession, and to lift the economy, the government opened up RInC (Recreation Infrastructure Canada) grants. Many thought that it was a long shot… but I insisted and applied for grants for two grounds each in BC and Manitoba. To my surprise….it all went thru.

Exavating existing soil

 

We could not find the second ground in BC and ran out of time in putting things together for the hosting u19 CWC. In the end it became apparent that major repair work had to be done on many grounds in GTA in order to host the CWC as the possibility to have grounds in pairs in other parts of the country diminished. Our grant application was declined and other resources couldn’t be put together in time as private/corporate resources weren’t there to come in the short time. The u19 CWC hosting opportunity was lost. 

Unless, we were willing to shut down TDCA for one full year and the funding existed for the upgrades and repairs, we wouldn’t be ready to host the CWC. In the end, our failure to find the second ground in BC and the lack of approval for turf pitch installations from Assiniboine Park authorities in Winnipeg contributed towards the decision for not to host the ICC u19 CWC.

The focus shifted for the Senior Men’s World Cup and the project in Abbotsford fell on the back burner. We struggled financially thru the CWC as resources to sufficiently support the team weren’t there. If it wasn’t for the extension of RInC grants for one more year, the project at Abbotsford would have also failed.

The most serious challenge of course was the soil as we ran out of local places where we could find proper clay soil for Abbotsford pitch. The cost of transportation from another province was very prohibitive. Cricket Canada executive had to struggle to find resources to cover additional costs. In the end, we are able to stay close to the original budget as more work was assumed by the volunteers and the contractor agreed to slash his labour costs and Mr. Ed Bracht, provided  some funding from the trust fund.

We finished seeding the wicket on 20th October 2011 at 6.45 PM. It was pitch dark and cold when the covers were put on to assist the germination of the seed. I am told...Rye grass grows 12 months a year in this part of the country and that the pitch will be lush green in about 3 weeks’ time.  Having seeded most of the pitch myself…I can’t wait to see this happen.

 

The Abbotsford Cricket Club is already planning tournaments, I have visited the pavilion and seen the change rooms in the building that is on the boundary line and is currently used in the stadium by other sports. Abbotsford have good reasons to become an ICC Approved ODI ground as most of the required infrastructure exists.  The Abbotsford wicket provides us with an opportunity to have one more ICC approved ODI ground in Canada with least exposure to costs.

 

 

The new pitch (seeded and covered with evergreen grass cover)

 

The “Let’s do it” attitude and second to none work ethics of the Abbotsford City staffs  were the most fundamental ingredient of this to happen in time and see the successful conclusion. They are already planning to have their staffs trained and have identified a person to look after the pitch during the season. Action is being taken to stock the soil to avoid layering and uneven bounce caused with un-matched soils. The staffs at the City of Abbotsford are the best one can hope for. I am confident that the pitch will be well looked after and that this will be genuine success story.

Scott Watson and all his colleagues deserve appreciation and honours as one of the finest among the City/Municipal staffs that I have ever had the opportunity to meet with. To my delight and surprise, they were extremely quick to facilitate a visit by the staffs from the City of Surrey, to see the wicket in construction and an opportunity for me to discuss turf wickets in the City of Surrey. I have been told that there may be two new cricket facilities in the near future in Abbotsford and in Surrey. After seeing the enthusiasm that prevails all around here…I am certain that the Abbotsford Turf Pitch will not be a lonely single natural turf wicket in BC. It will have others follow it very soon….

 

 

Hugh Norris (City of Surrey), Ranjit Saini and Scott Watson (City of Abbotsford)The Pavilion in the back ground

The memories of the walk behind the measuring wheel, that saw the pitch at Abbotsford moved north by 15 feet, the loss of u19 CWC hosting opportunity, the struggle for resources and the search for proper clay mix and the generosity of the City of Abbotsford are the memories of a  lifetime. This project will help improve cricket in BC as more and more municipalities will become interested and move forward with new turf pitches. Such facilities will be  needed in Winnipeg, Montreal and Halifax for the efficient staging of the regional league fixtures (Our own version of the 1st class cricket) that may see its beginning in 2012.

This is the building of an aspiring cricket nation….one pitch at a time…..