Key to indoor grassed cricket wicket facility is managing use

Former Black Caps all-rounder Jacob Oram is in charge of the indoor grassed practice wicket facility at Palmerston North ...
MURRAY WILSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Former Black Caps all-rounder Jacob Oram is in charge of the indoor grassed practice wicket facility at Palmerston North Boys' High School.

After a year of running the indoor grassed practice wicket facility at Palmerston North Boys' High School, Jacob Oram and Dave Fulton have their head around how to get the best out of it.

Former Black Caps all-rounder Oram is the manager of the world-first facility and Fulton is the groundsman, and the pair have discovered how to properly maintain the wickets.

It has had plenty of interest from people wanting to use it and Oram said it opened a can of worms about making sure they don't overuse it.

"From July we've been flat out with various teams ranging from year 9 specials at Boys' High," he said. "Right up to last weekend when we had some girls from the New Zealand White Ferns."

It opened for use in September last year, but its main purpose is for during the winter when cricketers can't practice outside.

They renovated the pitches in February and March.

There was a lot of interest in early winter, but the wicket was getting over used, so they have had to pull the reins back slightly.

They will try to limit it to four sessions a week over the next six weeks, but with summer around the corner, people should be out on grass and won't need the indoor facility as much.

It is a delicate balancing act to make sure they can get as much use out of it, without damaging the pitches.

Both Oram and Fulton are perfectionists about making sure it is in top shape.

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They have to make sure bowlers' run ups don't damage the wickets in the other half of the facility.

In the first year they have learnt a lot about maintaining it, how the weather can affect it and how to best prepare the wickets.

During summer the grass grows quickly and even in winter there isn't a problem, but the amount each pitch can be watered varies, and depends on the weather.

The roof opens at 15 degrees Celsius to stop it getting too hot.

Oram said it has run smoothly and considering it is the first year.

The facility is invaluable though for those who want to train during winter and actually get on grass in the off season.

"There's less risk for bowling for both batters and bowlers," Oram said.

This year they have had Central Districts and Wellington first-class associations use it, an Indian school team, Boys' High, Paraparaumu College, Feilding High School in, school holiday programmes, Manawatu age-group teams and St Patrick's College Silverstream are on the books too.

New Zealand bowlers Adam Milne and Doug Bracewell had a bowl before their recent tour of Africa, but Oram emphasised it's not just for elite usage and that it is a community facility.

New Zealand Cricket officials liked the idea and might plan to build something in the future.

 - Stuff

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