About Shri P. R. Umrigar popularly referred to as 'Polly Kaka'
Shri P. R. Umrigar popularly referred to as 'Polly Kaka' in the cricketing circles of Mumbai and India was honoured by the Board of Control for Cricket in India with the prestigious Col. C. K. Nayudu Award on 24th February, 2000 in appreciation of his outstanding services to Indian Cricket for over 50 years as a Cricketer, Selector, Manager and an able Administrator.
He has captained India in 8 official and 4 unofficial Test Matches. He represeted India in 59 Test Matches and 17 unofficial Tests and scored 3,631 runs in Tests at an average of 42.2 and took 35 wickets. He score 1,183 runs in unofficial Tests at an average of 51.43 and took 5 wickets.
'Polly Kaka' as he is popularly known has scored 14,629 runs in First Class Matches and has taken 259 wickets.
Earlier in July 1999, Shri P. R. Umrigar had penned his thoughts on cricket coaching and his effort was widely acclaimed. As desired by him, the book was distributed free among Schools, Colleges, Affiliated Clubs in Mumbai and also sent to all the Associations in India. Now he has thought of writing a book on the finer points of preparing cricket pitches which will certainly be of great help to many Clubs, Institutions and Associations and is being distributed free of cost.
I do not think there is any person who can be 100% right in reading how the pitch would behave in the given circumstances. With experience one can predict to the extent of 90% accuracy but the remaining 10% can prove one wrong. That is one of the reasons why the game of cricket is so unpredictable.
Soil forms the most important ingredient in preparation of the pitch. Due to climate variations it would be impossible to standardize on the treatment to be given to soils in different parts of the country when preparing the pitch. The use of right soil is most important for the production of fast pitches.
Character of each soil ingredient:
Black soil/Clay soil
These soils to some extent have binding qualities. However, any excess water on the top will not dry easily as there is not much porosity in these soils.
Do not have much binding qualities. However having greater porosity than black soil or clay soil, the drying of the pitch is quicker.
Morrum soil is slightly yellowish in colour and has good binding properties.
Manure acts as fertilizer and helps the grass on the pitch to grow quickly.
Kindly note that the use and availability of the above ingredients will depend upon the part of the Country where the pitches are being prepared.
When the pitches are prepared, care should be taken that they are prepared in odd numbers say 5, 7, 9, 11. The main reason is that when a match is played on a pitch, the two side pitches also get damaged due to the bowler's follow through which leaves some spike marks. Therefore it is advisable that these two side pitches, are well rolled and also have some more grass left on it.
One should see that no two matches of long duration are played on the same pitch one after the other because after every game it requires nearly 15 to 20 days to get the pitch back to its normal condition. If two matches are consecutively played on the same pitch then there are chances of the grass on the pitch being damaged so much that it may not grow evenly during the season.
Once the season is over, practice nets could be arranged on the centre square before preparing the square, by spiking the squares and removing old mixture, for the next season. More use of the pitch, the better bounce you will get from it. Therefore practice pitches are always faster and bouncy than pitches on which the match is played.
Main factor in preparing a good bouncy pitch is that the base of the pitch should be hard and firm.
The square should be 100 ft. in length. The breadth will vary and will depend upon the number of wickets required Pig up the square upto 3 ft. After the earth is taken out then water the square and roll it with a heavy roller so that the base becomes firm and strong. Ballast stones should then be spread all over about 9 inches and then the dug up earth spread over the surface. Again this should be rolled with a heavy roller so that this layer also become absolutely firm, levelled and hard.
Put two layers of bricks - one layer pointing in one direction and the other layer pointing in another direction (9" layer).
On the bricks then have a very thin layer of charcoal and fine sand which not only will fill the gaps between the bricks but will also help in quickly drying of the pitch due to any rain having fallen on it.
Make a soil mixture (9" layer) of Black/Clay soil (1 part) +red earth (1 part) + morrum (1 part) and spread it over the brick layer and sprinkle water on it. Try and see that the top of the layer spread on the bricks is having an even layer. This will enable the fine turf sown on the top surface to grow and spread underneath. This has to be followed strictly otherwise the turf on the pitch will not grow properly and evenly and even dies in some cases.
Last two layers of the soil mixture is very important and the behaviour of the pitch will entirely depend on the same.
Make a soil mixture
(3" layer) of
and spread the same. This will give a good foundation when the grass is sprinkled on the pitch.
Spread wet grass on the pitch and on this grass spread again the following mixture of soil (6" layer)
Black soil/Clay soil
and after a day or two of sun, sprinkle water by sprinkler or watered through the hose pipe. See that the direction of the water from the hose pipe is turned upwards otherwise spots through force of water will appear on the pitch. Proportion of the soil mixture to be used will depend upon the soil of the place where the pitch is being prepared. Hence one has to use his judgement and this can be achieved only through experience.
Watering of the pitch should be done twice during the day and that too in the morning and evening when the sun is not so hot. If after watering the pitch shows unevenness of the top layer then the above mixture of soil with grass be spread or even sown on that portion to get evenness of the pitch.
To see the levelling of the pitch, strings can be fixed ten feet apart both length wise and breadth wise. This will enable the curator to see whether the pitch is at even level. Wherever it is not the same, area can be filled up or the excess can be removed as the case maybe.
Once the grass starts growing evenly and is 4" to 6" high, then a very light roller be used on the pitch so as to get some levelling of the pitch and some firmness to the growth of the grass. If there is some area where proper levelling is not there, then the above mixture of soil to be used on such area.
Daily watering of the pitch and rolling will then give a firm pitch.
While rolling care should be taken that over rolling is not done whereby the grass will get killed; so one will have to adjust not only the frequency and timing of rolling but also the weight of the roller light, medium, heavy.
If it is found that the grass on the wicket is not growing as it should, some manured water or fertilizer could be sprinkled on the pitch. However care to be taken that enough water is sprinkled on the pitch otherwise the grass may die of the heat from manure/fertilizer.
Pre season rolling is absolutely essential to the production of fast and firm pitches. Curator is the only person who can decide when the conditions are suitable, but he should aim to start as soon as possible. First he should start with a light roller and gradually increase the weight if possible to a 2 to 21/2 tonnes tandon type roller. The pitch should be rolled in all directions but should finish on the line of the pitches. The aim is to consolidate the square to a depth of about 4 inches before the commencement of the season.
Pace and evenness of bounce can be aided by the selection of the right type of grass. The species should be of a fine but strong texture developing a healthy root growth. Species that propagate by creeping stems should not be used.
Some species grow better than others in certain areas and the curator should choose the grass or grasses best suited to the environment.
Use of heavy roller to be restricted. While there would be no objection in using the heavy roller on other parts of the square except when the match pitch is being prepared, there should be no heavy roller used on the match pitch prior to 8 or 10 days of the match. A medium weight roller - preferably a one ton be used which may be gradually reduced nearer the date of the match when a half ton light roller be used.
During this period watering of the pitch also be gradually reduced until the day previous to the match when it will be stopped altogether. In order to have some pace and bounce on the pitch, it would be necessary to leave some grass on the pitch.
The mowing of a pitch prior to a match should be as low as possible provided that the surface is not scarred or disturbed in any way.
At the start of the match the pitch should be completely dry. This applies not only to the top surface but to a depth of 3 to 4 inches. Sometimes weather conditions, may make this difficult but, if the weather is fine or with correct use of covers, it should usually be possible to obtain complete dryness. Any moisture remaining in the pitch may produce a green pitch.
The correct treatment after a match is important to keep the pitch in good condition and to enable a pitch to be used again. If there are any other patches or spots the same treatment should be given. Then the pitch should be watered. The bowlers foothold, should be filled in by right mixture of soil. A light dressing of manure and watering will greatly assist recovery of the pitch.
The outfield should be level and grassy. It should also slope gradually towards the boundary from the centre square. This will help in drying it in case of rain.
It is advisable to give dressing to the outfield with manure say every two years (of course this will depend upon the use of the ground) so as to maintain even growth of grass.
Outfield to be rolled by 6/7 ton tandon type roller (not three wheeler as this would leave ridges on the ground) so as to have it even and fast. Care to be taken that weeds are not allowed to grow as they have the tendency to destroy good grass.
The recommendations contained are intended as a general guide for the production of better and faster pitches. It is accepted that with knowledge of local conditions, the, curator may find it necessary to vary the recommended treatment to suit a particular ground. Likewise due to varying weather conditions the judgement of the curator is final in determining exactly when each operation should be carried out or omitted as the case may be.
Sometimes due to high cost in preparation and maintenance of cricket pitches, it is not possible to have turf pitches and so one has to contemplate going in for cement pitches which requires very little maintenance cost.
Cement pitches are also useful for the cricketers to have a work out during rainy season so as to keep themselves in touch with the game. One can play on cement pitches without a matting spread. on it so that the pitch will playe like a true fast pitch. If a coir matting is placed on it, the ball will rise but not awkwardly and the spinners will be able to get some spin from the pitch. If a jute matting is placed, the pitch will play like true turf pitch.
If a practice pitch is to be laid then the dimensions should be 36' (length) by 8' (breadth). A match pitch should be exactly 65' (length) by 8' (breadth), which is one foot less than the usual length to give room to fix the matting 66' x 9'.
One must have a proper foundation before the cement pitch is made. It also depends upon the soil where the pitch is being made.
The ground should be dug about 12". (one foot)
After digging the ground to the depth of 12", fill up the same with water and when it is about to dry roll it or have it rammed nicely to make the base firm and hard.
After two or three days with this treatment, spread 6" concrete and 3" hard morrum soil till you are 3" below the ground level. Water the area heavily and when about to dry, roll it or have it rammed well.'
Prepare a mixture of the ingredients as under:
Cement (one part)
concrete (two parts)
(the concrete should be of 1/2" to 1" dimension)
Sand (four parts)
Entire mixture to be laid at a stretch in the area 36' x 8' x 3'
As the quantity of the mixture is laid, use vibrators or ramming with rod so that there are no air bubbles.
After about 6 hours the last layer of the mixture is to be laid.
The final layer of 2" will be of cement (one part) Sand (fine river sand - two parts)
If thin iron shavings from lathe machine could be procured (one Kg.) and mixed with the cement which will give additional strength to the pitch.
It is essential that the pitch is 2" above the ground level or the rain water will remain on it. From the edges slope it down with hard morrum.