Groundsmen earn success in four-day category
Leicestershire CCC Head Groundsman Andy Ward once again received awards for the preparation of 2019 pitches at the Fischer County Ground.
Ward has previous in winning awards for his pitches as he won his first award back in 2013 for the preparation of the one-day pitches. This was the first time the award was presented at the black-tie Business of Cricket Awards (BOCAs) ceremony which has been recognising non-playing excellence in the professional game since 2006.
Ward then went on to earn success in the 2017 season after sharing the commendation with Nottinghamshire CCC’s Head Groundsman Steve Birks, with both clubs obtaining equal ratings for the quality of their Royal London One-Day Cup and NatWest T20 Blast pitches.
Ward added to his accolades in 2019 for his 3 and 4-day pitches after finishing runners-up with Yorkshire CCC clinching the honour – a prestigious award considering the competition.
On the achievement, Ward said: “I was elated. We as staff knew that we had done well, but we didn’t think that we had done well enough to finish runners-up – I thought we had more of a chance in the one-day category.
“But to come runners-up in the four-day category was brilliant.”
Andy and his staff were up against the likes of Lord’s, Lancashire and Yorkshire where international cricket is hosted on a regular basis, which adds perspective as to how good a job the ground staff at the Fischer County Ground are doing: “If you talk about budgets then we have a small budget compared to some of the test grounds.
“But we are all judged the same despite this, so for us to achieve what we have is brilliant and we are all really pleased.”
Throughout the course of the season, each pitch is prepared accordingly following discussions between ground staff and coaching staff and then assessed by the match Cricket Liaison Officer (CLO) and at the end of the season all pitch marks are totalled up and averaged out.
Ward said: “Nico [Paul Nixon] is great to work with. He always has different ideas as to how we can do things - and we do try things occasionally.
“With the four-day game, Nico just wanted to try and get pitches that would require a toss rather than the away team just turn up and have a bowl – so it is about preparing the best pitch we can which is what we want as a groundsmen.”
The accolades didn’t stop there, as Ward and his team at the Fischer County Ground also received special commendation for their one-day pitches - a category in which he has been successful in, in the past.
Speaking on the one-day pitch honour, Ward said: “It is really difficult to win the one-day category – the standard around the country is so high.”
Out of the 11 one-day games that the Fischer County Ground hosted, the team received nine ‘very good’ marks and 2 ‘good’ marks – equating to only two dropped points in the Groundsmen league table.
“It is a tough category and we are pleased with the commendation – we still maintained a very good standard throughout the year.”
The runners-up award and the commendation were positive rewards after another hectic season for Ward and his team of Simon Brown (Deputy Head Groundsman), Chris Skinner (Groundsman), Callum Lewin (Groundsman), Shane Sketchley (Apprentice Groundsman) and Callum French (Apprentice Groundsman) as he explains: “It is fantastic for the Club.
“It is positive that we are doing something right with the pitches and hopefully the players enjoy playing on them as well.”
He continued: “We had the highest run scorer in Division Two at opening bat this year [Hassan Azad] and that says a lot for the pitches - not just here but around the country.”
Leicestershire County Cricket Club want to congratulate and thank Andy and his staff for their hard work throughout the 2019 season.