For curators in the Bendigo District Cricket Association, grass is like gold dust.
Some clubs find it harder to grow on their cricket pitches than others.
A dry winter – compared with the damp conditions last year that washed out the first two rounds of the 2016-17 season – has helped pitch preparation for the upcoming season.
However, mild spring weather has limited grass growth for some.
Strathfieldsaye Cricket Club, in a move it believes is the first in Bendigo cricket history, has employed a specialist horticultural contractor to prepare its pitches for the season.
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Club secretary Scott Hyatt said the move was in response to the club struggling to grow grass on its wickets for two years.
“For some reason or another it dropped off – there was no grass grown on them. The (Bendigo) council had a look at things but we couldn't figure out what it was,” he said.
As Hyatt explained, grass on pitches provides pace and bounce, providing a more even contest between bat and ball.
Statistically, the Jets had the highest runs per wicket ratio (24.5) in the A-grade competition last season at its home ground at Tannery Lane.
Strathdale-Maristians (22.8), Bendigo United (22.66) and Bendigo (21.82) rounded out the top four home grounds for runs to wickets, with Huntly North Epsom (19.97) and Kangaroo Flat (20.03) grounds providing a more even contest between bat and ball, according to the figures.
Strathfieldsaye Cricket Club president David Boromeo stressed the move to employ a specialist curator wasn’t a criticism of the club’s volunteers who had previously helped prepare pitches.
He said the spend on a specialist company would free up the club’s volunteers for other tasks this season.
Greg Hamilton is assistant green keeper with the Jets’ contractor –The Art of Grass.
And he believes turf cricket wickets were “probably the most harshly treated surfaces in world sport”.
“With the wet weather, frost, the cold and footballers churning it up – they cop a whole heaps of stress 12 months of the year,” he said.
“They have very little recovery period.”
Hamilton’s job is not to reinvent the wheel, but “enhance the resilience of the turf”, a job he believes he is skilled in doing given his, and the company’s, horticultural background.
One club in the league has the benefit of no football being played on its square during the winter.
And Strathdale-Maristians’ curator John Hewitt believed it was a “big advantage” in terms of preparing his wickets.
“We haven't had much warm weather (this spring),” said Hewitt, adding his pitches were in good condition heading into the new season.
Sandhurst Cricket Club curator Taylor Beard said his club finds it easier to grow grass.
“We've played two games already on it (Weerona Oval square) it’s little bit soft at the moment,” he said, adding it would harden up as the season progressed.
A good grass covering meant he can roll the pitches “a bit wetter”, which helps compaction, meaning the pitches will become harder over time, and theoretically, better wickets to play on.
Runs per wicket (RPW) average at selected home grounds in BDCA A-grade matches for 2016-17 season.
Strathfieldsaye: RPW 24.54, Runs: 2209, Wickets 90
Strathdale-Maristians: RPW 22.8,Runs 1938, Wickets 85
Bendigo United: RPW 22.66, Runs 2833, Wickets 125
Kangaroo Flat: RPW 20.03, Runs 1643, Wickets 82
Huntly North Epsom: RPW 19.97, Runs 2117, Wickets 106