HARESH RAGOONATH of Udecott, who is also the facilities manager at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy (BLCA), Tarouba, credited the hardworking groundsmen and staff for ensuring that most of the 24 Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) matches held at the venue were hampered due to an unfit outfield.
The BLCA prides itself on being one of the region’s fastest draining cricket grounds, and proved worthy, by successfully hosting 23 of the designated 24 matches during the peak of TT’s rainy season.
Only one match (St Kitts/Nevis Patriots versus Jamaica Tallawahs) generated a no-result and this was due to continuous rainfall throughout the actual match duration.
Whether heavy mid-afternoon showers threatened the cancellation of the evening match, the workmanship executed by BLCA’s ground staff was unblemished and always guaranteed a full-day’s play.
When Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe confirmed, on July 8, that TT would serve as sole hosts of the 2020 edition, the BLCA was given the responsibility to field 24 of the 34 matches while the Queen’s Park Oval, St Clair, held the remaining 10.
After receiving confirmation, Ragoonath and Udecott groundsmen Krishindath Sunderlall, Richard Mohammed, Rishi Samuel, Adrian Latchman and Kerion Dube carefully gathered an able-bodied team to showcase the world-class facility to millions of regional and international viewers.
Working alongside Udecott’s team was CPL pitch consultant Dave Agnew, who according to Ragoonath, was impressed throughout the tournament.
“The goal was to make sure that no games were washed out because of a soggy outfield or anything like that, and we (virtually) achieved it. That was the mandate. The drainage at BLCA is excellent. The ground staff ensured the ground was maintained adequately over the last four years. Everything is done in-house by Udecott,” he said.
Not only was it the first time since the inception of CPL eight years ago that one nation hosted all the matches, but it was a first for the south facility to feature so many CPL matches concurrently, not forgetting, during a pandemic.
Speaking from his Williamsville home on Wednesday, Ragoonath opted to spend some quality time with his children after over two months of non-stop work at the venue. This was the fourth year CPL matches were hosted at the BLCA but first, without spectators.
This provided Ragoonath’s team with extra time to place more emphasis on the ground’s upkeep. Additionally, the BLCA conducts two major general maintenance projects annually and was able to have one completed during the Government-imposed lockdown earlier this year.
“We worked almost 70 days straight to make sure everything met the requirements. With covid19, we concentrated a lot on the field and that’s why it was in such good form. All co-ordination was basically around the actual cricket operations due to CPL being hosted in a bubble,” he added.
He continued, “BLCA has a ‘fish-bone’ design. But it’s all to do with the maintenance of the grass, the height, the irrigation and proper maintenance. Maintenance could be done by just the drop of a button. There is no major additional work to be done to our pitch when a tournament comes around because our entire ground is maintained throughout the year.”
The facility manager is of stern belief that cricket at BLCA must only be stopped when rain is falling. Stoppage due to a soggy outfield or shoddy groundwork is unacceptable. Even when there were minor interruptions due to rain this year, 20 minutes was designated time given to ground staff to ensure the field would be ready for a swift resumption.
Without fans at the stadium, Ragoonath admitted there was less demand on the facility, but more regarding field maintenance.
During the final week of the tournament’s preliminary stages, there were relatively low scores coming from the BLCA pitch. However, Ragoonath defended the venue’s core stating that players housed at Hilton Hotel were taken to UWI SPEC Grounds to practice on under-prepared wickets then sent to BLCA to play matches where the wickets were “more-lively than accustomed to”.
In February 2019, the BLCA received accreditation from the International Cricket Council (ICC) as an approved T20 International venue – the most recent facility to attain such status in the region.
Although no ICC-sanctioned T20 International matches are yet to grace the BLCA field, Ragoonath remains optimistic that this year’s CPL hosting will serve as a perfect example that the facility is ready to welcome national teams.
Once an ICC-sanctioned T20 International match is successfully hosted at the venue, only then BLCA officials would be able to apply for ICC 50 Overs accreditation. Similarly, if ICC then hosts a One-Day International there, they can then apply for Test match approval.
However, the decision to host a T20 International here, remains in the hands of those within the Cricket West Indies (CWI) executive.
“We’d like CWI to take note of the excellent job done at BLCA and we hope that we could be the preferred venue for the future. We’ve checked one of the boxes (T20) and the CPL showed the venue can host such matches during the rainy season and more than accommodate an actual international T20,” he added.
Ragoonath concluded, “Being a new venue and the latest ICC T20 approved venue in the WI, we had to showcase our ability to handle a competition of this calibre. We wanted to show the worth of the venue and why we should get more major events going forward.”