Dubai: Toby Lumbsden, the Head Curator of the Dubai International Stadium, works hard to ensure a pitch is suitable to produce competitive cricket. To maintain the pitch as well as the outfield under the hot and humid conditions of Dubai isn’t easy.
Lumbsden meticulously goes through the process and has always produced the best of wickets suitable for all formats of cricket. The wickets at the ICC Academy under his decision too have won praise from cricketers, especially the Australia, English and Asian wickets, that he nurtures carefully.
Lumbsden spoke to Gulf News on how he handles the challenge of producing top-class wicket for all the matches.
Gulf News: Cricketers have talked highly about the pitches at the Dubai international cricket stadium? How satisfying is it and what is it that you do to come up with a good sporting pitch each time?
We in Dubai international stadium have prepared pitches with clay imported from Pakistan so we try and keep the characteristics the same way it would be in Pakistan. Here, because of the climate and nature of our stadium we have shade issues and hence we changed our techniques slightly depending on the season, depending on the game of cricket we have with us be it a one-day game or a Test match. We prepare pitches in such a way that our pitches remain consistent. Never letting it to be super-fast or bouncy and to be considered like an Australian pitch. We consider them to be very good Asian pitches that do not crumble and take the characteristics that would be there in an Asian pitch.
How tough is it to maintain the wicket as the heat here is extreme and there are many other factors, which are different from most of the countries?
In Dubai we do have challenging situations be it weather, climate, water and shade. Within the stadium the soil temperatures can push over 40 degrees, the water, in thick summer period, will also be nearly 40 degrees. So the grass really struggles to grow during summer. We do manage looking into how we irrigate, how we prepare pitches and what type of roller we use and when do we roll. Maintaining the outfield to an international standard throughout the year is also a challenging task. We will have a little rest period now, it is when we do some work to make sure it is ready for September when cricket will commence again.
Do you make pitch according to the format and how do you go about it if it is T20 or Test cricket. Is there a radical change you have to adapt in making those types of wickets?
We look at our calendar and will see what games of cricket we have coming up and we will produce a pitch according to the game of cricket. Whether it’s a One Day International or a Test match or local cricket that might be on for four days in a row, we prepare slightly differently for the games and type of cricket and for the result that we are after. We can play a little bit with the Test match pitch to make situations different and same with our ODI pitches and other types of cricket.
Can you explain about the various kinds of soil, which you have brought here and also the different types of wickets at the ICC Academy? How do you go about it?
At the international stadium and at the cricket academy we have four different types of clay. We have two different types of Australian clay, one from the Western Australia Cricket Association (WACA) and other being from the Gabba (Brisbane Cricket Ground). We have an English wicket based on soil from the UK and we have the Asian wicket with the clay imported from Pakistan. So they all have different clay characteristics and hence perform differently. We go about making our wickets to the same characteristics as those pitches would have back in their home countries.
Why do you have to relay the pitch?
At the moment we are heading into a summer season. Cricket is finished for us, so this is a major time to do any renovation work, improvements, gets some grass back on our cricket pitches. It has been a long summer season starting with the Asian Cup in the middle of September and a lot of international matches were played on it and is currently tired and worn out. So this is the time for replanting, getting some grass on the pitches and so we can start the next cricket season with full of grass.
Once ready what kind of a wicket will it be and will it be different from the last year?
Hopefully, we will have a lot more grass this year. Last year we struggled due to some reasons. So any damage we do in September can be detrimental for the rest of the year. So we don’t push them so hard in September.
How much of effort has to go in to maintain all these, especially in summer?
There is a lot more things and hours we do on our cricket pitch to make sure the grass grows and ensure it is insect free, disease free and the pitches play as good as they can. The outfield still needs a fair bit of maintenance per square metre.
How many are there in the ground staff and others who back you?
For the stadium we have a team of three ground staff plus myself to maintain the pitch for 12 months. We have a large support team with mechanics and irrigation people out at the academy to maintain those grounds.
Is there a nice compliment, which you have heard from a cricketer or board on the pitch?
Normally I don’t hear much comments but it is pleasing when the captains comes up and says it’s a good wicket. We are here to produce a good wicket for cricket. So any compliment is well received.