It was meant to be a grand celebration, showcasing 125 years of the Queen’s Park Cricket Club. Sir Garry Sobers was invited and Deryck Murray, a proud son of Trinidad was going to headline the celebration. A book was commissioned to celebrate the glorious history of a club that stretched back to 1891, producing the likes of Jeff and Victor Stollemeyer, Micheal “Joey” Carew, Charlie and Bryan Davis, and of course, the incomparable Brian Lara.
Instead, everyone gathered at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain was left scratching their heads seeking answers to the question: How can an international ground drain so poorly that even after two days of scorching sunshine no play is possible?
The third day of the West Indies-India Test was abandoned at 12.30pm local time despite no rain falling till that stage. The preceding 36 hours had been dry save for one barely noticeable 10-minute passage of drizzle and yet the outfield was too soggy for play to begin at the scheduled time.
A host of reasons were being offered for the shambles that played out. Firstly, this is the season for rain in Trinidad and it was the accumulated moisture of days and even weeks that left the outfield so sodden it had no further capacity to drain. Secondly, the water table at the venue was unusually high as the annual “deep cleaning” which involved digging up everything but the main pitch and allowing the ground to rejuvenate had not been carried out. Thirdly, it was suggested that a non-cricket event had been staged recently on parts of the outfield, causing some regions to get flattened.
While all of these reasons must play a part in contributing to the mess the Queen’s Park Oval has fallen some way short as an international venue. It would not have helped much in this case, but the fact that the ground does not own a SuperSopper in the year 2016 is telling. The fact that only the square was covered on the first two days, exposing the bowlers’ run ups and leaving them unplayable, was a definite error in judgment from the ground staff.
On the evidence of what happened at the Queen’s Park Oval, it is hard to believe either TTCB’s insistence that the administrators are a team of “top-quality dedicated personnel” or that cricket can be the most “successfully organised sport in Trinidad and Tobago”.
On the third day, with the sun blazing down, the ground staff resorted to something you will almost never see at a cricket ground. Large swathes of the outfield were dug up and turned over with pitchforks in the hope that the sun would dry out the layers under that had retained moisture. Blowers sending out heated air were pressed into service, but it was clear quite early on that these efforts would be in vain. If this was the best way to dry the outfield, then the time to try it would have been when the rain stopped on Day 1, not wait till the third day.
With different grounds draining at varying speeds, several measures are taken when water retention is an issue. The long-term solution is installation of a series of interconnected pipes below the surface, man-made drainage to help nature do its thing. The medium-term solution is to increase the sand content in the soil, keeping the clay levels in the outfield to a bare minimum. The short-term solution, as was recently put in place at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, is to cover the entire playing area at the slightest threat of rain, not merely the pitches or the square.
At the Queen’s Park Oval, which the hosting association would have known is vulnerable, it appears that none of these measures were taken. Conversations with members of the ground staff led to no great clarity on exactly what had caused things to go wrong so badly and no officials from the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board or the Queen’s Park Cricket Club were available for official comment.
Who is the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board? Is it the opening line that screams out at visitors to the official website of the same organisation? Their answer? “We are a team of top-quality, dedicated professionals, ready to dominate the regional game.” If that does not get your attention, the TTCB’s Mission Statement certainly will. “To develop and sustain cricket as the most successfully organized sport in Trinidad and Tobago and the National Team as the best in the West Indies, in collaboration with its players, zones, clubs, administrators, affiliates and all stakeholders.”
On the evidence of what happened at the Queen’s Park Oval, it is hard to believe either TTCB’s insistence that the administrators are a team of “top-quality dedicated personnel” or that cricket can be the most “successfully organised sport in Trinidad and Tobago,” for the events at the Oval, which seem to be leading into a Test match meeting a watery end, were anything but a success.