“Planning is the key” says Warwickshire head groundsman Gary Barwell as he prepares for a 2017 season which will see Edgbaston play home to more senior cricket than ever before.
Barwell is no stranger to intense workloads with the Edgbaston square hosting a heavy schedule of domestic and international matches year after year.
But in 2017 the demands on that square, and on Barwell and his groundstaff team, will be greater than ever with Edgbaston set to host more than 50 days of senior cricket.
Those days include five ICC Champions Trophy games, NatWest T20 Blast Finals Day and the first ever day-night Investec Test match in England, against West Indies in early August.
With all those high-profile matches will come intense scrutiny so there is pressure on Barwell to deliver good cricket wickets. But Warwickshire know their pitches are in the hands of a groundsman widely-rated among the best in the country.
Barwell is in for a very busy 2017 – and is getting ready for it.
“Planning is the key,” he said. “Massive planning. By the time the fixtures are announced in the coming weeks we will have already gone through them and sorted out which matches will be played on which pitches.
“There are a lot of factors to take into account, like international and TV games having to be central and the floodlights only being set up for certain pitches.
“We have 24 pitches, 17 of which are suitable for first-class cricket, but of course, with the amount of games we host, it does get difficult towards the end of the season. The square gets tired and the pitches get slow. But we are very proud of the overall quality of surfaces we produce.”
Heading into November, the Edgbaston square, just like the cricketers who play on it, is having a much-needed rest. Some reseeding and thinning out has taken place and it will be closely monitored to ensure disease is kept away but not too much work on it will follow until late January.
“A mistake a lot of groundsmen make is to go on the square when it is not fit because of the weather,” said Barwell. “You can do a lot more harm than good.
“For now it’s best to give the square a break and let it recover. And it’s the same for my team! They work really hard during the summer so at this time of year they can have some down time too.
“We are just catching up with bits and bobs around the ground and getting the mowers serviced then we’ll step it up in the New Year. But everything for 2017 is planned out already.”