Gary Barwell and his groundstaff at Edgbaston are gearing up for their busiest ever season - and they are as determined as Warwickshire's players are to keep their standards sky high.
Will Rhodes’s squad is ready to try to emulate, or ideally improve upon, the excellent cricket which brought them two trophies in 2021.
Last year was a historic one for the club, most of all the lifting of the County Championship title on a magnificent final day of the campaign against Somerset at Edgbaston. Needing to win the game to win the title, the Bears bowled the visitors out with the last wicket falling in the final session of the season.
That was the latest in a series of superb championship contests at Edgbaston last year, the drama of which owed much to the quality of pitches which remained good cricket-wickets deep into the final day.
Barwell’s nine-strong team, long renowned among the best in the country, played a huge part in a memorable day and season for the Bears fans.
And that knowledge makes all the long hours of hard graft worthwhile.
“Our pitches come under scrutiny from a lot of directions,” said the Head of Sports Turf. “But if you ask me which people that I care most about what they say, it’s the members and the public. I remember last season a member bringing us some biscuits as a thank you – that meant a lot, as did the comments when we won the championship.
“What is also lovely at this club is that we’ve got a group of really genuine guys as players. They are such a good, honest bunch and I think that’s the culture at Warwickshire. I can honestly say that, in the 11 years I’ve been here, every player has treated myself and my team with the utmost respect.
“I am really proud of my team and the 92 pitches they look after and all the other great work they do at Edgbaston and at Portland Road.”Gary Barwell
That team is now deep into preparation for the 2022 season with the players set for their first middle practice at Edgbaston on March 14 and the first home friendly, against Worcestershire at Portland Road, on March 28.
Then will come the customary kaleidoscope of cricket at Edgbaston – Test, IT20, championship, 50-over, Blast, Hundred – with a unique addition of the Commonwealth Games Women’s T20.
“I’m really looking forward to the Games,” he said. “It’s great for women’s sport to be showcased and for us to be hosting the matches because events like the Commonwealth Games don’t come around very often. It’s a great honour.
“We’ll certainly be busy this year but that’s brilliant for the Club. In the last 10 years we’ve gone from hosting one Test match and one ODI a year to being one of the leading grounds in the country. It’s going to be extremely hard work because, on top of the amount of games, we know our level of performance has to stay high as well. We had a great year last year, the benchmarks were very good, and there is a level of expectation now.”
Barwell speaks with the passion of a man who loves his vocation – and is full of admiration for all those men and women who devote their time and energy, often unpaid, to producing the pitches with give so much joy to this cricket-mad nation.
“Many people who dedicate their time don’t get paid a lot, or even at all,” he said. “I have worked hard and sacrificed a lot to get where I am but I am paid for it and I work at one of the best grounds in the world. I really appreciate that. But there are a lot of people out there just dedicated to their clubs and giving their time and skills for cricket because they care so passionately about what they do. They are real heroes.”
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