Never previously prepared a pitch for a First Class match - writes Chris Biddle

The First Test at Chennai between India and England has been a match of milestones. Joe Root’s 100th Test match and his achievement of being the only batsman to score a double century in his 100th Test.
And it features a pitch prepared by the head groundsman or curator - who has never previously prepared a wicket for a First Class match (let alone a Test Match).
V Ramesh Kumar is a leading businessman who runs a successful clothes manufacturing company employing over 700 people, with significant exports to Europe. He also has an MBA in international business and a degree in psychology.
Ten years ago he bought land and constructed the Tirupur School of Cricket to help young boys develop their cricketing skills. There was one turf pitch and two matting pitches but he had great difficulty in recruiting groundstaff so decided to learn the craft himself. He was helped by the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) who arranged for him to go on groundsman’s seminars and his ground was subsequently used for BCCI Under 16, Under 19 and Under 23 tournaments in 2018 and 2019.
As the current Test series loomed, the stadium’s owners, the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) approached Ramesh to take charge of the ground preparation for the first two Tests at Chennai, both of which would carry World Test Championship points for both teams.
“To say I was surprised,” he says, “was an understatement for I needed to consult my family and also had a business to run."
It seems that the TNCA wanted him for his management skills over and above his limited groundsman’s experience. The Chennai cricket stadium has a team of 26 groundsmen who had spent several weeks preparing the ground which will also be used for the Second Test. 
Apart from the importance of the contest, recent history was a factor. The last First-Class match, a Ranji Trophy contest played at the ground in January 2020 finished in two days, whilst the last Test Match (against England in 2016) featured India’s highest ever test score of 759 for 7.
Ramesh says he has had to be a fast learner, learning the effects of micro-climate, turf science, grass species and soil characteristics. But he is not fazed “It should be a good contest and I am expecting good cricket which both teams should enjoy.” 
He has been proved correct, its been an absorbing Test Match. Over 900 runs scored in first innings between both teams, a pitch that has proved good for batting on first two days then favouring spin towards the latter stages. I’m writing this with a day and session to go with England set to post +400 for India to win or save the match.
The appointment certainly caused much comment amongst the Talk Radio commentators (Mark Nicholas apart) who slipped into stereotyping their image of a groundsmen (roller, brush, bucket, white line frame etc). One said, “I didn’t know there was a need for management skills or science required in preparing a pitch!”
It’s such ignorance aired to listeners that does not help the perception of the role of groundsmanship. A little research would have confirmed that Myerscough College, for instance, provide a BSc (Hons) Degree course in Turf Science and Management combining biochemistry with man and resources management.
Perhaps the GMA should also focus their attention on educating the media as well as the turf professionals.

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