From the Ground Up

Shoaib Naveed
Nico the groundsman at North Shore CC sits in the shed, as rain pelts down outside to share his bits and pieces on coaching, groundsmanship and all things Cricket. 
Coaching is my passion mate, ran an academy back when I was in S.A. Played provincial Cricket for Boland in Western Cape, and it was then that I started coaching juniors. A batsman myself, I always enjoyed my playing days. Now of course I play for the old men side (he adds with a chuckle) down in Parnell.
Coached premiers but loved coaching the juniors. Was really technical in my approach have always been. (He points at a massive self compiled folder). That’s my bible mate. (It’s got notes from various academies in S.A on coaching techniques, including Gary Kirsten’s academy). You know every thing in here mate and you won’t go wrong. I guess all South Africans love the technical aspect of the game, that’s how we are usually brought up. See in my opinion it is very hard to coach senior or adult players, because you’re basically trying to go against their habit mate, what they have done their entire careers. You won’t change that quickly. Much more rigid the senior players are.
The kids are where you want to be focusing. They are new to the game, teach them properly at this stage and then see them evolve. Yes junior coaching is what I enjoyed the most.
Grounds Keeping and Coaching went hand in hand for me. Basically learnt it through experience by being involved with the club I played at. It wasn’t some thing that I saw as separate; it was part of the whole package. You picked up things spending time at the club and got involved in all sorts of duties, so yea it wasn’t some thing that I pursued specifically.
Then when I arrived here in N.Z four years ago it was a way to pay the bills. Actually worked on a golf course for some time and then got employed by the Recreational Services that handles the grounds keeping stuff for Auckland Cricket. They have a set of guidelines that you follow to make sure the pitches coming under the umbrella of Auckland Cricket are standardized across the board….of course you tweak stuff around a bit on personal preference, he adds with a wink.
Most of the work in preparation goes Pre-Season. You have to be constantly fertilizing, watering and mowing your squares. Even during the winter I come down here regularly to work on the blocks. For if you don’t work on your block in the off-season it’s going to come out dead when summer rolls around.
As the season gets nearer, you start the compaction process. Pack your block together by rolling and rolling. Make it as hard and compact as possible while trimming down the grass methodically at the same time. Both rolling and mowing you sort of make the Union Jack on your block. Roll Up, down, right, left and diagonally to make sure you get maximum compaction. As match day rolls around trim the grass down to 8-10 mm.
Rye grass is what they use here in N.Z mainly. It’s a winter grass, same in England as the temperature is too cold there no other grass will survive. Over here they don’t have to use the winter grass but that’s how it’s been for ages. It’s a dead grass for me really. You play on a strip of Rye grass for a month and it’s dead. It flattens out and the strips become dry. That’s why you see spinners doing so much better on the other side of Christmas.
Me I like pace and bounce, Kuch Grass is what you find in S.A and Australia. It’s a summer grass alive and springy (his eyes shining up). Assistance for the seamers, you won’t see the strips just dying out as the season wears on. No matter how much you play on it and shave the grass off it grows back. Of course it’s not just the grass that matters the composition of the clay underneath has a lot to do with it as well but Rye generally provides a lot more assistance to the seamers and has more bounce in it as well. I have been trying to push the people in charge here to try out Rye for years now but it’s what I said earlier. Once you get in the habit of doing things a certain way it’s very hard to change, and then there is politics involved as well like every where else.
Four days of sunshine is normally what you would love to have in a week to have the pitch and ground prepared for game day. The good days mate is when the sun is out, but it’s frustrating here in N.Z especially before Christmas since it tends to rain frequently. If it’s rained for two days before game day you can forget about playing on Saturday.
It’s tough physically, definitely takes its toll on the body especially if you are just the one guy working and looking after the fields. I tell you what mate carrying those covers is the biggest hassle, they’re heavy I tell you. Real heavy. If it’s raining and the wind is blowing a bit, you try carrying those covers mate; I tell you forget about it. Those are the worst days. I have gotten the club to adjust the covers for me a little, you know make them a bit smaller so I can carry them all on my own.

No coaching for now mate but yea I miss it. I loved running my academy down there at Western Cape maybe I’ll go back to it here some day.