One of the great innovations in the world of junior cricket has been the use of the artificial turf pitch. There may be some complaints and strong opposition to the use of artificial turf in some of its other applications but as a cricket pitch it has become completely accepted as the best surface to provide a fair contest between bat and ball.

For those of us who can remember our early cricketing days (and I’m talking the late 70s early 80s here) you will recall the concrete pitches that were in use at the time. On match day each team would bring their own cricket mat, which would cover half the length of the pitch and they were both laid down and pegged out to give you a turf-like surface with only a few centimeter gap between the two mats in the middle of the pitch designed, I think, to potentially take the head off an unsuspecting 10 year old.

Nowadays just about every local cricket ground in the country has been furnished with a synthetic turf pitch, those that haven’t, of course, are laid with a real turf pitch. What this means is that all junior cricketers are able to play cricket with the comfortable feeling that the ball will bounce truly and evenly.

At least it should. Unfortunately it’s up to the local councils to maintain their artificial turf cricket pitches properly and that doesn’t always happen. We were at a local ground today and the cricket pitch was ridiculously narrow making bowling a nightmare. To add to the drama, the pitch itself was laid on ground that was at least a foot lower than the surrounding outfield. The result was a diabolical run up for the bowlers who had to navigate a 1 foot drop just as they hit their delivery stride. Finally, the pitch had been patched after some repairs had been done on a worn or torn part of the turf. The result was a spot right on a good length that either took off or kept low if it was hit.

It we are going to be true to the promise of nurturing out junior cricketers with artificial turf pitches our local councils have to make a serious commitment to properly maintain the pitch after it has been installed. These pitches have a use by date after which the artificial turf must be removed and the entire area should be re-laid. Even if it costs a few dollars it will be a great deal cheaper than maintaining a full turf wicket.

The bottom line is that there must be a commitment to the artificial turf pitch if it is going to remain the popular cricket surface that it has been for the last 20 years.