Abu Dhabi Cricket turns to golf experts to keep Zayed Cricket Stadium in fine shape for hectic schedule

By the time the PSL reaches its climax on Thursday night, the stadium will have staged 81 matches since the IPL first arrived in September

The Facility’s Versatility

Between the start of the 2020 IPL on September 20, and the end of the Pakistan Super League this coming Thursday, the Zayed Cricket Stadium has had an unprecedented amount of traffic.
Never before has a ground in this country – or perhaps anywhere in the world – had such a volume of major-match cricket.
And yet scoring has remained high, and Abu Dhabi has seen some classic encounters in every format of the game.
 
October 18, IPL, Kolkata Knight Riders tied with Sunrisers Hyderabad
The two playoff-chasing sides put on 163 apiece, before Kolkata went on to win the Super Over
 
January 8, ODI, UAE beat Ireland by six wickets
A century by CP Rizwan underpinned one of UAE’s greatest ever wins, as they chased 270 to win with an over to spare
 
February 6, T10, Northern Warriors beat Delhi Bulls by eight wickets
The final of the T10 was chiefly memorable for a ferocious over of fast bowling from Fidel Edwards to Nicholas Pooran
 
March 14, Test, Afghanistan beat Zimbabwe by six wickets
Eleven wickets for Rashid Khan, 1,305 runs scored in five days, and a last session finish
 
June 17, PSL, Islamabad United beat Peshawar Zalmi by 15 runs
Usman Khawaja scored a hundred as Islamabad posted the highest score ever by a Pakistan team in T20 cricket

There were plenty of feats to admire in Islamabad United’s record-breaking win against Peshawar Zalmi in the Pakistan Super League at the weekend.

Usman Khawaja's 53-ball century was sparkling. Asif Ali was on for the league's quickest half-century before he was cut off just before doing so.

And the team’s tally of 247 for two was the highest ever by any Pakistani side – not just in the history of the PSL.

Was anything, though, more remarkable than the fact all those batting records were achieved at a ground that was playing host to a 72nd major match in a season that is seemingly never ending?

By the time the PSL reaches its climax on Thursday night, the Zayed Cricket Stadium will have staged 81 matches since the IPL first decamped to the UAE back in September.

Included in that number are two Test matches, which accounted for seven full days of cricket between Afghanistan and Zimbabwe earlier this year.

Then, when it comes to the PSL, consider the fact it was agreed it would be relocated to Abu Dhabi at less than two weeks' notice.

And yet, when the competition restarted, the players were met with true pitches, and a spruce, green outfield.

All at the height of the UAE summer, at a time when the cricket grounds of this country are usually out of commission as they set about vital maintenance for the next season.

The reasons for Abu Dhabi Cricket’s success are many. Chiefly, having a head groundsman – Mohan Singh – who is termed “a magician” by those with a good understanding of such things.

And also, thanks to the fact they have been able to lean on the expertise of the greenkeepers from some of the city’s leading golf courses.

A couple of months before the PSL arrived in the capital – and long before it was even intimated Abu Dhabi would be the hosts – a team of staff from Yas Links and Saadiyat Beach Golf Club went in to assist the team at the cricket stadium. The results have been spectacular.

That was not always guaranteed. “They hadn’t done that sort of work before, and sometimes if grass isn’t used to it, it doesn’t work,” said Corey Finn, the golf course manager of Yas Links. “It is fantastic that it has done.”

Finn, a New Zealander who studied agronomy in the US, and who has also worked in Ireland, Fiji and Qatar, helped oversee the “cultural renovation” of the outfield.

Coincidentally, they are undertaking a similar reinvigoration of the turf at Yas Links at present, and Finn explains the process can be aggressive.

“If you never washed your face, it would slowly build up dirt and dead skin,” Finn said. “We are basically doing that to the turf when we go in once or twice per year.

“We go and rip out all the dead, organic stuff underneath, and when you wash your face you are basically doing the same thing. We are removing all that organic material that grass produces over the year.

“We are punching holes and getting air down into the soil. It is nice to be able to make a difference.”

Matt Boucher, the chief executive of Abu Dhabi Cricket, said they had the idea to borrow knowledge from golf soon after installing football pitches on the site.

“We wanted to provide some support across the three cricket surfaces and the five football surfaces, with regards the grass,” Boucher said.

“There is not much difference between a Fifa-standard football pitch and the world’s best fairways. Learning from them the science behind how we could improve our facility was the starting point.

“There is a quarter of a million square metres worth of playing surfaces. We wanted to spread the load, and that is where the relationship with Troon [Golf] came in.

“It is nearly the peak of summer, and we still have a lush, green outfield.”

Although Thursday's PSL final will mark the end of the 2020-21 season, it will not be long before cricket begins again, with the IPL set to return to the UAE in September.

There is also the possibility that competition will be followed by the T20 World Cup.

Given the volume of cricket that would bring, Boucher is happy with their decision not to opt for a major overhaul of the ground – which would have taken four to six months, rather than the eight weeks it did take.

“At that stage we didn’t know the Pakistan Super League was coming to Abu Dhabi, but we did have a feeling there would be a busy season from August onwards,” Boucher said.

“We made the decision at that point to do a minor overhaul rather than a major one. That was obviously a very important decision.”

The Facility’s Versatility

Between the start of the 2020 IPL on September 20, and the end of the Pakistan Super League this coming Thursday, the Zayed Cricket Stadium has had an unprecedented amount of traffic.
Never before has a ground in this country – or perhaps anywhere in the world – had such a volume of major-match cricket.
And yet scoring has remained high, and Abu Dhabi has seen some classic encounters in every format of the game.
 
October 18, IPL, Kolkata Knight Riders tied with Sunrisers Hyderabad
The two playoff-chasing sides put on 163 apiece, before Kolkata went on to win the Super Over
 
January 8, ODI, UAE beat Ireland by six wickets
A century by CP Rizwan underpinned one of UAE’s greatest ever wins, as they chased 270 to win with an over to spare
 
February 6, T10, Northern Warriors beat Delhi Bulls by eight wickets
The final of the T10 was chiefly memorable for a ferocious over of fast bowling from Fidel Edwards to Nicholas Pooran
 
March 14, Test, Afghanistan beat Zimbabwe by six wickets
Eleven wickets for Rashid Khan, 1,305 runs scored in five days, and a last session finish
 
June 17, PSL, Islamabad United beat Peshawar Zalmi by 15 runs
Usman Khawaja scored a hundred as Islamabad posted the highest score ever by a Pakistan team in T20 cricket

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