The extended delay to the cricket season brings more waiting and wondering for everyone in the game but for Northamptonshire groundsman Craig Harvey, it means a few more weeks of his pride and joy without a blade of grass out of place.
“We’ve worked really hard and it really does look spectacular,” Harvey said. “It’s just a shame it’s for our eyes only at the moment. We like to showcase our skills.”
Wantage Road was closed at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak and with four of Northants’ six ground staff furloughed, it’s only Harvey and second-in-command Mark Flecknor that can enjoy the ground, safe from ruinous cricketers’ boots.
But he laughs off the old joke about groundsmen secretly not wanting anyone to play on their grounds.
“It’s about the pride in the pitch and seeing the cricketers doing their job,” he said.
“I love to see cricketers out there and kids out at lunchtime. I help the recreational side of the club use the ground as much as possible, I see that as really important.
“So at the start of the lockdown, I really didn’t feel a purpose coming to work – I felt what was I coming to work for? I get great pride from making the ground look great but our job is to prepare cricket pitches.”
The ECB confirmed on Friday that there would be no professional cricket played in England and Wales before July 1 due to the coronavirus.
“This time of year is usually so manic,” he said.
“It’s been nice not having that pressure and demands of games. It’s been a welcome change of pace.
“But it’ll only last for so long. I’m sure all groundsmen and greenskeepers will miss that pressure because we do it for the sport and love of the job.”
Harvey’s love of Wantage Road began in 2001 when he joined the ground staff and four years ago was appointed head groundsman.
The club’s financial progress during that time has been keenly felt with major work to the outfield approved and new equipment bought. An improvement in the pitches has been evident and four-day success for the county has followed.
He appears to have found the balance between the art and science of creating a competitive pitch.
“You look at a pitch and think ‘that looks amazing’ but you never known until that first ball is bowled,” Harvey said.
“You do get a little nervous and tentative but the biggest thing for me is so long as the pitch is safe. If it’s a bit slow and the guys don’t get as much out of it, that doesn’t matter so much so long as the pitch is safe and you can get a good game.
“With the weather in the UK you can’t always get that belter. To get that perfect pitch for four-day cricket is such a difficult task with so many variables but you learn to manage and try not to expect it to be perfect all the time – but that’s difficult because all groundsmen want things to be perfect all the time.”
Just as Harvey and his team were about to prepare pitches for Division One of the County Championship, life was put on hold.
“It’s been very strange, just me and my deputy ticking over and keeping on top of things. We’re having a weekend off too which is amazing at this time of year,” he said.
“If we get some fixtures, I would like 10 to 15 days to get things ready but if the weather stays like it is, I’d be confident of knocking a pitch out in seven days.”
Hopefully the call will come before summer’s end.