If he knew slightly better English back in 1970, Dhiraj Parsana would never have taken the first steps that led him to becoming one of India’s most experienced curators. When he was playing for Abroath United Cricket Club in Scotland as a professional, Parsana needed to be given something to do other than being asked to bowl left-arm seam. “I could mow the outfield, cut the grass, operate the rollers, and do the crease markings,” he told HT, explaining how he got into this line.
Of course, Parsana, or DD as he is known, was being modest. He was good enough to play two Tests for India, against the West Indies in 1978-79, but only picked up one wicket and scored a solitary run and was never called up again. Still, Parsana was a handful in domestic cricket, his left-arm seam bowling being especially tricky in helpful conditions. So, you would think he would appreciate the value of a sporting pitch.
It’s been 25 years now since Parsana has been working on pitches, a majority of which have been spent at Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium in Motera.
“We’ve left some grass on this pitch,” he said. “We had to. Otherwise, in this heat it will break up in a couple of days itself.”
With the whole world and his uncle talking about just what a good pitch is and what Indian pitches lack, especially in the light of what happened in Chennai, Parsana spelt out the basics.
“Earlier, the construction of a pitch went down to a depth of three to five feet. But in the last decade or so there’s been a lot of research on the subject in England, Australia and New Zealand, and nowadays you don’t need to go that deep. Just 12-15 inches will do.”
The nature of ten pitches in India were altered completely when specialists from New Zealand’s Turf Consultants Institute came to work on pitches at the major centres, relaying some of them.
“They’ve given us good methods and technique. But that’s based on their conditions,” said Parsana. “So it’s necessary that we not blindly follow their methods. We have to adapt and take what’s good for our conditions. Philosophy and psychology of the person preparing and maintaining the pitch is important.”