Sports correspondent & historian
A new facility at the Bay Oval is set to play a part in the part in the continued progress of the Black Caps, as they seek to consolidate their position as a serious force in international cricket.
Visitors to the Western Bay of Plenty international cricket ground can't miss the new training facility that sits high on the bank adjacent to the scoreboard.
A guided walk-through during a White Ferns winter training camp, revealed the vast size and thinking outside the square of the Bay Oval management team, that turned the search for indoor grass wicket training, into a reality.
A Bay Oval think-tank searched the web, and came upon a Canadian greenhouse manufacturer, who built structures that provided germination in the harsh Canadian climate.
After much consultation, Canadian firm Cravo who specialise in retractable roof coverings, was chosen to supply the structure that houses the training facility.
Putting together what arrived in the country as a giant jigsaw, was Kiwi firm Exal Industries, who specialise in greenhouse construction.
The Bay Oval Training Facility is a joint venture between NZ Cricket and the Bay Oval Trust, and is the North Island base for the Black Caps, White Ferns and the NZC winter training squad.
It will allow the country’s elite and emerging players, climate-controlled training all year round, on grass.
Built upon the principle of a retractable roof and removable sides - the ability to control the rain-flow and sun on the pitches, gives the facility an unmatched ability to grow grass 12 months of the year.
However, the operation is only one of its kind in the world and brings its own unique challenges.
Coping with the huge amount of rain that falls on the roof, is overcome by a soak pit buried underground that can cope with up to 200m of rainwater.
Growing grass indoors brings its own specific challenges. The key to drying the surface out and reducing the slime is air movement, which is facilitated by the ability to lift the sides of the training base.
The retractable roof (with a third open at any one time) and the detachable sides, produce the capability to control the rain-flow and sun on the pitches, which allows the facility to grow grass 12 months of the year.
New Zealand cricket teams touring overseas will benefit from the new indoor wicket blocks.
An ability to prepare different types of surfaces, based upon where the national teams are touring, gives the New Zealand sides a new benefit.
The sub-continent slow wickets can be replicated by removing the grass, while English conditions can be duplicated by mowing at the heights that they mow at.
The different surfaces are mainly achieved by adjusting moisture levels or grass length and density.
A key to the successful operation is the rotation of the four grass blocks. During the off-season each pitch will be used once a month, with a longer break during the cricket season when outside practice facilities are available.
With the new training facility up and running, the Black Caps and White Ferns are likely to become familiar faces around Mount Maunganui, as they hone their skills in the ‘one of a kind’ training structure.