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India's first-ever hybrid pitch unveiled in Dharamsala

May 06, 2024 16:26 IST

The HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala 

IMAGE: The HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala. Photograph: HPCA/X

India's first-ever 'hybrid pitch' was unveiled at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) stadium in a grand ceremony in Dharamsala on Monday.

The event was attended by IPL Chairman Arun Dhumal and cricket dignitaries including Paul Taylor, a former England cricketer and SIS's international cricket director.

"The introduction of hybrid pitches is set to revolutionize cricket in India, following their success in iconic venues like Lord's and The Oval in England," said Dhumal, who hails from Himachal Pradesh.

The hybrid pitch, which combines natural turf with synthetic fibres, promises enhanced durability and consistent playability, reducing the strain on ground staff and maintaining quality playing conditions.


With only 5% synthetic fibres, the pitch ensures that the natural characteristics essential for cricket are preserved.

Taylor expressed gratitude towards the HPCA for their collaboration on this pioneering project.

"With the ICC's approval, we're excited to see the positive impact these pitches will have on the sport, starting with installations in Mumbai and Ahmedabad next," he said.

The 'Universal Machine', a critical component in installing the hybrid surface, was developed by SISGrass in 2017 and has been instrumental in the rollout of similar pitches across England's county cricket grounds.

This innovation aligns with the ICC's recent sanctioning of hybrid pitches for T20 and one-day international matches, with plans to expand their use in four-day county championships starting this year.

The integration of technologies like SISAir, a root aeration system, further underscores the commitment to enhancing cricket infrastructure in India. This system improves the pitch's health and resilience, benefiting players with better and safer playing conditions.

'Fundamentally, hybrid pitch is still 95 per cent natural turf'

Despite several innovations irrevocably altering the cricketing landscape, pitch preparation remained rooted to tradition but now it's undergoing a quiet revolution with the introduction of hybrid pitches.

SISGrass, a UK-based hybrid pitch manufacturer, is at the forefront of this movement, and the biggest challenge for the company is to recreate the different behavioural patterns of a naturally prepared deck over the course of a match.

The firm expressed confidence in accomplishing the task, especially in India where climate changes drastically from one city to another.

"You can control playing characteristics (on hybrid pitch) as they don't change fundamentally. You can control the amount of moisture that goes into the pitch.

"If you want to play on a dry pitch, you can play on a dry pitch. If you want to leave more grass on, you can do that," Paul Taylor, the former England cricketer and now the international sales director, cricket, at SISGrass, told PTI.

On Monday, India's first-ever hybrid pitch was unveiled in the presence of Arun Dhumal, IPL chairman, and other officials at the HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala.

Elaborating further on the use of hybrid pitches in Indian context, Taylor said they will offer as much help to spinners as the traditionally crafted surfaces.

"The ball will spin. What we have actually found anecdotally is that spin bowlers over a period of time will get more bounce out of the hybrid pitch than what they ordinarily would off a natural turf pitch," he said.

The Englishman said the ground staff can be in total control of the preparation of hybrid tracks.

"Yes, the playing conditions still vary over time. But you're still in control of what sort of works for you on a pitch. So, you might play on a new hybrid pitch for one game.

"And the playing characteristics are slightly different. But game two, three, four, five…the conditions will change. You can still control those conditions,” said Taylor.

The former pacer, who toured India with the English side in 1992, said installing hybrid pitches, which is designed to last longer, will considerably reduce the work pressure on the curator and other ground staff.

"The preparation of a hybrid pitch is no different to a fully natural pitch. They're prepared in exactly the same way," Taylor said.

"What you'll find, though, is when you finish the game on them, the amount of renovation work you need to do before the next game is massively reduced. So that's where less pressure is put on the ground staff," he explained.

"You can play on it up to three times longer than what you ordinarily would on a natural turf pitch."

So, will the use of synthetic materials affect the nature and preparation of a hybrid pitch as compared to the natural method which uses grass, clay and different soil types?

Taylor allayed the concern, saying the hybrid playing surface is still "95 per cent” natural.

"The main difference between the two is that we inject a synthetic fiber into a natural pitch surface. Fundamentally, the pitch is still 95 per cent natural turf, but there is 5 per cent of fiber injected across the surface at 20 millimetres by 20 millimetres spacings.

“We stitched to 90 millimetres deep. But the real takeaway from this is that it's still fundamentally 95% natural turf. So, the characteristics of a natural turf aren't affected by the way that we inject the pitch," he detailed.

Banking on his body of work in other sports like rugby and football, Taylor was optimistic of hybrid pitches, currently sanctioned by the ICC in white ball formats, getting an entry into Test cricket too.

"We've stitched with Bermuda grass in high temperature countries -- a lot in football and rugby. It is the same grass we use on pitches here. So, we've got a lot of research.

"In the UK, they've approved the use of the hybrid pitches for four-day cricket (County Championship) for the 2024 season. Hopefully, we will see it in Test cricket too," said Taylor, who is also looking at potential projects in Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

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