New Delhi, Sep 24 (IANS) Of late, Jashim Uddin has been a delighted man on seeing women’s T20 matches at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. Jashim, the head groundsman at Cricket Hong Kong for more than 12 years, played a pivotal role in getting the Zhejiang University of Technology Pingfeng Cricket Field ready in time for the multi-sport event.
It also helped that Jashim, originally from Bangladesh, had the previous experience of working on making a cricket ground from scratch in China. Back in 2010 for the Asian Games in Guangzhou, Jashim had worked to get the then brand-new Guanggong International Cricket Stadium ready in time for the men’s and women’s events.
“I worked on the ground for the Asian Games at Guangzhou in 2010 and got connected with them a year before for the preparation. That time, it was difficult for me as it was all new in terms of clay, preparation, and everything. Plus, they didn’t know cricket, so there was difficulty.”
“Now, for the second time (in Hangzhou), there were some people who had played the game and a few officials had knowledge about the sport. It was the Asian Cricket Council who asked people in Hong Kong if I could go there to work on the ground for the Asian Games, as it had to start from scratch,” said a soft-spoken Jashim in a virtual chat with IANS from Hong Kong.
As per the information from the Asian Games official website, construction on the cricket ground started on November 17, 2020 and passed the main structure inspection on June 30, 2021, with the deadline to finish the whole project by October 2021.
Jashim admitted there were some difficulties in getting the work done for the cricket ground in Xi Hu District in Hangzhou. The Covid-19 pandemic in China meant the event was pushed from being held in 2022 to now happening in 2023.
Though Jashim came to Hangzhou during 2021-2023 three times and stayed around three-four weeks for help to set everything up, the Covid-19 pandemic meant he had to depend on Zoom to monitor the developments.
“It was a little difficult as I couldn’t go there initially due to Covid-19 pandemic. Later, I inspected the ground in-person and had zoom meetings with people over the work happening there. Everywhere we work, there are always some challenges happening,” he said.
People in Hangzhou knew about laying the outfield, but needed Jashim’s expertise in getting the pitch preparation and maintenance right. There was difficulty on the communication front too – Jashim knows English, his native language Bangla and Cantonese.
But in China, Mandarin is the main language and for the communication to happen seamlessly, a translator was needed. But when the translator was not there, Jashim had to make attempts in learning and communicating in Mandarin and had to demonstrate to them how to do a certain thing.
Moreover, Hangzhou didn’t have the roller he needed and had to be bought from overseas. But the huge challenge for Jashim lay in dealing with the clay and getting it right for the cricket matches to happen, especially with China unable to import clay.
When the suitable clay was found, it was sent to labs for testing and the clay was approved by ACC, apart from finding the right soil for the pitch. “The main thing is, in the entire China, there is local clay. From my knowledge and expertise, I realised that finding clay for cricket pitches in China was difficult and one couldn’t import clay from another country.”
“But the Asian Cricket Council found the right clay for the pitch and helped me with the work on the ground. Regarding grass, it was Bermuda grass one and its quality in China was fine, so it has been used in the entire ground, including outfield,” he adds.
Jashim isn’t there for the Asian Games in Hangzhou right now, having returned to Hong Kong to work on the Tin Kwong Road Recreation Ground, which hosted a majorly rain-affected Emerging Women’s Asia Cup tournament in Hong Kong, won by India A side.
“When I was there, six practice wickets were made. After that, not much is known to me as I was back in Hong Kong. The nature of the pitch will be bouncy as you do see lots of boundaries in T20s and now it depends on the curator there, plus how the ground staff maintain it,” he said.
Jashim, whose past work includes being in Singapore for 5.5 years and in Malaysia for six years, including preparing ground at Kinara Oval for DLF Cup tri-series. The 61-year-old, who started his groundsman career in Dhaka and Chattogram, was happy by the participation of the Indian men’s and women’s teams in the Asian Games.
“Everyone is happy over the participation of the Indian team. Like, everywhere they go to play, including now coming to China, people want to see the Indian team playing. Personally, I am happy to see the Indian team in action. In Guangzhou, the Indian team didn’t participate, so as some more sides. This time, it’s going to be tough as so many teams are participating now.”