What Does Artificial Turf Have To Do With Cricket?

Traditionally cricket is a game that is played on grass wickets, especially in all of the main cricket-playing nations: England, Australia, India, Pakistan, New Zealand and so on.

But artificial grass and felt-like wickets have always been a part of the sport, even in these countries where cricket is an established sport with supporting infrastructure. 

From village clubs to county clubs, artificial grass is a part of cricket at all levels whether for training or match situations.

Why?

Artificial wickets have the advantage of being weatherproof which, for a cricket club, means that games can often be played in weather where a grass pitch would be unsuitable. 

Having a consistent pitch to play on can also be useful for clubs of all levels where there are a lot of games and activity played. Training sessions for teams from all the junior levels right up the the senior teams means that there can sometimes be around 10 different teams training on the pitch during the week, add into that games on Saturdays and Sundays and some evenings and that is a lot of stress on the genuine grass wickets. 

Having an artificial pitch - or even two - can help mitigate this by allowing the real wickets to be preserved for match situations to ensure it is at a high standard. Artificial cricket pitches take little to no effort to maintain and will last for many years in all weathers - the only consideration is that the top layer may need to be replaced every few years if it is regularly played on or if players are wearing spikes.

Teaching Aid

Artificial pitch technology is now so advanced that the pitches can be used as coaching aids to teach the game to younger players and improve skills. 

By marking lengths of balls, the wicket-to-wicket line and the wide lines on artificial pitches in a way that makes them part of the pitch, coaches save time having to re-mark them out each session and bowlers/batsmen can clearly see where balls are pitching; which allows them to hone their skill set. 

Some of the more advanced pitches also have smart integration technology so bowlers can see digitally where there ball pitches, speeds, revolutions and more - all in a pitch that can be rolled up and stored with little space.

By their very nature, artificial pitches can be changed to be different lengths. This is immeasurably helpful to the younger players who are just finding their way in the sport and may be intimidated or batting or bowling on a traditional, full sized 22 yard pitch. 

Smaller, shorter artificial pitches can be created to help with youngsters’ training without groundsmen needing to spend time and effort creating a genuine, grass wicket with different dimensions. 


Performance

Artificial wickets aren’t used in international competitive matches between countries. This is partly because the unexpected nature of cricket pitches is all part of the game and artificial wickets perform too consistently. 

There is also the fact that in test matches especially the wicket performs differently throughout the course of the match. The pitch will not be the same consistency or condition on day 5 as it is on day 1, which brings into play other skills from bowlers and batsmen and adds to the drama of the game. This deterioration is key to the skills of the players and the consistent, reliable nature of artificial pitches removes this from the sport.

Spreading the game

Artificial wickets really come into their own when used to spread the game to communities and countries where cricket isn’t commonly played. 

The fact that you can roll up the pitches makes them incredibly versatile for taking on the road, whether you’re introducing cricket to foreign countries or just trying to give local kids an opportunity to play in places where cricket isn’t readily available - such as big cities or towns.

Artificial grass wickets are also infrastructure-busting solutions to get the game in front of more people. In traditional cricket playing countries cricket pitches, squares and pavilions are pretty common sights, but in other countries that infrastructure doesn’t exist.

Having an artificial pitch that can be rolled out means that you can turn almost any location into a cricket pitch with little effort. You can roll it out on a football pitch, basketball court, bowling green or even a car park; and still get people involved. 


Supply and Demand

Artificial cricket pitches are experiencing a higher demand than ever from surprising locations, most notably central European countries who have a sizable population of immigrants from the middle east - where cricket is very popular.

Many of this population wants to play cricket but in places like Germany and France which have a more football or rugby sporting heritage, cricket pitches are very rare or don’t exist at all. This has led to a rise in artificial pitches springing up to satisfy the need for cricket and has also led to the local authorities beginning to look into cricket as a viable sporting option.

The fact that they can be placed on top of football pitches and fields without doing any damage, then rolled up and taken away after play is an extremely attractive option and one which many generic sporting clubs in Europe and around the world are adopting more and more.


All Year Round

As a predominantly seasonal sport, cricket is synonymous with summer and notorious for being impacted by the weather. Especially in Britain when playing an outdoor sport for 6+ hours a day is bound to be affected by the changeable weather. 

Artificial grass pitches remove this problem to a certain extent as games can be played undercover or indoors. This had led to a number of indoor cricket leagues springing up that use artificial pitches in sports halls around the country. 

These tournaments have different rules and limited numbers of players/overs in them which make them a different format of cricket that is appealing to cricketers. The fact that many of they happen in the ‘off-season’ throughout the winter months is also a draw as it allows players to keep playing through winter.


Cost-Effective

Artificial cricket pitches range from around £100 for a strip of artificial grass to upwards of £1,000 for a top end one and even double that for the latest technology. This might seem expensive, especially if you are a nomadic club that doesn’t have many funds to work with.

But consider the cost of a grass wicket. The cost of paying ground staff or a time commitment from a player for the constant maintenance and upkeep. The cost of renting the ground on a weekly basis, the equipment needed in order to allow the wicket to be kept in a playable condition. 

Over the course of a season, this can easily run into the thousands, which makes artificial cricket pitches an attractive option for many grassroots clubs and players.