KOCHI: April 9, 2011. Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium. When Brendon McCullum pulled a Dirk Nannes delivery high into the stands in the second over, one man was particularly delighted. Hamsa P K, the assistant curator. Away from delirious fans and flash bulbs, watching from their burrow at the massive venue, he and his team were entitled to it. For the pitch for the first cricket match there since its renovation was proving a good one. The IPL game between Kochi Tuskers Kerala and Royal Challengers Bangalore went on to produce over 320 runs in total with 12 sixes and 25 fours. And RCB captain Daniel Vettori termed it “a good cricket wicket.” As good a compliment a groundsman could wish to hear.
Ten years on, Hamsa is Kerala Cricket Association’s chief curator. What’s more, the Kochiite is one of just two Keralites -- alongside Mohanan T of Perinthalmanna -- who figure in the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s pool of neutral curators for national competitions, including the Ranji Trophy. While he made the cut in the 2017-18 season, his latest assignment was the Vijay Hazare Trophy one-day championship in February, at the VB Nest Ground in Chennai.
“While playing local cricket, I never thought I would grow to a position where a chauffeur-driven car would be waiting for me at airports,” says the down-to-earth Thammanam resident. “That I’m making a living out of cricket, and getting the opportunity to meet the players that we have long admired, is a fabulous position to be in.”
In the Ernakulam cricket circles, Hamsa was a familiar figure. First as a player with clubs like Sharon CC and Ernakulam CC. Having started off as a leg-spinner while playing for Maharaja’s College, he shifted to medium pace in club cricket. Then he picked up umpiring, going on to head the umpires department with the district cricket association. Finally, he met his ‘career’ – the cricket pitch. In 2010, he started assisting P V Ramachandran, the then KCA chief curator. And the cricket ground became his ‘science’ university, going on to acquire the BCCI curator certification in 2014.
“A wicket is a life. The grass on it is its life. A curator needs to respect that factor while making decisions to get the grass and the soil to bind in the manner desired to produce a good wicket,” Hamsa says.The 44-year-old says the job requires commitment and a willingness to keep updating. Constantly.
“Once into it, the science behind it becomes a part of life, from climate to fertiliser application. The type of soil and clay used and the amount of water and sunshine falling on it need to be carefully monitored,” he says. Significantly, he says, there is a concerted effort by the BCCI to bring in the latest innovation in groundskeeping technology and its cricketing application to the grounds in the country.
“We get regular courses from experts in the field. The organisational support, both at the state and national levels, is huge. There is always an opportunity for those willing to work hard to progress,” he says.
Hamsa believes the demand for curators is set to rise in the next few years. “Now that Kerala is doing well, and our players are getting noticed nationally, local clubs have realised the importance of providing youngsters with good training facilities. Towards that end, a turf wicket has come to be regarded as a must-have at every training venue. And to maintain a proper cricket pitch, there has to be dedicated staff. That’s where a trained curator comes in,” he says.