July 27, 2012
‘Tall Boy’ batting strong at Arnos Vale

Head Groundsman at the Arnos Vale Playing Field Patrick “Tall Boy” John has notched up forty years and counting, working at the venue.{{more}}

Incidentally, John has been stationed at the Arnos Vale Playing Field since the inception of the facility in 1972.

In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT last Friday, John explained how he got the job.

Recounting an incident in 1971, during the construction of the facility, John said, “I was working on the players’ pavilion building with Sam Browne from Public Works, and there was Brooks and two other guys working on the pitch and one day, they had a big machine and they could not get it started, but I used to see how the mechanic from Public Works start it and I went and start the machine for them.”

He was then approached about transferring to work on the pitch and outfield, a decision, he said, which had to be cleared by Arthur Dalrymple, who at the time, was head of civil and technical matters at the Public Works Department.

John said during the initial stages of his employment, he and others had to journey to the nearby Sion Hill Playing Field, to get the savannah grass, otherwise known as ‘pasture grass’, to grass the surface at the Arnos Vale Playing Field.

In retracing his progress, John said: “Then Brooks showed me how to mark the wicket and so on; then a man from Barbados by the name of Wilkins came in to show some different things about the pitch.”

John also formed a long standing partnership with another groundsman, Kenneth “Shorty” Husbands, who has since retired from the job.

John said that most of his knowledge about the preparation of pitches has been handed down, as he never had much formal training in that field.

“I went once to Trinidad in 1997, to see how to prepare the pitch for a test match,” John recollected.

This, he said, was ahead of St Vincent and the Grenadines hosting its first test match that same year, when the West Indies engaged Sri Lanka.

John said despite the absence of formal training, he has been able to pass on his knowledge to those who have been under his tutelage.

John noted that over time, his job has become less demanding physically.

“Long ago, when it was three and four of us, the job was real hard; but now we have a bigger staff and more machines, so it is [be] coming easier,” he said.

When quizzed about having to turn up at the same place for almost every day of his life for the past 40 years, John expressed mixed feelings.

“Sometimes it can be boring, but it is your job and you have to do it,” he said.

However, John says that he is pleased with the transformation which has taken place at the ground over the past forty years, from basic facilities to what obtains today.

John stated that he gets his satisfaction from the comments from the teams which play at the venue, who often have favourable comments about the preparation of the pitch.

Noting that his tenure at the Arnos Vale Playing Field has outstripped several managers, chairmen, supervisors and many other workers of the National Sports Council, John said that he is happy that he has overseen every regional and international cricket match that has been played at the venue.

John was also buoyant that the venue is the happiest hunting ground for the West Indies in One Day Internationals.

“This is the best grounds for the West Indies; when they come here they hardly lose,” John boasted.

The Arnos Vale Playing Field has hosted 23 One Day Internationals involving the West Indies, with the regional side triumphing in 18, losing four and tying one.

The first ODI was played on February 4, 1981, between the West Indies and England.

The first cricket match that heralded the Arnos Vale Playing Field as a first class cricket venue in the Caribbean took place on April 14, 15 and 16, 1972, between the Windwards and New Zealand.(RT)