On the Front Foot: Scratch the surface and discover why Bill's the best groundsman

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The Independent Online

Bill Gordon, groundsman of the year six times running, was reluctant to reveal his secrets. "If you asked Coca-Cola, would they tell you about their mystery ingredient?" he said. Actually, the main factorfor the country's mostaccomplished producer of cricket pitches, at The Oval, is devotion. "I'm on duty 24/7, I live just round the corner and I'll pop in on a Saturday in the winter just to see there's nothing wrong. If there is and it's not spotted, you could be in real trouble by Monday." Gordon has been at The Oval since 1974 but took over as head groundsman only in 2003. He has won the four-day award every season and the one-day accolade four times a row. He seeks to achieve pace, bounce and carry and to stay ahead of the weather. Thereis, in truth, a kind of secret ingredient: two perennial rye grasses which act with the Surrey and Ongar Loam beneath. He still gets nervous. "On the first morning of the 2005 Ashes match, I passed a roadsweeper on the way in and thought, if I could just swap jobs with you for a day." His next trick is to get Surrey to win on his perfect surfaces.

East glad to be two-faced

Nothing new under the sun department. After the note last week about the Australian developing a double-sided bat to help the modern generation of switch-hitters, it swiftly transpired that one was in use 30 years ago. Ray East, Essex's resident comedian and left-arm spinner, was invited by the old county firm of Warsop Stebbing to use their prototype for a season. "It had two faces and was very heavy," he said. "I went on a tour to Zambia using it. The local wicketkeeper saw the back and informed me courteously that I was holding it the wrong way round. When I turned it round he couldn't believe his eyes. So I told him I used one side to block and one to attack. I duly blocked the first ball then twirled the bat round, only to hear him say, 'Spread out, he's going to smash it'. I can't remember getting any runs with it."

T20 for 2012 is fun and Games

The London Assembly voted unanimously this week for cricket to be part of the 2012 Olympics after an impassioned plea for Twenty20's inclusion by member Murad Qureshi. He may be too late, because the sports for each Games are already decided when the bid result is announced. There may be hope, however, if cricket were to become part of the Cultural Olympiad. Which would be the first time that anybody has confused T20 with culture.

ICC in a spin over Mushy

Much disapproval has been expressed about the hiring of Mushtaq Ahmed as England's spin-bowling coach, because he was named in a Pakistan match-fixing investigation eight years ago. But since then, Mushtaq has helped Sussex to win three Championships. The thought occurs that he would have been in a much better position to influence matters as a player – when the ICC said nowt – than as a coach – when they are bleating.

s.brenkley@independent.co.uk

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