Staying grounded with Tangeni Lungameni
The conditions of a cricket pitch can play a vital role on how players will perform on the day, where dusty and hard pitches are kind to spin bowlers, green tops are favoured by pace-bowlers but often hated by batsmen.
The way a pitch is laid by a Groundsman, therefore, can often play a key factor and Tangeni Lungameni, Cricket Namibia’s Groundsman, argues that the job is not as menial as it might seem.
Lungameni says that although the job is not difficult, the pitch is delicate and requires knowledge on how to maintain it. The 22-year-old manages a group of fellow Groundsman under him and maintains pitches at Wanderers Sports Club, CCD, United, Windhoek High School and Union field.
A cricket player and enthusiast himself, Lungameni hails from Gobabis where he schooled for 11 years before completing his Matric at Windhoek Technical School (HTS). In 2011, he began as a development officer under Cricket Namibia, coaching kids aged 13 and under to play cricket. He continued for two years before temporarily returning to Gobabis.
When he returned to Windhoek in 2013, he was asked by then Cricket Namibia CEO, Graham McMillan to shadow former head Groundsman and Umpire, Wynand Louw, who was to leave the job soon.
“They were thin on the ground so I was brought on. I studied under him (Louw) for a couple of months and when games needed to be played I would help roll the pitch,” Lungameni recalls.
He says that in July last year, two new pitches were built at the Wanderers Sports Club. They flew in South African experts to lay the pitches and Lungameni says he picked up skill from them too.
Currently, it is off-season but there is still work to be done, including fertilising, cutting and overall maintenance in anticipation of the on-season which will require more rolling.
“Our preparation for games starts 10 days beforehand. This includes watering, sprinkling and knowing when to apply which. You also have to look out for rain and know when to put covers on the pitch,” Lungameni explains. He adds, “When the pitch is hard and flat, you then do your markings for creases, which are the areas demarcated by white lines. We do this the day before the game but it can even be done a few hours before because we use water paint which dries quicker.”
Regarding his impact on the game, Lungameni expresses his disappointment in not hearing feedback from the players. “The home team doesn’t tell me what to do. I prepare the pitch the way I choose, be it fast or slow and the team have to adapt to it. The players come to me a night before the game and inquire what kind of pitch I prepared. But after the game, they don’t give me feedback. They don’t tell me what I did wrong or what I need to improve on so the communication is lacking. But we’ll get there eventually.”
He says that generally, there is mutual respect between him and players and is often motivated by his superiors. The one thing that irks him, however, is the few people that don’t respect his job.
“You would put a sign saying ‘Don’t step on the pitch’ and in the morning you would find foot marks, the pitch is damaged and I have to do work again. Even some players do this. They want to get a feel of the pitch before the game so they come onto it, but it interferes with my work,” he laments. He adds further, “In Namibia, cricket is seen as a white sport, but it doesn’t have to be like that. We’ll get there.”
As the future goes, Lungameni would like to go as far as he can as a Groundsman. Although there are no qualified Groundsman in Namibia (Louw was the longest serving, but is now retired), he would like to take up courses in South Africa and become the best one Namibia has seen.
“The Groundsman under me follow what I do, but they do not have an understanding of the work. There is a certain way a Groundsman walks on a pitch that regular people do not do. You have to walk on the edge of each square and not everyone can tell the difference,” he says.
After grade 12, Lungameni wanted to study to become a boiler maker, but due to finances could not advance. He aims to pick up development coaching again and advance to level 2 where he can coach kids over the age of 13.
He reads Groundsman books and manuals in order to improve his skills and, in his free time, plays in the second team of cricket for All Boys cricket club and has represented Namibia at U-13, U-15 and U-19 levels. He plays as a bowler.
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