Describe your occupation and your daily activities that you love about this?
Parsana is currently the chief curator of the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium in Motera, Ahmedabad. He also represents West Zone in the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s Grounds and Pitches Committee. At 66, with more than 40 years in the job, Parsana is one of the most experienced curators in India. The start, however, was accidental. A number of Indian cricketers have returned after county stints in England as better batsmen or bowlers. Parsana is perhaps the only one to return a curator.
What is the basic qualification required ?
When, as a 12-year-old, Dhiraj Parsana worked on his family’s farmlands near Rajkot, he had no idea that he was sowing the seeds for a career in pitch-curating.
How did you take up such an offbeat occupation?
I was sent to Scotland and England in 1972 to play club cricket,” he recalls. “The people in Scotland got to know that I come from an agricultural family and asked me if I can help in rolling the pitch, mowing the outfield etc. As a child, I was used to doing small jobs on my father’s agricultural land. Even when I played cricket as a kid in India, I would sweep the pitch, roll the mat, nail it… So I said yes, and had no idea then that it would help me after my retirement. At that point, it helped me make some money
I moved to Durham in 1975. They got to know from the previous club that I was working on the ground and asked me if I could do it full-time. I was slightly hesitant to take up the responsibility because I was playing too. But they assured me that there are guys in the club who would help me in curating whenever I was playing. I ended up playing for three years in Durham and was also a full-time groundsman.
What skills are required for this job?
Over the next three decades, Parsana grew steadily in stature despite facing various challenges. One of the biggest was the rapid growth of science in pitch-curating. For a matriculate, the scientific approaches could have been intimidating. Parsana, however, was fascinated by the science in pitch-curating and went out of his way to learn it.
“It’s all science. The soil is science and the grass is science,” he says. “It was very difficult to learn. For me growing up, the instinct was to become good in cricket and not worry about anything else. But deep inside, I wanted to learn more. In the 1990s, the BCCI organised seminars and interactions with experts from Australia and New Zealand. They taught us that whatever soil we use on grounds had to be tested and analysed first.
I knew a scientist in Ahmedabad and learnt more details from him. I used to travel and inspect pitches for various matches. Wherever I went, I would take (soil) samples to learn and analyse more. The way a pitch behaves depends on the soil and the climactic conditions. In India, we use black cotton soil for pitches. Before it’s used, it will be tested for clay content, silt, plasticity, shrinker-swelling and ph value. Each has different criteria, and only then it will work for a cricket pitch. A lot of people wouldn’t agree with me then but we were taking science too lightly for a long time
What should aspirants do to prepare a career in this?
Passion is the key. When I started out in England, a lot of people asked me why I’m doing such small works. But I never felt any shame. Just like playing cricket, every match is a challenge. Both are tough – I played 19 years of first-class cricket and survived 32 years as a curator. I am enjoying the journey