Vijay Changotra - a Kiwi-Indian horticulturist who works for Auckland Council’s social infrastructure organisation firm City Care - has bagged the prestigious Northern District Cricket Association Community Groundsman Award. 

Changotra won the award ahead of some of the veterans in the fray with decades of experience under their belts and was clearly elated about the fact when the Indian Weekender spoke with him about the coveted prize at Mountfort Park in Manurewa, South Auckland. 

Northern District Cricket Association is the parent body of local district and regional levels cricket associations comprising regions Northland, Counties Manukau, Hamilton, Waikato Valley, Bay of Plenty, and Poverty Bay. 

Nominations were invited for the award by Norther District Cricket Association along with awards in other categories, including Club of the year, Emerging umpire of the year, Community Official of the year, etc; from January 28 to February 27. 

And the colourful award ceremony to celebrate the success of players and support staff was then held on Saturday, April 9, at the Sky City Hamilton and brought together cricket enthusiasts from the region and beyond. 

Speaking with the Indian Weekender, an emotionally elated Changotra, shared how he found his way into the career of ground maintenance and pitch curating and how he found a hidden passion inside him to know, learn and excel in science and the art of curating a cricket pitch. 

Sharing his story of joining the role of linesman few years ago for the firm City Care is tasked by Auckland Council to manage open spaces, building constructions, facilities management along with maintaining all social infrastructure in the Auckland region, Changotra said, “This role has not been just a job for me, it’s a passion.”

“I get goose bumps when I think I am working in the league of pitch curators who gets to decide the nature of cricketing pitch – if it will support pace bowling or slow bowling,” Changotra said. 

Elaborating further on the craft of curating a cricket pitch, Changotra pointed towards a small rectangular block of land in Mountfort Park and said, “the quality of pitches here had been appreciated by one and all, including players, coaches and other experts” and had compared it to international standards. 

Originally from the Kathua district of the Jammu region in India, Vijay Changotra had been living in New Zealand for the last thirteen years and had been in this role for the last four-five years. 

Recalling his growing up days in India, Changotra said, “Like all other Indians, I was also obsessed with the game of cricket – but more as a player – and had never imagined that I would make a career in maintaining ground and pitches.”

“It was only after getting into this role that I realised that curating pitch is a combination of science and art.”

“One has to be a horticulturist – trained or learned – to understand the level of moisture in the ground beneath the pitch and also to know what moisture can do for maintaining the level of green grass on the pitch.”

“Now when I watch international cricket matches, my eyes are busy in capturing how the pitch is behaving and how it is impacting different players,” Changotra said. 

When asked trivially about how pitches are perceived to support or challenge batsmen against different kinds of bowling attacks – pace or spin – Changotra said with a philosophical tone, “A good pitch offers equal opportunity to all kinds of players to showcase their talents.”

Changotra is keen to share his success story with the rest of the community in the hope that his line of work might find some attention within the Kiwi-Indian community.