After the apartheid era ended, Richard Beghin – Zimbabwe born, South Africa raised – recognised the lack of cricket facilities in black schools and saw an opportunity to use the sport he loved to help create a level playing field.
Working with a plastics company in Johannesburg he developed the original Flicx pitch in 1998, before bringing it to England and presenting it to the ECB Coaches Association conference in 2000. Following that, Keith Pont, then director of development at the ECB, placed an order for 799 pitches and after they were approved by the ECB authorities for hard ball cricket they were, literally, rolled out.
Following the initial run, Flicx realised they had to make two important changes to the pitched to adapt them for English conditions. Firstly, the ball skidded through low and secondly, the pitch got slippery when wet.
The new pitches – ready for the 2014 season – are these 2G creations that have undergone independent testing to confirm their improvements over their predecessor.
The crucial difference lies on the surface of the pitches as rather than tiny pyramids covering the pitch there are now small bubbles on top, meaning that the plastic is softer and more forgiving.
Beghin was kind enough to travel to Southwold Cricket Club’s indoor nets session, and after both bowling and batting on the surface I spoke to Richard – and my initial impression of the pitch fitted in with what he told me. As a bowler, you know the surface is going to offer something – if you hit the seam you’ll get lateral movement, as well as appreciable bounce if you’re looking to bowl short.
And as a batsman you find yourself trusting the bounce almost straight away. After two hours of solid bowling and batting on it I only saw one ball that climbed off a good length and one ball that scuttled through from just back of a length. Considering that most pitches will offer more unsettling variation than that, it was very impressive.
The ease and speed with which it can be set up and packed away again was another impressive feature of the Flicx 2G pitch. Once it’s unstrapped it needs a little push to unfurl and with no tapping down the surface lies completely flat – all in under a minute. At the end of the session, the straps are placed under the surface and it’s rolled up, before clicking the buckles into place.
Another interesting detail of the 2G pitch is ostensibly a safety feature. At the end that faces the bowler there is a ramp roughly two inches long that leads from the ground onto the pitch. The purpose of this lip is to send any balls that are pitched dangerously short sailing comfortably over the batsman’s head. If this ramp were not there and what remained was a right angle connection between the 2G pitch and the ground, any balls striking that corner would be far more unpredictable and unsafe.
So what’s the future of Flicx? The ECB is looking to indoor cricket as a way to further promote cricket in schools and the Flicx surfaces, should they come through ECB testing, will be the pitch they use. And this brings the work of Richard and Flicx full circle – having originated as a way to facilitate cricket in South Africa they are now looking to promote a typically South African sport – indoor, or, ‘Action Cricket’ – to an English audience.
The overwhelming reaction from Southwold Cricket Club’s bowlers and batsmen was positive. The batsmen felt challenged on it because of the extra life in the pitch – yet ultimately safe because the fear of a ball climbing off a good length was almost non-existent. And the bowlers, even after two hours, were queuing up to run in as they knew they could get movement off the pitch.
Having a Flicx 2G pitch at your cricket club gives you the ability to turn any sports field into a cricket pitch in no time at all and the the pitch can be rolled out both indoors and outdoors. The surface we reviewed was 10m x 1.8m, costing £1275.00 plus VAT, and comes with a carrier. But with a life expectancy of around 10 years this is a real investment to any cricket club.
Flicx have created a cricket wicket more true than any other artificial any of us have played on. Favouring neither batsmen nor bowlers, this is an excellent piece of kit which will help youngsters develop their cricket and adults hone their skills – highly recommended for any club.
Thanks to Richard Beghin and Flicx for travelling to Southwold Cricket Club for this review.
Click here to visit the Flicx website