1 Mick Hunt - The Keynote Interview

MickHunt5Being Head Groundsman at such a high profile venue as Lord's might appear, from the outside, to be somewhat stressful but, apart from the odd panic attack or two, Mick Hunt, the longest serving groundsman in First Class Cricket, appears to be rather content with his lot, as he tells Pitchcare

What sports were you involved with in your younger days - did you play cricket?

It was very much a case of cricket in the summer and football in the winter. It was as simple as that! There were no extended seasons then. I played for local sides around North London and it was a reasonable standard and I think I enjoyed them both equally. I don't think I was better at either really.

How did you become a groundsman?

I was always interested in cricket because my father was a good cricketer. I lived across the road, which is a good six-hit away from Lord's, and I saw a job vacancy come up and I just went for it. I used to come to watch the cricket as a kid, so to get a job here was brilliant.

How long have you worked at Lord's?

Forty-five years.

What would you consider has been the highlight of your career so far?

I probably got the most enjoyment out of the NatWest One Day Final between England and India in 2002. It was just a magnificent game of cricket and I remember watching nearly every ball of it, which I very rarely get a chance to do.

MickHunt1How has the sports turf industry changed during your time at Lord's?

It's got a lot more professional with different machinery coming on to the market; and there are different chemicals involved now. It's a hell of a leap since I first came into the job. Most of the equipment is geared for the golf industry, but it can be used to great effect in cricket too.

You are keeper of the world's most iconic cricket ground. What additional pressures are put on your work by being in the media spotlight?

There's no real leeway as it's got to be spot on all the time. People expect you to get it 100% right all the time, which is tough. They don't expect batsmen and bowlers to score a hundred or get five wickets every time, but we are expected to be on it all the time. Obviously, you get the occasional blip but, most of the time, we get it right.

Will the planned new developments at the ground affect you in any way?

The construction won't have much of an impact, but there might be a bit of an affect when the new stands are completed. These are going to be much higher and this might impact on the ball swinging, whilst the bigger shadows might also affect the turf's growth, but I can't imagine it will be a huge problem.

You have always been considered as an ambassador for our industry. Is it in a good place right now?

It's taken a few knocks in some respects, but I think it is in a good place. As I said, groundstaff do get a bit of bad press but, with the grounds keeping machinery and techniques always improving, I think the industry is moving in the right direction.

What relationship do you have with the players?

I have a pretty good relationship with the players - you have a bit of banter with certain players and certain ones are a bit more serious but, on the whole, they're all fine.

MickHunt2Is there one player that has made an impact on you?

When he was captain, Mike Gatting and I used to fight like kittens. He was very competitive and successful as a result, but he would be difficult to deal with sometimes. But then, after he retired, we became good buddies! David Gower is always nice to have a chat with too and is always fair in his commentaries.

What is the most difficult problem you have had to deal with at Lord's?

Probably when we constructed the new outfield in 2001. That was some project we took on then! After the Olympics was a bit of a tough time too, taking down the stands made the pitch not look very good, but we got there in time for the Test match! It was great to see another sport being player at Lord's and to have the ground involved in the Olympics. The way the outfield looked when we got it back was worrying, but we did well to get around that. We had good subcontractors working with us to sort it out before the Test match, which we did.

How far ahead do you plan pitch preparations or is it just part of your normal routine?

It always depends on the fixture schedule. Usually about ten days prior to the fixture. It's quite congested here, so sometimes it is tight, but we aim for ten days.

How differently do you treat the Test wickets?

We treat them with kid gloves - if someone looks at it we get angry! We're probably a bit over protective of it at times, but it's a big deal. Next year is the Ashes, which is the big one. The sense of relief comes when the last match before the Test is finished and we can concentrate on protecting it.

EnglandvIndia2014Does having two Tests in a summer cause any additional problems?

I have two panic attacks instead of one!

How does the nursery square differ from the main square?

Both squares have been relaid, but the Nursery Square is more batsman friendly. We work very hard on keeping them both to an excellent standard and I think we achieve that.

Do the TV pundits and press folk talk common sense?

A lot of them do and some of them don't. Like anything these days, there are a lot of opinions flying around, but you just have to concentrate on doing your job.

Is there anything you would have done differently, professionally and personally?

Not really - it's been great fun here and working in Central London is fantastic, so there's nothing that I would have done differently.

Any regrets?

The only regrets about the job is - having four children, as I do - I missed out a lot on seeing them grow up because their dad was working. Whilst all the other families were going to the seaside, I was having to work.

How would you raise the profile of groundsmanship in the media?

If some of the media guys actually spent a whole day with a groundsman, that would certainly help. I think they'd be quite surprised by what goes into it.

Thank you for your time.

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