The most important man at the County Ground?
Simon Lee is arguably the most important person at Somerset County Cricket Club.
As Head Groundsman he responsible for looking after the County Ground and preparing the wickets for the games to be played on.
Simon, who was born in Taunton and grew up in Ilminster, explains how he became a groundsman in the first place. “I was always a pretty practical sort of person and didn’t really see myself working in an office,” he said. “So I started to think about what sort of a job I could do. I had various ideas from forestry to general gardening but in the end I decided to go to Bicton College in Devon for two years where I studied for a Diploma in Horticulture.”
It was while he was a college that he first came to the County Ground. “The course had a 24 week work placement so in 1999 I wrote a letter to Somerset CCC asking if they wanted a hand on the ground that season,” he said. “I got a positive reply and ended up working through the summer of that year here. I came down in the middle of the winter and met Phil Frost who was the head groundsman in those days and we went into his room in the Old Pavilion which hadn’t changed for years. It was quite a an eye opener to me as a 16 year old to see just what was involved and the long hours we had to work, but the plus side for me was the cricket.
Simon explains just what he is job entails. “On matchdays we are in by 6:30am and then we will be here until 7pm. Of course the day is centred around the cricket, so the first five hours are very busy and then we are on standby. During the breaks we go out onto the pitch to make any repairs and remark the lines, but our main job is to facilitate the cricket and if anything happens out in the middle we have to be ready for it. Once the game is over we have to go on for another hour or so to clear up and cover and get ready for the next day. Days can be very tiring especially when there is rain about and we have to put the covers on and off several times.”
A lot of people think that when the season is over Simon and his team have a long holiday, but as he points out, that is far from what actually happens. “This year we have had an exceptionally busy close season so far because we have been having a new drainage and irrigation system installed and although I am not physically doing the work I have to be here to oversee what is happening. Cricket is a seven to eight month season for us and we don’t get a lot of time off during this period because of the nature of the fixtures. Every season seems to start earlier and the last couple of years I have started rolling in mid February. That gives me a month leading up slowly to the players reporting back and being outside in the nets from about the second week in March.”
When does Simon start his planning for the cricket season? “As soon as the fixtures come out in late November I will have a few discussions with Matt Maynard (Somerset CCC Director of Cricket) about what his requirements are and then I can look at the pitches and decide which game is going to be played where. As the season goes on, the time frame to prepare a pitch gets shorter because the ground gets harder and pitches have been played on already so they don’t take quite so long to get ready again. At the start of the season it can be a three week prep period whereas as the end of the summer it can be as little as a week.”
What have been some of his highlights since he started at the County Ground in 2001? “The first year I was here we hosted the India v Sri Lanka World Cup game,” he said. “For a 16 year old who had never been to any major sporting occasion this was mind blowing. There were 10,000 people in the ground and it was an amazing. Since then there have been quite a few memorable occasions like Ian Blackwell hitting his 247 not out against Derbyshire in 2003. The balls were bouncing off St James Church. Beating Australia in 2005 was great and then of course Chris Gayle’s 150 this summer will live long in the memory. When something like that happens it gives you a real buzz to think that you played your part in preparing a pitch that they could play that well on and entertain the crowd.”
Don’t forget that you can see what sort of wickets that Simon and his team prepare at the County Ground in 2016 by purchasing your Membership for the new season.
If you wish to purchase your Membership online please click here
Existing Members can fill out their application forms when they arrive in the post later this week and return them to us in the Free Post envelope provided. You can also pop in to Reception in the Andrew Caddick Pavilion during normal office hours or call us on 0845 337 1875.
Alternatively you can download a Membership form online here: Application Form 2016
We look forward to seeing you at The County Ground in 2016!