Our Behind the Badge series celebrates the unsung heroes who help make Edgbaston so special.
Grass guru Martin Porter is part of the seven-strong team of grounds staff who prepare and maintain one of the finest sports surfaces in the country.
The former golf green keeper talks of his pride at calling Edgbaston’s hallowed turf his workplace…
“It’s really important you don’t shock the grass,” explains groundsman Martin Porter as a teammate mows strips of the Edgbaston outfield which, to the untrained eye, already has the finish of a snooker table baize.
“It’s a precise science. We’re not taking very much off, maybe 2mm. It’s better to take less off more often than more off in one go and you should never cut grass by more than half its height. So in the spring we’ll take a little bit off at a time until we get to the height we want.
“I worked on a golf course for many years, with 150 hectares, and that felt more like simply cutting grass. But at Edgbaston we’re manicuring.
“We’ve about one-and-a-half hectares here, the whole thing has to look pristine. We don’t want a blade of grass out of place.
“It sounds extreme but we’re all passionate about putting on the best possible surface for the players and for it to look its best for members, fans and a TV audience.”
Martin joined Edgbaston seven years ago having spent 26 years working in the grounds team at Lichfield Golf Course.
He’s responsible for marking out wickets and maintaining bowlers’ footholds (his piston-like stamping down of sawdust seen during The Ashes) as well as general grounds duties.
Matchdays can be 15 hours long and, thanks to the great British weather, a tough work out running covers and drying up.
But the 58-year-old wouldn’t swap it for the world.
“Matchdays start at around 7am. If the weather is OK we get the covers off, dry up if needed, prepare the wicket, do the footholds, cut the square and outfield, and the wicket will get a roll 30 minutes before play.
“We’ll also be rolling and brushing other wickets in preparation for upcoming games.
“It can be full on if the weather is not with you. Showery is the worst as there’s the constant on and off with hover cover and sheets which is physically demanding.
“But when it’s sunny you can sit back, have a bit of a relax, watch some cricket or do some work in the sheds because there’s always stuff to do there or on the Colts training ground.
“At the start of a new season, when the pitch is looking immaculate, I’ll look around the place and think ‘I’m lucky to work here’.
“Someone once asked if it was artificial grass! I’ll take that as a compliment as it means the pitch is looking so perfect that people don’t believe it could be natural.”
The speed at which Martin and grounds team colleagues can salvage matches seemingly destined for washouts has to be seen to be believed.
From puddles to perfectly playable in double quick time.
And he said the desire to get games on for members and young fans is a driving factor.
“People come here to watch great sport and to be entertained,” he said.
“If it’s been raining we all try our utmost to get a game on. You’ll look around the ground and see families and young children sitting patiently in the stands hoping to see some play. It’s only right we do all we can.
“It’s something I’m really proud of. To go from an outfield more suited to fishing to having a pitch that’s playable in a matter of hours. And that’s down to the speed and professionalism of the team.”
So what does ‘being a Bear’ mean to Martin?
“For me it’s a feeling that you’re part of the Club,” he added. “An extension of the cricket team. We do our bit before they go out and play.
“I can’t see me working anywhere else.”
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