Warwickshire's Cricket Operations Manager Keith Cook marks 50 years with the Club this summer. Here's a look back at his incredible career...
“This isn’t just a job, it’s a life choice. Take it with both hands, enjoy it to the maximum and remember it well.”
This inspirational quote – printed on the corridor approach to Edgbaston’s home dressing room – is a daily reminder to players and staff of their privilege to play and work at one of cricket’s most iconic venues.
And for its author, Keith Cook, it’s been exactly that. A life choice.
This summer Cookie – as the Club’s Cricket Operations Manager is affectionately known – marks an incredible 50 years with Warwickshire County Cricket Club.
He first stepped foot inside his hometown Club in late July 1973.
Fresh from college, the 18-year-old – who’d considered enrolling with the army – had an interview for an admin role that had been arranged by his schools employment officer.
Despite almost missing the interview (he overshot the stadium on the No.45 bus and had to run back from the university) he was offered the position and on 6 August 1973 returned for his first day as an Edgbaston employee.
He turned down a job offer from the gas board!
Keith is now widely recognised as one of the country’s most committed, experienced cricket men – but says he still feels those same first day tingles at the start of every new season, every Test hosted.
“How can you ever get bored of this view,” said Keith, gesturing towards the lush Edgbaston pitch, the view from his ‘office window’ for half a century.
“It’s pretty special. On that first morning of the County Championship season, or the first morning of a Test match, I still get the same buzz. It’s incredible that a job can still give you that sense of satisfaction and enjoyment 50 years on.
“Yes it comes with a price: there are a lot of long days, at times a lot of pressure, but it’s still a job many people would give their right arm for.”
It was a frantic start to Keith’s Edgbaston career in the membership and ticket office where he was busy opening post, dealing with membership applications, and answering phones.
England were set to take on the West Indies in a Test match on the Thursday following his Monday start and, in his words, it was “organised chaos with tickets flying out everywhere”.
Little did Keith know, it would be the first of 42 Tests (and counting) he would work at Edgbaston, including 12 Ashes!
He recalled: “I’d never been to a Test, I’ve never even been to a proper cricket match, so for me it was a learning curve. Everyone was working flat out, the players were in training, tickets flying out, and it was about day three before I found the gents toilet!
“It was quite early on I realised I might be here for a while. In my first week at the Test I found myself working late, without really thinking about it, and my boss at the time General Secretary Leslie Deakins – who was a wonderful man, one of the great administrators in cricket – wandered by and said ‘what are you doing here at this time of night’.
“It hadn’t crossed my mind to leave before they left so I think I knew it was more than just a job. I knew Warwickshire was where I was meant to be.”
The father-of-three went on to be Club Secretary, and assistant to former Chief Executive Dennis Amiss in the 1990s, before becoming Cricket Operations Manager in 2005.
He plays an invaluable role supporting the Cricket Management Team by handling team and player logistics and is the Club’s link with the playing teams and match officials on major match days.
Keith has worked alongside many of the game’s great players and seen five Bears County Championship title wins during his time.
But the Botham Ashes Test of 1981 is his personal highlight.
“It was the first time I’d experienced the energy, the raw passion coming from the stands,” added the 67-year-old. “I remember working in a below-ground storage area where we kept the cash, it was all money then, no credit cards, and I was counting it into bundles.
“I could hear the noise above me coming through the floor into the storeroom. And I was like ‘what is that sound’? And I suddenly became aware that it was the crowd getting behind Ian Botham on that Sunday, driving the team on.
“I experienced it again in 2005 with the Ashes Test here which was one of history’s great games of cricket. It was magical, amazing to be a part of.”
Keith is the chief mechanic keeping the Club’s cricket engine ticking over smoothly, oiling the machine and overseeing maintenance.
He makes the players’ lives easier, taking care of behind-the-scenes logistics and any niggles, so they can fully focus on their game and the match in hand.
“I was never able to contribute with bat or ball,” he adds, “but I like to think I’ve made a difference and contributed to the teams’ successes.”
No-one in the dressing room underestimates the contribution Keith Cook has made. And he is a much-loved member of the squad.
The R word isn’t quite on the tip of Keith’s tongue yet but he knows the day is approaching when he’ll step aside and allow a new Cricket Operations Manager into his well-worn shoes.
And what would his advice be to his eventual successor?
“Good question. I would say be proud of what you’re doing, don’t take it for granted, and give every day. My philosophy has always been when I leave work I like to think I don’t owe the Club a penny, that I’ve given my all and given something back to the club.
“I’d tell the person that you won’t be front and centre on the pitch, but you will have your moments, that little glimpse of sunlight on your back, so remember it and be proud of it.
“As I’m getting older the bones ache after long days, it’s a bit harder to get out of bed, but I will make sure that every day I’m here I’m giving as good as I did on my first day.”
Enter the Ballot for 2024 Major Match tickets
Edgbaston is set for another stunning summer of men’s and women’s international cricket with Pakistan and West Indies heading to Birmingham in 2024, plus the return of Finals Day.
Fans can now enter the Ballot for the best chance to get access to tickets for matches in 2024. Or beat any Ballot process with Priority Club Membership, which is on sale now for only £25.