When the Cricket World Cup final rolls around at the height of this summer the two teams and their fans wont be the only nervous people inside Lords.
Cricket, more than any other sport, is shaped by the surface its played on, and the man tasked with delivering the perfect one for its biggest occasion is Karl McDermott.
The pressure of producing 22 yards which offers the array of desired factors like pace, bounce and spin – but not too much – is a huge responsibility and McDermott admits that, for the first few balls at least, he will be biting his nails along with those in the stands.
“Normal county cricket? I have no problem,” he says. “International matches, because of whats on the game, you have more nerves and butterflies in the stomach beforehand.
“In international cricket you worry a little bit, but as long as you trust the work youve put into it then youre comfortable enough.”
Added to the pressure of producing the key component for a grand sporting occasion millions of eyes will be trained upon is who previously filled the job.
Mick Hunt retired last year after 49 years working at Lord's (Source: Getty)
McDermott has taken over responsibility for the most famous cricket ground in the world from Mick Hunt, who retired as head groundsman in December after 49 years of mowing, watering and tending the hallowed turf.
Like a manager joining a prestigious club after a predecessors long and fruitful reign, the 43-year-old, who previously worked for Worcestershire and Hampshire, is more than aware of Hunts legacy.
“Theyre certainly big shoes to fill,” he says. “There will be a bit of pressure that comes with that, or comparisons. Theres no doubt that hell go down as one of the best cricket groundsmen in history, so to follow that and have his support when I first came in was brilliant – it meant a lot to me.
“Its exciting, I wouldnt say daunting. Im really looking forward to it. If I was daunted I wouldnt have taken the post. Im not one who loses sleep over cricket and that means Im quite comfortable with where I am and what Im doing.”
The fact McDermott is at home on a cricket pitch would come as a surprise to his teenage self, who had no background in the sport and had not even set foot in his local club, despite it being around the corner from where he grew up in Dublin.
McDermott owes his career to an unlikely source: his maths teacher at Mount Temple Comprehensive, who just so happened to be the groundsman at Clontarf Cricket Club.
“I didnt play cricket and knew nothing about it,” he explains. “I was 14 and he was looking for a non-cricketer to give him a hand out during the summer. Thats how I got into it – a couple of hours per week for five Irish pounds – and I was the one who kept it up and it escalated from there, summer after summer after summer.”
McDermott starts at Lord's ahead of a busy summer of cricket (Source: Getty)
Fast-forward to the present day – past Clontarf CC, three years of studying sports management and being on the ground staff at Worcestershire and Hampshire – and McDermott is living in the groundsmans house behind the nursery ground at Lords.
“In essence its unbelievable from where I was to where I am now,” he says. “Its fair to say it is the dream job.”
Although hes benefited from a month of Hunt sharing his wisdom, theres been little time for McDermott to ease himself into the role, with a bumper cricket season fast approaching.
Spring may have only just sprung, but the County Championship season starts on 11 April, with Middlesex hosting Lancashire, before the One-Day Cup begins the following month. With MCC fixtures and other assorted games which help make Lords the home of cricket to also fit in before the international fixtures, its a relentless schedule.
“In terms of days of cricket its not that dissimilar to Hampshire really, but the big games are bigger and the small games are smaller,” McDermott explains. “Its about managing that package.”
Games certainly dont come much bigger than five World Cup matches, including the final, and the second Ashes Test against Australia. But its Englands first ever Test match against Ireland in July which McDermott is most looking forward to.
“The World Cup and the Ashes are brilliant, but how many times are Ireland going to play here again, really? Its going Read More – Source