You might see Richard Robinson, Yorkshire’s new head of grounds, going round and round on his mower in the coming weeks. It is, in fact, quite an apt metaphor given he has come full circle by taking on his new role at Headingley at the start of an Ashes summer.
“The first time I came here was for Botham’s Ashes in 1981,” recalled the former Yorkshire YTS and Academy batter.
“The day he got all of his runs was my first time here. We all came as a family that day.
“It’s my first memory of this place, which I love. I still get a tingle every time I come here. And I just love Yorkshire as well.”
It is no surprise then that Robinson describes his new role as “a dream job for me”.
He has arrived from Weetwood, where he was in a similar role for eight years. Before that, he was a freelance groundsman and also worked at Bradford Park Avenue. They are two venues that are now under his jurisdiction.
“I love it down at Park Avenue,” he continued. “I was on the Academy when it was there.”
Richard Kettleborough, Chris Silverwood and Michael Vaughan were all contemporaries of his as a player. While they went on to county and international honours, Robinson became a legendary Bradford League run-scorer with the likes of Keighley and Baildon.
Now, he is in the international spotlight given Headingley hosts the third Ashes Test between July 6-10.
“Once you’ve done an Ashes Test, you can’t really do much more. I might as well give up then,” Robinson laughed.
Of course, he won’t give up then. He is a Yorkshire fan through and through and is desperate to see the county succeed.
He has been in situ for approximately a fortnight now, taking over from Andy Fogarty, who has stepped down from the head job but remains on staff as a consultant. He is working four days a week alongside Robinson.
He said: “I’ve known Andy for 20 years, and fortunately he’s still around. He’s been brilliant with me so far.”
The Ashes isn’t actually what Robinson is most looking forward to having taken on the job.
“I’m just really looking forward to working with the team I have,” he said. “I’ve known them all for a long time, and they’re fantastic. And we’re bringing new people in as we speak.”
Robinson’s team amounts to just short of a dozen in number, including Jasmine Nicholls, who is the newest recruit and only started this week. She is also an England international walker.
The team have to look after a square which stretches pretty much all the way across the Headingley outfield.
“We have a lot of training pitches, but there’s 13 match pitches we can use, including two hybrid surfaces,” he said. “But we only have six TV pitches, and they have to be central.”
Robinson says a season-long pitch plan has already been devised for approximately 50 days of cricket at Headingley this summer, including Yorkshire matches, Diamonds fixtures, internationals and the Hundred. The county’s second are also playing five days of cricket at HQ for the first time since 2018.
“Andy had done that before I arrived, and he’s been through that with me so I know exactly what’s going on where,” he continued.
“That might change slightly if we, for example, get two games in a row rained off. There’s a bit of leeway in there.”
Yorkshire’s opening LV= Insurance County Championship fixture will be played against Leicestershire at Headingley, starting next Thursday.
“We’ve been preparing that pitch for a while now,” said Robinson. “I’ve been here two weeks, and they started preparing that just before I arrived.”
And what about the Ashes surface and what is the process?
“That will be the same,” he added. “It’s just a matter of getting moisture into the pitch. So you flood it and leave it, flood it again, cover it, wait until it dries out, roll it and there you go.”
Robinson watched the Botham Test of 1981 from the stands, Fogarty of course produced the Stokes 2019 surface. But who will star on Robinson’s 2023 pitch? Harry Brook, maybe. Wouldn’t that be something.
And you can be sure that Robinson would be as proud as punch to watch the Yorkshire star shine.
PHOTO: Andy Fogarty left, Jasmine Nicholls centre, Richard Robinson right.