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His last Test a perfect pitch

Friday, 17th November, 2017

GREEN, GREEN GRASS – Kevin Mitchell Jr checks out the turf at the Gabba. Photo: HEATHER GRANT-CAMPBELL

KEVIN Mitchell Junior prays that Brisbane’s weather will be fine and sunny, not too hot, no rain and only a wisp of wind-specifically for 10 days from November 17-27.

Those conditions will support the perfect pitch – quick on the field, cut low, with a true wicket – seeing out his career as custodian of the Brisbane Cricket Ground, the Gabba, on which the first Test of the Ashes series begins on November 23.

“Five perfect days before the Test and the same conditions for the game, and then the heavens can open and I can lie in bed at night and enjoy the sound of rain on the roof without worry,” a cheeky Kevin grinned.

Kevin joined the Gabba grounds team as a 24-year-old who’d tried retail, done a bricklaying apprenticeship and had worked in the mines.

He was itching to see the world and saving for it – something his dad, the grounds’ curator Kevin Mitchell Senior, was aware of.

“I’ve always loved cricket although I was rubbish as a player,” Kevin told The Senior.

It was 1984, and Brisbane was hosting the second match of the West Indies tour of Australia.

“Here I was saving money to see the world and I’m rubbing shoulders with the likes of Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards and Joel Garner. I couldn’t believe it.

“Here were these superstars on my patch, high-fiving and chatting with me.

“Why travel when I would work with the best cricket athletes the world has seen? I stayed.”

By the time Queensland cracked the Sheffield Shield hoodoo to win the national cricket trophy, Kevin – fondly dubbed “Junior” by cricket commentator Tony Grieg – was the Gabba’s curator.

“That was my most nervous time.

“There’d been so much pain for so many years and here we were, hosting the final and Queensland won,” he recalled.

“Cricket is a funny game. Batting or fielding, one team or the other will win.

“Part of the deal I’ve come to live with is that I can’t please everyone.”

Under his watch, the Gabba has undergone major redevelopment and become a multifunctional arena, home to the Brisbane Lions Australian Rules football team, holding Sydney Olympic soccer play-offs, and this year hosting the blockbuster Adele concert.

And Kevin has revelled in the change and challenges they’ve presented.

Well, all but one.  The Gabba was also Brisbane’s premier greyhound racing track with up to twice weekly meets year-round until 1993.

“What bright spark decided the lights needed to be within the playing field: 60 lights on six metre poles, 20 metres apart, that had to be put up and pulled down, all the holes filled and levelled off after every meet to maintain the field for cricket?”

Kevin will be on his toes, watching every ball of the first Test against England as keenly as an umpire.

And after that?

“Well I’m rather looking forward to sitting back behind the barriers in the future, just enjoying the game.”


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