Steve Rouse has announced that he will retire as Warwickshire’s head groundsman at the end of the season after 17 years in charge at Edgbaston.
But Rouse, 62, hopes to continue an involvement with the county that stretches back to 1966 by carrying on coaching the county’s youngsters.
Rouse first arrived at Edgbaston as a trainee groundsman under then head groundsman Bernard Flack but then switched to the playing staff as a left-arm seamer in 1970.
He took 270 wickets in 127 first-class matches and a further 190 in one-day cricket before knee injuries ended his playing career in 1981 after which he set up his own business looking after a number of local cricket clubs while retaining his links with Warwickshire as coach of the county colts.
When Andy Atkinson left Warwickshire at the end of the 1993 season, Rouse was appointed his successor. His first Test pitch was a controversial one as the West Indies demolished England in just over two days in July 1995 though Rouse insists that he produced the pitch the England selectors asked him to.
“It was Ray Illingworth [England manager] who came to me and said that Brian Bolus and Fred Titmus [England selectors] wanted a quick, bouncy, hard wicket with shaved ends.
“They got exactly what they asked for. They wanted us to cut 15 foot up and shave the ends as much as we could so that Richard Illingworth could turn the ball on the third or fourth days.
“I said to Illy [Ray Illingworth] that it would not turn in three or four weeks because it was like the M1 motorway.
“We played three county matches on that pitch afterwards including a Sunday League match against Middlesex where Allan Donald bowled like greased lightning on it.
“But Ambrose, Walsh and Bishop don’t quite compare with Cork, Fraser and Gough. Never mind, they won’t do that again.”
Rouse insists that that the ECB’s decision to dock Warwickshire eight points for producing a pitch that was marked poor for last month’s County Championship match against Worcestershire had nothing to do with his decision to retire.
He had been contemplating retirement for several years and the death of a close friend from cancer during the winter persuaded Rouse and his wife Gill that now was the time to go.
“I talked to Gill and we said you never know what is going to happen. We both like travelling and we decided to go and see various parts of the world we hadn’t been to while we were both fit enough to do so.”
Rouse will stay with Warwickshire until the Edgbaston square has been put to bed and the new outfield has been scarified. He will also prepared his final Test pitch for the England v India match in August, which will be the first Test played in front of the ground’s new £32 million pavilion.
Warwickshire are about to advertise for a new head groundsman which Rouse believes is one of the best jobs in the country.
“For Test Match grounds this is one of the best in the country by miles,” he said. “You have got Lord’s and The Oval which will always be up there at the top because they are in London.
“But there are not many better than this place. It’s a good place to work and there is a good crew upstairs, people you can trust who are good grafters and who know their job inside out. It will be a good job for somebody.”