A story of apprentice to master, Wilson Ngobese’s love affair with Hollywoodbets Kingsmead Stadium spans four decades and the ground’s head curator continues to learn new things daily as he maintains one of South Africa’s most-loved cricketing venues.
Having arrived at the ground in 1975 as a general labourer, a 16 year-old Ngobese slowly built up an appreciation for cricket and managed to gain valuable knowledge from then curator Jay Pillay before he worked under Phil Russell. Moving his way up the ranks to head groundsman wasn’t the initial goal for Ngobese.
“I wasn’t supposed to be a groundsman when I started here,” Ngobese said.
“When I was working with Jay (Pillay) I saw how they worked, how they planted the grass, how they prepared the wicket but when I worked with Phil Russell that was when my eyes opened to the fact that I could become a groundsman.
“I still didn’t think I would become the groundsman but the KZN Cricket Union asked me to do it and from there I took on the job after Phil retired.”
With so many memories since he started at the ground, Ngobese’s love for the game developed from his arrival and not only has he seen some of crickets most memorable moments but he has seen Kingsmead evolve.
“When I started here there was only one stand, the West Stand. It was not a stadium at all and so I have seen the whole stadium grown from nothing.
“From a cricketing side, seeing guys like Barry Richards and Mike Procter playing at Kingsmead were the best memories.”
Having witnessed moments like Gary Kirsten’s 275 against England, Yuvraj Singh’s six sixes off an over and former Hollywoodbets Dolphins’ Morné van Wyk’s T20 hundred against the West Indies, Ngobese’s satisfaction comes from the spectators.
“For me preparing a pitch that is going to provide entertainment for the people that come into the stadium is the best part.
“If I can give the players and the spectators a good pitch that produces a good game of cricket then I am happy,” he added.
Ngobese took over the role as head curator in 1999 and is one of the most experienced groundsmen in the country, however the 61 year-old will never stop learning and trying to get better at his job.
“I will carry on learning until the day I die,” he explained. “Things change all the time and that means that I have to keep on learning.
“I meet new people all the time and there is always something that I can learn so I try to keep on learning every day,” Ngobese mentioned.