Flint looking to prepare best pitch he can for Newlands farewell

Newlands groundsman Evan Flint is not getting to emotional as he prepares the pitch for his final New Year’s Test, starting on Thursday, at the famous venue.

After ten and a half years of working with Table Mountain as his backdrop, Flint has decided to take up an offer to work at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg.

Flint will start his new job up on 1 February, leaving him with just two international games in Cape Town to get a surface ready – the Proteas’ Test against Pakistan and then an ODI between the same opponents on 31 January.

Having been named South Africa’s best groundsman for the last two seasons, Flint has always prided himself on preparing good wickets and, importantly to him, proper training facilties for the players.

Flint says he will always be grateful for the opportunity given to him by the Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA) in 2008 when he was recruited down to the Cape when he was only an assistant groundsman at Kingsmead in Durban.

Flint told Cricket365 at Newlands: “I was just young buck when they took a chance on me. I will always be grateful for the opportunity and have made some great friends down here.

“I wish I could take every one of my groundstaff with me.

“But I have been here for more than ten years so when the offer came from the Wanderers I thought it would be a good new challenge,” Flint said explaining his decision to relocate up North.

Newlands ground staff

He has always been of the old school folk that loves the longest format of the game and takes pride when a Test match goes the distance on one of his surfaces.

Flint lists his first ever Test at Newlands – in March 2009 when South Africa thrashed Australia – as his favourite because “you never forget your first game”.

He also mentioned England’s epic draw against the Proteas in the New Year’s Test in 2010 as the most exciting and, of course, the most dramatic would be the famous ball-tampering match in March.

Every season at this time of the year, Flint has a glint in his eye as he goes about his work out in the middle.

So did this week feel any different as it will be his last marquee Test at the picturesque ground?

“I haven’t thought about it much to be honest,” Flint said. “I have a job to do.

“I have to prepare the best pitch that I can so don’t have time to dwell on my own personal stuff.”

Much has been made about the surface served up in the first Test of the current series in Centurion when the Proteas beat Pakistan inside two and half days.

The pitch assisted the pace bowlers of both teams with batting becoming increasing tough as the match went on.

The Newlands wicket had a good covering of grass on Monday but it will obviously have another shave before the game I was assured by a smiling Flint.

Home teams, obviously, always want an advantage from their own conditions in Test cricket and the Proteas are no different.

When asked if there had been any “instructions” from captains and coaches over the years, Flint just laughed.

He made the point that he knows what the Proteas’ strengths are and what they would want depending on the opposition.

“Everybody went a bit crazy when India came here (in January earlier this year), for obvious reasons.

“But generally I am left on my own to prepare the wicket and I obviously know what the opposition bring to the party.”

Seamer Vernon Philander will make his return to the Proteas starting line-up at his favourite ground and the hosts are considering leaving out their spinner and going with an all pace attack.

Duanne Olivier, with 11 wickets, took his chance at Centurion in Philander’s absence and the Proteas management now sit with a selection conundrum.

Like a proper opening batsman, Flint blocked the question away when I asked if the hosts can afford to leave out their primary slow-bowler on the surface that he is preparing.

“Vernon’s record here speaks for itself,” Flint said. “But I’m glad I don’t get paid to make those tough decisions.”

By Nasri Alexander