Life’s a pitch for Evan Flint, from Newlands to Wanderers
End of a 10-year era in Cape Town as grounds manager leaves the wicket for Wednesday’s ODI to fresh hands
Seventy-one first-class matches, 14 of them Tests; 60 list-A games, eight one-day internationals among them; 81 T20s, including seven at international level. And that’s only on one side of the gender divide – two more ODIs and four T20Is have been played by women.
Then there are the 42 games involving odds and sods: Proteas versus Springboks, South versus North, the Marylebone Cricket Club, the Royal Marines, a bunch of clubs, a couple of counties.
Fires on the mountain, wicked wind, devastating drought; nothing, besides rain, has stopped the show from going on.
Newlands has been busy in the past 10 years, and Evan Flint has been central to that busyness – and to the ground’s business – as the producer of the 260 pitches required by that little lot above.
But Flint knows as much as the rest of us about the surface for Wednesday’s fifth and deciding ODI between SA and Pakistan at the ground where he has spent most of his waking hours since 2009.
He has not been part of this pitch’s making. Instead he is in the throes of packing up his life and jetting off to Johannesburg, where he starts work at the Wanderers on Friday. Newlands is now someone else’s privilege.
How did that make Flint feel?
“Very strange,” he said. “Like someone else has taken my wife out for lunch.”
Ihtishaam Adams, Flint’s assistant since November 2012, has made the surface for Wednesday’s game under the supervision of Hilbert Smit, formerly of Centurion, these days Cricket SA’s pitch consultant. That will be the arrangement until April, when the Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA) will apply their minds to appointing a replacement.
Cricket’s consumers think about pitches only when they watch a match on television or go to the game. But what you get is about a lot more than what you see.
It’s about doing everything possible to ensure the ground presents its best face to the world when it’s on television, and about taking the same approach for the games that aren’t broadcast – from the pitch to the outfield to the stands to the food and drink outlets to the toilets to the parking areas. And more.
“It’s not only about managing the ground, it’s also about managing the people,” WPCA chief executive Nabeal Dien said.
Adams, who came to the job from civil engineering, is part of a family steeped in the game. His brother, Zaahier Adams, is the Cape Times’s cricket writer. His father, Yusuf Adams, played for Western Province and was a groundskeeper himself.
What are Adams’s chances of landing the job?
“I’ve had Evan’s assessment on that and I’ll wait for Hilbert’s assessment,” Dien said.
Until then, at least, Adams might feel as if he’s out to lunch with someone else’s wife.