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Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019

Traditional fast & bouncy Wanderers wicket to greet Indian batsmen

Wanderers head curator Butuel Buthelezi said that unlike Centurion, the Johannesburg pitch will be quick as always.

cricket Updated: Jan 20, 2018 22:17 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times, Johannesburg
Wanderers head groundsman Butuel Buthelezi at his office. He said that the ground will have a pacey wicket in the third Test.
Wanderers head groundsman Butuel Buthelezi at his office. He said that the ground will have a pacey wicket in the third Test.(HT Photo)

A man of few words, head curator at the Wanderers Butuel Buthelezi was almost beaming when he was told that curators in India don’t have an office as big as his. “But my real workplace is outside,” said Buthelezi, pointing at the room in front of his office. Stuffed with lawn mowers, pitch rollers and ground equipment of every shape and size, getting to Buthelezi’s office involves a bit of hopping through this room.

It is in this office that the fate of this series will be sealed. South Africa may have already won the series against India but the pitch talk has only got more intense after a rather sub-continental wicket was prepared for the Centurion Test.

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Wanderers, it has been assured, can’t get an Indian pitch even if groundsmen tried to. And Buthelezi would be the last person to go against what has been the norm so far. “At Wanderers we have always had fast and bouncy wickets. There is no question of preparing something else,” he said.

Having worked at the Wanderers since 1984, Buthelezi is familiar with every blade of grass at the Wanderers. For a long time he had worked under former curator Chris Scott. Only in October 2015 did Buthelezi become the second black African to be head curator of a Test venue in South Africa. The first one to get this honour was Wilson Ngobese, who is the head curator at Kingsmead stadium in Durban.

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Despite his long association, Buthelezi got to prepare a Test pitch for the first time during England’s visit in January 2016. That Test proved to be a three-day affair with England shooting out South Africa for only 83 in the second innings before going on to win by seven wickets.

India have a good seam attack and South Africa know a pitch similar to Cape Town could give them an equal chance in the Test match. But the Proteas also don’t want a repeat of Centurion.

Locals say that even if Wanderers was bare, there would be something in it for the seamers on all days. Four days to go for the Test though, the pitch seemed fairly lush from a distance.

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Buthelezi too seemed confident about the way the pitch is being prepared. But has du Plessis asked him to prepare anything specific? “No he hasn’t,” said Buthelezi. “And even if he would ask, I would prepare the pitch my way,” he added laughing.

First Published: Jan 20, 2018 19:46 IST

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